By Alex Enumah
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, on Friday, swore in Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem as the acting President of the Court of Appeal.
Justice Dongban-Mensem succeeded former President of the court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who retired midnight of March 6, 2020 after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
Her appointment as the acting President of the Court of Appeal was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari following a recommendation from the National Judicial Council (NJC).
In his remarks during the swearing-in at the Supreme Court, the CJN, who described Justice Dongban-Mensem as “a seasoned judicial officer in the system” urged her to carry her colleagues along through consultations in order to succeed as President of the appellate court.
Justice Muhammad in addition urged the new acting Appeal Court President to form the habit of visiting the various divisions of the court so as to have first hand knowledge of the challenges there.
“As a seasoned judicial officer in the system right from day one after graduation, I don’t know what to tell you. You know your work very well and you have been doing your job satisfactory well.
“It is as a result of this hard work and general character and altitude that has enticed both the Court of Appeal and the National Judicial Council to uplift you to be the acting President of the Court of Appeal.
“I am pretty sure as I know you very well, except you have changed which I have not noticed. I will therefore urge you to continue with your charisma, altitude and ability to carry out the task and assignment given to you.
“The whole world have testified that you can do it. The testimony that comes from the generality of the public and colleagues and those of us which you met. Please continue to bear that testimony,” the CJN said.
Before her appointment, Justice Dongban-Mensem was the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division.
She is a Life Member of the Body of Benchers, a body that is responsible for the training and discipline of all lawyers in Nigeria.
A graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, she is an authority in Criminal and Civil Procedure Law, Taxation and International Public Finance, Public International Law, Legislative Drafting, Constitutional and Administrative Law and International Commercial Transactions.
Justice Dongban-Mensem was Registrar of Plateau State High Court in 1979 and Magistrate of various grades up to Chief Magistrate between 1981 and 1990.
She was Visiting Lecturer on Press Law at the Catholic Media Centre, Kaduna from 1988-1992 and part-time lecturer at the University of Jos between 1989 and 1997.
From 1990-1993 Justice Dongban-Mensem served as Deputy Chief Registrar, Superior Courts and Protocol Affairs and was appointed Judge, High Court of Justice, Plateau Judiciary from 1993-1996.
On transfer from the former, Dongban-Mensem became the Judge, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Judiciary from 1997-2003.
Apart from being on several panels of investigation in the Plateau State Judiciary, she has performed numerous ad hoc duties in the capacity of Secretary, Plateau State Law Report Committee, Secretary/Legal Adviser, Ad hoc Committee on Widowhood Practices in Plateau State all in 1991 and a Pioneer Board Member/Legal Adviser, Plateau State Commission for Women from 1991 to 1992, among several others.
She was also an Advisory Committee member for FCT Judiciary on the National Centre for State Courts International Programmes Division from 2001 to 2002 and was acting Presiding Justice of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal between November and December 2009.
Justice Dongban-Mensem has been described as one of the hardest working Nigeria judicial officers. As at December 2019, she had over 150 lead and 100 contributory judgments respectively.
She has always led notable jurists to decide high profile and very interesting cases. These cover electoral, commercial, civil and criminal matters on appeal from the lower courts and court marshal decisions.
Other Justices of the Supreme Court at the event were Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour; Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun; Justice Ejembi Eko; Justice Amina Augie; Justice Sylvester Ngwuta; Justice Uwani Abba-Aji and Justice Paul Galunje.
Dignitaries at the event included Governors Simeon Lanlong of Plateau State, Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Ahmed Wase.