President Buhari has reacted to the criticism and inquiries from some Nigerians on why Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem has not been confirmed as the president of Court of Appeal.
The president’s move has raised concerns among Nigerians who accuse him of lopsided appointment which favour only the northern part of the country.
Among Nigerians who recently criticized the President is a respected Northern elite retired colonel, Abubakar Umar.
Umar in an open letter addressed to President Buhari, expressed his displeasure with Buhari’s “undue preference to some sections of the country over others” when issuing national appointments.
“May I also invite the attention of Mr President to the pending matter of appointment of a Chief Judge of the Nigerian Court Appeal which appears to be generating public interest,
“If she is not and is bypassed in favour of the next in line who happens to be another northern Muslim, that would be truly odd. In which case, even the largest contingent of PR gurus would struggle to rebut the charges that you, Mr President, is either unwilling or incapable of acting on your pledge to belong to everyone — and to no one
“As it is, the most senior Judge, Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a northern Christian, is serving out her second three-month term as acting Chief Judge without firm prospects that she will be confirmed substantive head.
“I do not know Justice Mensem but those who do attest to her competence, honesty and humility. She appears eminently qualified for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal as she is also said to be highly recommended by the National Judicial Council.” The letter read in part.
Reacting to this in a statement, Garba Shehu, President Buhari’s spokesperson gave the following reasons to explain the president’s inability to send her name to the Senate for confirmation,
1. “The president has a duty to ensure that all such appointments meet the requirements of the constitution and protecting the supreme law of the land in this regard, he has an obligation to allow law enforcement and security agencies to do their work.”
2. “In the specific case of the acting president of the Court of Appeal, Her Lordship Justice M. S Dongban-Mensem, the statutory regulatory time of her acting period has not lapsed. This is not about ethnicity or religion. It is about security and law enforcement agencies being allowed to complete their work.”
3. “Nobody should seek to stampede the President in carrying out his constitutional duty in this respect. The president had not been a rubber stamp dealing with these matters before and is not prepared to be one at this time. Let all allow the system to do what is right.”
4. “In Making Judicial and other Appointments, President Buhari is not a Rubber Stamp. In making appointments upon the recommendations of other arms or agencies of the government, the President is not a rubber stamp that will mechanistically sign off on nominees that come before him.”
President Buhari had approved Mrs Dongban-Mensem to continue acting as the Court of Appeal president for another three months till September, despite a recommendation from the National Judicial Council to make her the substantive appeal court president.
Mensem who is the next most senior Judge of the Court of Appeal took over from Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa March 6 2020, after Bulkachuwa’s retirement, March 5, 2020.
According to a previous statement from the presidency, Mensem will be acting pending when a substantive appointment to the position of the President of the Court of Appeal might be made by President Buhari which will also be subjected to the confirmation of the Senate.
However, the president hasn’t sent her name to the Senate for confirmation.
Justice Dongban-Mensem according to her profile, is an authority in the following field- criminal and civil procedure law, taxation and international public finance, public international law, legislative drafting, constitutional and administrative law and international commercial transactions.
As at December 2019, she had over 150 Lead and 100 Contributory Judgements respectively.
She is the daughter of a retired Appeal Court Justice, M.B. Douglas-Mensem, and a native from Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State.