Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem: Enthroning Merit In National Appointments, By Jibrin Ibrahim
Mrs. Dongban-Mensem is eminently qualified for the position. She is an authority in the fields of criminal and civil procedure law, taxation and international public finance, public international law, legislative drafting, constitutional and administrative law and international commercial transactions. She has been very hard working…
On Friday, the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, swore in Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem as the acting president of the Court of Appeal. This followed her appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari following the retirement of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who had clocked the statutory mandatory retirement age of 70 years, as justice of the Appeal Court earlier in the week. In his remarks, the CJN urged Mrs. Dongbon-Mensem to continue to discharge her duties diligently, noting that her hard work and discipline earned her the new position. He added that: “She has been doing her job satisfactorily well and it is as a result of this hard work, character, and attitude that enticed the Court of Appeal and the National Judicial Council to uplift her as acting president, Court of Appeal.” Mrs. Dongban-Mensem received her LL.B and LL.M degrees from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and is incidentally the daughter of a retired Appeal Court judge, M.B. Douglas-Mensem.
It’s good that during International Women’s Day celebration, we are having two succeeding presidents of the Court of Appeal who are women. There were fears expressed in certain quarters that Mrs. Dougban-Mensem might be jumped over for the position because of her faith. As it is always the case in Nigeria, the suspicion of identity politics accompanies every appointment. Since the establishment of the Court of Appeal in 1976, only the first president, Justice D. O. Ibekwe was Christian. The others have been Muslim – Mamman Nasir, K. M. A. Akanbi, Umaru Abdullahi, J. A. Salami and Z. A. Bulkachuwa. Already, this administration has been repeatedly accused of favouring the appointment of Northern Muslims into key positions. It is good that hierarchy and position were being respected in this case.
Mrs. Dongban-Mensem is eminently qualified for the position. She is an authority in the fields of criminal and civil procedure law, taxation and international public finance, public international law, legislative drafting, constitutional and administrative law and international commercial transactions. She has been very hard working and as at December 2019, she had to her credit over 150 lead and 100 contributory judgements respectively. Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem is an indigene of Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State.
Dongban-Mensem’s impressive blend of intellectual and professional experience stems from coming from a family that values education and career excellence. Hence, she became a strong and passionate advocate for qualitative education, especially for the less privileged.
I got interested in her appointment when I saw a video circulating on her role as a volunteer road traffic officer. She had suffered the tragedy of losing her first son, Samson Kwapda’as Dongban, in a road accident to a careless driver. Her response was to found a road safety organisation called Kwapda’as Road Safety Demand (KRSD) and to work with the Federal Road Safety Corps to improve the education of road users, with the aim of improving responsible driving in this country. Every year, KRSD, an affiliate of Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, holds road safety seminars, trainings and visits hospitals where relief materials are distributed and payment of medical bills of indigent crash victims are made. This sense of civic responsibility is lacking among Nigeria’s elite and I believe that at this difficult time for the Nigerian judiciary, this type of civic sense of responsibility can only be good for us.
Despite the unending demands of huge office work, Justice Dongban-Mensem launched herself into the publishing hall of fame with the book she entitled The Defendant in 1991. This book addresses the rights of the accused person and is an informative and resource material for lawyers and lay persons alike. She has also presented thought provoking papers at different fora on numerous subjects like: Legal Implications of Some Widowhood Practices in Nigeria; Right of Women and Children under the Nigerian Law; the Responsibilities of Judges, Lawyers and the Youths under the Nigerian Constitutions; the Role of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in the Participation of Women in Politics, among others.
Dongban-Mensem’s impressive blend of intellectual and professional experience stems from coming from a family that values education and career excellence. Hence, she became a strong and passionate advocate for qualitative education, especially for the less privileged. Having faced the challenge of going through school with limited resources, she strongly believes that the provision of scholarships to indigent but promising children would substantially enhance their dreams of a fulfilled future. I wish her the best in her new position in the Court of Appeal.