2023 IFJ: Spotlight on Female Justices in Nigeria

In commemoration of the 2023 International Day of Female Judges, IFJ, themed ‘Women in Justice, Women for Justice’, Sunday Ehigiator chronicles the female Justices currently serving at Nigeria’s Supreme Court of Justice, as well as those serving at various Federal High Courts in different states

The International Day of Women Judges (IFJ) is usually celebrated on March 10 each year to promote equal and complete participation of women at different levels of the judiciary.

It was celebrated for the first time on March 10, 2022, in under the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 75/274 of 2021.

The establishment of the day marks an important milestone in the global efforts to ensure gender equality and builds upon the ongoing efforts of the Global Judicial Integrity Network (GJIN) in addressing gender-related judicial integrity issues.

According to the United Nations (UN), women’s involvement in the judiciary is critical to ensure that courts represent their populations, respond to their concerns, and issue competent decisions.

“Women judges increase the credibility of courts just by being present, giving a strong message that they are open and accessible to anyone seeking justice. Join us as we honour all women judges.

“Despite women’s increased engagement in public life, they remain significantly underrepresented in decision-making positions. A relatively small number of women have been, or are part of, the judiciary, particularly in senior judicial leadership positions.

“Women’s representation in the judiciary is key to ensuring that courts represent their citizens, address their concerns and hand down sound judgments. By their mere presence, women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice.

“The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded has been a positive step in the direction of judiciaries being perceived as being more transparent, inclusive, and representative of the people whose lives they affect.

“By marking the day, we will reaffirm our commitment to develop and implement appropriate and effective national strategies and plans for the advancement of women in judicial justice systems and institutions at the leadership, managerial and other levels.”

The UN said the day is also celebrated to promote the full and equal participation of women at all levels of the judiciary, to celebrate the progress that has been made and raise awareness about the challenges ahead.

Forthwith, this report highlights the progress made so far in the Nigerian Judiciary arm of government in the inclusion of women as an integral part of the system, while also introducing the current serving Nigerian Female Justices in Nigeria to the public

Female Supreme Court Justices

The Supreme Court of Nigeria currently has a total of 13 Honourable Judges, among which only four, representing 31 percent, are female. Meet them below.

Justice Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo (CFR)

Hon. Justice Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo (CFR), also known as Kekere-Ekun was born on May 7, 1958. She obtained her LL.B in 1980 from the University of Lagos and her LL.M from the London School of Economic and Political Science in November 1983.

She was called to the Nigerian Bar on July 10, 1981. She was appointed a Senior Magistrate Grade II, Lagos State Judiciary in December 1989. She was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Lagos State in July 1996. She served as Chairman Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, Zone II, Ikeja, Lagos from November 1996 to May 1999.

She was elevated as a Justice of the Court of Appeal on September 22, 2004. She served as a member of the Court of Appeal ICT Committee from June 2011 to July 2013. She was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on June 8, 2013.

 Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji (JSC)

Hon Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji (JSC) was born on November 7, 1956, in Gashua, Yobe State. She attended Central Primary School Gashua and Government Girls Secondary School Maiduguri for her Primary and Secondary Education between 1961 and 1972.

She obtained a Diploma in Law from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 1976 and subsequently, an L.L.B Hons from the same institution in 1980. She was called to the Bar in 1981 and commenced her career as State Counsel in 1982.

Before holding this position however, She had held positions of Clerical Assistant (Area Courts Division), Assistant Registrar, Acting Registrar and Higher Registrar between 1973 and 1982.

After she was appointed State Counsel in 1982, she rose through various positions becoming an Acting Senior State Counsel in 1984, Senior Magistrate II in 1986, Senior Magistrate I in 1987, Chief Magistrate II in 1989, Chief Magistrate I in 1991 and Chief Registrar in November 1991.

She was appointed Higher Court Judge of Yobe State Judiciary in December 1991 making her the first Lady Judge at Yobe State Judiciary, a position she held until July 2004 when she was elevated to the Court of Appeal.

Before her elevation to the Supreme Court on January 8, 2019, His Lordship was the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal Kaduna Division, a position she held for 4 years.

Justice Amina Adamu Augie (CON)

Hon. Mr. Justice Amina Adamu Augie was born Anne Eva Graham on the 3rd day of September 1953. She is from Kebbi State, in the North-Western part of Nigeria. She attended Abadina School, University College Ibadan from 1958 – 1960, among others, Nigerian Law School, Lagos from 1977 – 1978, and was called to Bar on July 8, 1978.

