The most senior judge in Gombe State, Justice Beatrice L. Iliya, has been excluded from the nominees to fill the vacant position of the Chief Judge of the state for being a Christian.
It was gathered that Iliya's name was removed from the list by Gombe State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Zubairu Mohammed Umar, simply for being a Christian, SaharaReporters has gathered.
Sources revealed that the Attorney-General refused to nominate Iliya for the position because the past Chief Justice was a Christian.
"Umar deliberately refused to nominate Iliya for the position because of her religion.
"He has the backing of the state government as they believed the CJ should come to the other religion.
"They deliberately refused to nominate her because they know that if her name is there, as the most senior and most qualified, the National Judicial Council will pick her over others," the source said.
In a petition to the National Judicial Council obtained by SaharaReporters, Iliya questioned the rationale behind the removal of her name despite being the most senior judge and having served as an Acting Chief Judge in the state.
She highlighted the faulty process, procedure and criteria used by the Judicial Service Commission in the assessment and selection of the shortlisted candidates.
She explained that the head of the JSC nominated himself and another junior colleague while excluding her name from the nominees without any reason.
The petition reads partly, "The HAG proceeded to preside over the meeting and to present his memorandum in which he proposed to the JSC that Hon Justice Mu’azu Abdulkadir Pindiga, Ag. CJ/ Chairman JSC and Hon. Justice Joseph A. Awak should be shortlisted as preferred and reserve candidates respectively for the purpose of appointment as Chief Judge of Gombe State.
"The HAG’s proposal in the memorandum, although he acknowledged my seniority over the shortlisted judges; my unblemished record; and my being eminently qualified for appointment as CJ; nevertheless, went further to justify my exclusion from the proposed shortlist by explaining that: “in view of comparative satisfactory performance and exemplary leadership qualities exhibited by Hon. Justice Mu’azu Abdulkadir Pindiga as Acting Chief Judge vis-à-vis Hon. Justice Beatrice L. Iliya, I deviate from the non-binding convention to propose to the Gombe State Judicial Commission to present to the National Judicial Council the name of Hon. Justice Mu’azu Abdulkadir Pindiga was the preferred candidate for the office of Chief Judge of Gombe State and Hon. Justice Joseph A. Awak as the two are most eminently qualified and suitable to be appointed as Chief Judge of Gombe State."
In defending the nominations, the Gombe Attorney General said, “Shortlisting of Hon. Justice Mu’azu A. Pindiga and Hon. Justice Joseph A. Awak as preferred and alternative candidates was influenced by the records of performance of Hon. Justice Mu’azu A. Pindiga as Ag. Chief Judge which was more impressive than that of Justice Beatrice."
Faulting the nominations, Iliya said the record of performance of the two judges as acting chief judges that influenced the Attorney-General’s view was not presented to the JSC at the meeting.
"The JSC therefore took its decision based solely on the personal, unverified opinion of the HAG and not on any objective evidence, acceptable or known, recognised criterion guiding the selection, shortlisting of candidates for appointment to the office of CJ," she added.
She argued that the office of the Attorney-General has no oversight powers over the judiciary or judicial officers generally adding that the attorney general "was not in a position to assess and competently grade the performance of judicial officers, more so that he had not yet assumed his office as HAG when I was appointed and acted as Chief Judge from 1st September, 2019 – 4th December, 2019. He only became HAG on 9th December, 2019."
She also noted that the state’s Attorney-General did not place before the JSC any material or evidence to support his opinion, nor did the JSC wait to receive the mandatory reports and comments of former head of court’s, NBA Chairman, DSS report, certificate of medicate fitness and CVs of the shortlisted candidates as require by the NJC rules.
She prayed that NJC not only reject the advice of the Gombe State JSC, the shortlisted names and set aside the whole exercise and process that led to the said advice but also direct that a fresh, transparent and objective exercise, consistent with the NJC and settled practice and procedure be carried out by JSC to determine suitable candidates for the appointment of Chief Judge of Gombe State.
"The NJC on the strength of the material before it should direct that the objective and transparent process of appointing a CJ for Gombe State, commenced by the erstwhile CJ of Gombe State Hon. Justice H. Y. Heman be completed," she added.