Expectations as Justice Mensem takes over at Appeal Court

The approval, a few days ago, of Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem appointment as the Acting President of the Court of Appeal by President Muhammadu Buhari made her the second female in a row to head the appellate court. KEHINDE OSASONA was at her inauguration.

Her confirmation

The Nigerian Senate penultimate week confirmed Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem as President of the Court of Appeal.

Mensem confirmation followed the presentation and consideration of the screening report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters chaired by Senator Micheal Opeyemi

After she was interviewed by the committee, they found her to be worthy of the new position having satisfied the requirements of the constitution as amended.

“Having screened the nominee and satisfied with her competence, the committee does recommend the confirmation of Monica Dongban-Mensem as the president of the court of appeal,” Bamidele was quoted as saying.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter urged the Senate to approve the nomination of Justice Dongban-Mensem as the PCA.

Bulkachuwa retires, Mensem in

Before her elevation as the President of the Appeal Court, Monica Dongban-Mensem had  operated in acting capacity.

Before Friday swearing-in, Mrs Dongban-Mensem had been acting in that capacity having taken over from Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa who retired as the substantive President of the Court of Appeal after attaining the statutory retirement age of 70 years.

The new President, Justice Dongban-Mensem was first appointed in acting capacity on March 6, this year by President Buhari.

Mensem served as the president of the appellate court for over three months, in acting capacity.

Her appointment was thereafter approved by President Muhammadu Buhari following a recommendation from the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The Senate thereafter made an approval and she was elevated to her new status.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony held in Abuja, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko advised Mrs Dongban-Mensem to live up to expectations by maintaining a cordial relationship with her colleagues on the court of appeal bench.

He said, “From my personal experience, workload in the court of appeal, especially in the divisions, is the highest.

“It is a home of work, it is a home of cooperation, but with your experience, hardwork, and zeal, you will not find your new status difficult,” the CJN was quoted as saying.

“If you sustain your good character and conduct, your tenure will definitely be an excellent one. Try to be yourself and do not allow others to derail you. Remain what we know you for,” CJN added.

While stating that the appellate court had the largest number of Justices in the country, the CJN stressed further the need for the president to be up and doing.

Muhammad counselled her to ensure regular meetings with Presiding Justices in all divisions of the court, as well as other Justices to enable them understand challenges that may face the court.

Responding to questions from journalists, shortly after her inauguration, Dongban-Mensem expressed joy over her confirmation as substantive President of the Court of Appeal.

She said she felt honoured and at the same time challenged to be appointed into the office of the President of the Court of Appeal, based on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari.

She then assured Nigerians that she would do her best in ensuring that justice was applied at the appellate court, adding that she would build on the legacy left behind by her predecessors.

Lalong, Tinubu hail appointment

Speaking at the occasion, Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong described President Buhari’s submission of the name of Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem to the Senate for confirmation as President, Court of Appeal, as a boost to women development in Nigeria.

According to Lalong, the nomination and submission of the name of Dongban-Mensem, who hails from Plateau State, showed that Nigerian women were coming up in all sectors.

“We had a woman as CJN; we had a woman who just left as President of the Court of Appeal and we have another woman.

“That is to say the women are coming up and we will continue to encourage them so that they can come up too.

“I think it is a joy to women because in my state, all the women gathered yesterday and said they wanted to come and say thank you to the president.

“You can see how women are getting something in this administration. That is to say this administration has great emphasis on women”, Lalong said

Speaking in the same vein, former governor of Lagos State and the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu described the appointment of Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem as President of the Court of Appeal, as well deserved, adding: “She is one of the nation’s foremost able jurists”

According to Tinubu, Dongban-Mensem had always discharged her duties with excellence and impartiality.

 “l have always followed your excellent judicial career with admiration.

“Your appointment and inauguration as President of the Court of Appeal is a richly deserved appointment.

“You have distinguished yourself as one of the nation’s foremost able jurists,” The APC leader noted.

Tinubu noted further that Justice Dongban-Mensem’s appointment would serve to encourage more young women to join the legal profession as she served as a role model.

“Your diligence, commitment to justice, and the rule of law are exemplary and laudable.

“You administer cases brought before you and dispense justice without fear or favour.

“As Justice of the Court of Appeal in Lagos, you discharged your duties with excellence and impartiality.

 “Now you have risen to lead that court and I know you will do so with the same love of justice and dedication to the law that has always been your hallmark,” Tinubu added.

Her profile in brief

Before her appointment, Justice Dongban-Mensem was the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division.

A life Member of Body of Benchers, a body that is responsible for the training and discipline of all lawyers in Nigeria, Mensem graduated from the prestigious 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 Mensem was formerly Registrar of Plateau State High Court in 1979 and magistrate of various grades up to chief magistrate between 1981 and 1990.

She was a 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.

Mensem served as deputy chief registrar between 1990-1993. She also served as Superior Courts and Protocol Affairs and was appointed judge, High Court of Justice, Plateau Judiciary from 1993-1996.

A year later, 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 1991-1992, among several others.

She was also an Advisory Committee Member for FCT Judiciary on the National Centre for State Courts International Programs Division from 2001-2002 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 Nigerian judicial officers. As at December 2019, she had over 150 lead and 100 contributory judgments, respectively.

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