There is a grand plan to stop Monica Bolna’an Dongban-Mensem from being appointed the substantive president of the court of appeal (PCA), TheCable can report.
Rather, there is a push for Mohammed Lawal Garba, who chaired the 2019 presidential election petitions tribunal, to be appointed in her place.
Although tongues are wagging that it is because Dongban-Mensem is a minority northern Christian and Garba is a northern Muslim, TheCable understands that the intrigues are more political than ethnic or religious.
The Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) had recommended both Dongban-Mensem and Lawal — in that order — to the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to replace Zainab Bulkachuwa, who retired in March 2020 having clocked 70.
Dongban-Mensem, from Plateau state, is the most senior judge in the federal court of appeal.
The NJC forwarded Dongban-Mensem’s name to President Muhammadu Buhari for onward transmission to the senate for confirmation.
However, Buhari is yet to send her name for confirmation nearly three months later.
Instead, he appointed her in a protem position and recently renewed it for another three months, which could see her act as PCA till September 2020
TheCable understands that dirt-digging is now being employed by presidential advisers to get Dongban-Mensem disqualified and pave the way for Garba.
Her national youth service record is being scrutinised, but TheCable learnt that she did serve in 1980/81.
More so, according to government insiders, it would be “mysterious” to question the credentials of someone who has been screened by both the FJSC — of which Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, is a member — and the NJC.
Garba, the preferred candidate, chaired the presidential election petitions tribunal which ruled in favour of Buhari in September 2019.
Garba had replaced Bulkachuwa as chairman of the tribunal following protest by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over an alleged conflict of interest.
Bulkachuwa’s husband is a senator on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) — the president’s party.
Buhari’s media team did not respond to questions from TheCable on why Dongban-Mensem’s name has not been sent to the senate for confirmation.
UMAR WEIGHS IN
On Sunday, Abubakar Umar Dangiwa, a retired colonel and former military governor of Kaduna state, warned Buhari that his “lopsided appointments will ruin Nigeria”.
In the widely circulated letter, he wrote: “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. 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. If she is not and is bypassed in favor 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. I hope you would see your way into pausing and reflecting on the very grave consequences of such failure not just to your legacy but to the future of our great country.”
WHO IS DONGBAN-MENSEM?
-Born on June 13, 1957, to the family of M.B. Douglas-Mensem, a retired appeal court justice
-Hails from Shendam LGA, Plateau state
-Earned her LL.B and LL.M degrees from ABU, Zaria
-Appointed judge of the high court in Plateau in 1993
-Transferred her service to the federal capital territory (FCT) judiciary in 1997
-Elevated to the court of appeal in 2003
-Sworn in as the acting president, court of appeal, on March 6, 2020
-Has four children and two grandchildren