Hon. Justice A. A. Augie began her legal career as a Legal Aid Counsel at the Legal Aid Council, Sokoto while serving in the National Youth Service Corps from 1978 – 1979. She rose to become the Head of the Department of Legal Aid Council, Sokoto State. From 1980 – 1982, she had a stint with Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as an Assistant Lecturer. From 1982 – 1984, she served as a Senior State Counsel in the Office of the Chief Counsel to the then President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, after which, she was appointed Lecturer by the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.

In 1988, Hon. Justice Amina Adamu Augie was appointed Chief Magistrate in the Sokoto State Judiciary. She was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench in 2002. While at the Appellate Court, she served in various Divisions and rose to become Presiding Justice, of the Benin Division from July 2009 – September 2010; Presiding Justice, of the Enugu Division from September 2010 – September 2011; Presiding Justice, of the Kaduna Division from September 2011 – September 2012; Presiding Justice, Lagos Division from September 2012 – November 2016.

Hon. Justice Amina Adamu Augie was elevated as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on November 7, 2016. 

Justice Helen M. Ogunwumiju (JSC)

Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju (JSC, FCIArb) was born on March 23, 1957, in Ondo City, Ondo West Local Government, Ondo State, Nigeria. She obtained her School Certificate in 1972 at Adekile Goodwill Grammar School, Ibadan; her Higher School Certificate in 1974 at Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan; Law Graduate of the University of Lagos in 1977, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978.

She worked briefly with the Ondo State Government from 1979-1981. Worked with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and rose to the rank of Assistant Director, just as she helped establish Legal Aid Offices and Programs in Oyo, Osun, Lagos, Sokoto and several States of Nigeria.

She was appointed a Chief Magistrate Grade 1 in Oyo State in 1991, served as Chief Magistrate in Ibadan, Ile-Ife, Eruwa, Igboora and Oyo Magisterial Districts, and was appointed Secretary, Judicial Service Committee, Oyo State, in 1996.

Appointed Probate Registrar, State Sheriff, then Chief Registrar of Oyo State in February 1997, as Chief Registrar, established the Records Unit of the Court for Archiving of Court records.

She was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Ondo State in November 1998 with jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters and elevated to the Court of Appeal, Nigeria in November 2005. At the Court of Appeal, she worked in the Ilorin, Benin, Owerri, Lagos and Enugu Divisions of the Court. She was elevated to the Supreme Court on November 6, 2020. 

Female High Court Justices

There are a total of 74 Honourable Judges at the Federal High Court of Nigeria. Only 25 of this number, representing just 34 percent, are female.

They include Justice Hajiya Binta Nyako currently serving at Abuja High Court; Justice Ajoku Patricia Iroawuchi, serving at Port-Harcourt; Justice Okeke, Anulika Agatha, currently serving in Ibadan; Justice Zainab Bage Abubakar, currently serving in Abuja; Justice Adaobi Onyetenu, currently serving in Akure; Justice Dorcas Venenge Agishi, currently serving in Jos.

Justice Folashade  Adesiyan, currently serving in Asaba; Justice Ojukwu Ijeoma Lucia, currently serving in Calabar; Justice Oguntoyinbo Oluremi Omowunmi, currently serving in Abeokuta; Justice Phoebe Msuean Ayua, currently serving in Port-Harcourt; Justice Uche Nma Agomoh, currently serving in Ibadan; Justice Folashade Olubunmi Ogunbanjo, currently serving in Enugu.

Justice Evelyn Anyadike, currently serving in Umuahia; Justice Yellim Bogoro, currently serving in Lagos State; Justice Rosemary Dugbo Oghoghorie, currently serving in Calabar; Justice Jane Egienanwan Inyang, currently serving in Asaba; Justice Justice Hadiza Rabiu, currently serving in Kaduna; Justice Joyce Obehi, currently serving in Abeokuta; Justice Fadima Murtala Aminu, currently serving in Damaturu.

Justice Toyin Bolaji Adegoke, currently serving in Minna; Justice Nehizena Afolabi, currently serving in Lafia; Justice Adefunmilayo Adekemi Demi–Ajayi, currently serving in Akure; Justice Sa’adatu Ibrahim Mark, currently serving in Port-Harcourt; Justice Mobolaji Olubukola Olajuwon, currently serving in Abuja; Justice Nkeonye Evelyn Maha, currently serving in Abuja; and Justice Awogboro Abimbola Olawunmi, currently serving in Lagos.