Gov. Lalong congratulates Justice Dongbaan-Mensem over her nomination as PCA

MKReporters: Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong says Acting President of the Nigerian Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongbaan-Mensem will uphold justice, truth and integrity if confirmed.

“I have no fear that she will give a good account of herself as she has done in the past,” said Lalong, Tuesday in a press statement through his Press Chief, Mr. Simon Makut.

Lalong had Sunday appreciated federal officials for nominating the Plateau Christian daughter of an ex Judicial Officer but also sought prayers for her confirmation as substantive president.

Dongbaan-Mensem was made Acting President of the Appeal Court on March 6, 2020 following the retirement of the then President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa who clocked the mandatory retirement age of 70.

This was against provided laws which require that Dongbaan-Mensem, being the most senior Judge be made substantive President. Section 238(4) states: “If the office of the President of the Court of appeal is vacant, or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the President shall appoint the most senior Justice of the Court of Appeal to perform those functions.”

Justice Dongbaan-Mensem

While questions were still rising, President Buhari extended the appointment of Justice Dongban-Mensem as the Acting President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) from June 3, 2020 for a further period of three months.

This has raised fears about a plot to deny her rightful appointment as substantive President of the Court of Appeal.

The Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) had recommended both Justice Dongban-Mensem and Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba to the National Judicial Council (NJC) to replace Bulkachuwa in line with the Constitution.

Being the most senior judge of the court, the NJC forwarded Dongban-Mensem’s name to President Buhari for onward transmission to the Senate for confirmation in line with Section 238. (1) of the Constitution which states that: “The appointment of a person to the office of President of the Court of appeal shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”

In the last few months, President Buhari has written to the Nigerian Senate seeking confirmation of other appointees but not Mrs. Dongbaan-Mensem’s name, raising suspicions of nepotism which Buhari’s administration has long been accused of.

Since the establishment of the Court of Appeal in 1976, only the first president, Justice D. O. Ibekwe was Christian. All others – Mamman Nasir, K. M. A. Akanbi, Umaru Abdullahi, J. A. Salami and Z. A. Bulkachuwa were Muslims.

Buhari might be faced with difficult choices – to disabuse the minds of Nigerians that he is biased in his appointments or maintain status quo to please his kinsmen and likely political party. Dongban-Mensem is a minority northern Christian from Plateau State with no political record or links to the President. Garba is a northern Muslim. He chaired the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal which delivered judgment in favour of Buhari in September 2019.

Mensem is already being faulted as part of the supposed plot to knock her off, but how the President beats himself out of this crisis, especially with widespread criticism already fuming from different observers including a famous Muslim ex military Officer, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa, only time will tell.