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Meet judges who are now traditional rulers

Five Nigerian judges have turned to traditional rulers in different parts of the country. Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the trend.

Several Nigerians judges have put down their gowns for the royal garb, with Justice Idris Evuti and Justice Sidi Dauda Bage being the most recent monarchs. Others include Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi, Justice Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, and Justice Sadiq Abdullahi Mahuta.

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Evuti is now Etsu Evuti in Niger State while Bage is Emir of Lafia in Nasarawa State. Gummi is Emir of Gummi in Zamfara State, Gambari is Emir of Ilorin and Mahuta is the Galadiman Katsina and District Head of Malumfashi.

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Justice Idris Evuti

Justice Evuti was turbaned as the new Etsu Evuti late last month by His Royal Highness Umaru Bago III at the Emir’s Palace in Lapai, Niger State. He was Commissioner Ministry of Trade, Industries and Tourism in 1983; Chairman of Shiroro Hotels Minna, as well as Chairman of Niger State Clay Products, Minna, all in 1983. He was also a Principal Partner of Sabru Chambers Minna from 1984 to 1985 before returning to the public service as High Court Judge in Niger State High Court of Justice from December 18, 1991.

Evuti was a judge for about 25 years until his retirement on September 15, 2015. He was also at a time, Chairman of the Failed Banks Tribunal in Lagos State and Chairman, Local Government Election Tribunals in Niger. He was the Yandaka of Lapai before being named as the new Etsu Evuti.

Justice Sidi Dauda Bage

From Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Bage in March this year emerged as the 17th Emir of Lafia. This followed the demise of late Emir of Lafia, Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai I, who passed on in January this year. Bage is one of the 22 princes of Lafia Emirate who contested the stool which is accorded a first-class chief status among traditional institutions in Nigeria.

Bage was Legal Officer, Ground Training Group, Nigerian Air Force Base Kaduna (NYSC) from 1981 to 1982, appointed Magistrate Grade II Plateau State Judiciary in 1982, promoted Magistrate Grade I in 1984 and Senior Magistrate Grade II in 1986. He was also appointed Chief Magistrate II FCT Judiciary in 1989; later Chief Magistrate I in 1990; Deputy Chief Registrar FCT Judiciary 1991, and Substantive Chief Registrar, FCT High Court in January 1992. He was elevated to the High Court Bench as a Judge on November 9, 1992, became Justice Court of Appeal on December 10, 2007 and appointed Justice of the Supreme Court on December 5, 2016.

Justice Lawal Hassan Gummi

On May 8, 2013, Justice Gummi was enthroned Emir of Gummi in Zamfara State to replace the late Emir, Alhaji Aliyu Abara. Gummi tendered his letter of resignation as the Chief Judge of the FCT Judiciary to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and Federal Judicial Committee (FJC).

Gummi joined the services of the then North Western State (later Sokoto State) as an Assistant Registrar in 1972. He was appointed a Magistrate Grade II and posted to Zuru, North Western State (later Sokoto State) but now Kebbi State between 1976 and 1980. In 1980, he was appointed the Chief Inspec­tor of Area Courts briefly and later in the same year was made a Chief Magistrate and rose through the ranks to the post of a Chief Regis­trar of the Sokoto State High Court of Justice.

Between 1987 and 1988, he was appointed Attorney-General and Commissioner of Jus­tice, Sokoto State. Subsequently, he was ap­pointed a High Court Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in 1988. In 1996, he was appointed (briefly) as the Act­ing Chief Judge of Sokoto State. In the cause of his career at the Bench, he served as Chairman of Election Tribunals in Enugu, Imo, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Lagos states.

On October 16, 2002, he was appointed the Acting Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. On May 21, 2003, he was appointed as the substantive Chief Judge of the FCT High Court. He voluntarily retired from the Bench to serve his people on the capac­ity of a First-Class Emir.

Justice Sadiq Abdullahi Mahuta

Justice Mahuta was appointed by the Emir of Katsina, His Royal Highness Alhaji Abdulmummuni Kabir Usman as the new Galadiman Katsina and District Head of Malumfashi to succeed late Justice Mamman Nasir who died on April 13 this year. By the appointment, Mahuta becomes a senior council member and a king maker.

Before his enthronement, Mahuta was a retired Katsina Chief Judge. He was made State Counsel, Kaduna State Government, between 1973 and 1979; Legal Officer, Kaduna Cooperative Bank Limited, 1979 to 1983; engaged in Private Legal Practice – Godiya Chambers, Kaduna, from 1983 to 1987; and appointed First Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, 1987 to 1989.

He was also High Court Judge from 1989 to 1991, Chief Judge Katsina State, since 1991, and member, World Jurist Association.

Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari

Alhaji Gambari has been the 11th Emir of the Ilorin Emirate in Kwara State since 1995. He was permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General, Gongola State in 1976, Acting High Court judge of Bauchi, Borno and Gongola states.

He was also High Court Judge of Borno State from 1978 to 1983, Justice Court of Appeal, 1983, and National Vice Chairman, Nigerian Football Association (NFA).

A traditional ruler who spoke to DailyTrust Saturday on condition of anonymity said the recent development in the traditional institutions where court judges become Emirs or holders of traditional titles has been an added advantage to the traditional institutions.

“These are people who have seen it all in the judicial system. Moreover, they are from the royal lineage and already have leadership characteristics. Therefore, I believe their being in the judicial system only prepared them to become better monarchs. They would not use their positions to intimidate or tilt things to their favour,” he said.

A legal practitioner in Kano State, Barrister Ali Jamilu, described the development as a positive transition because judges are as good as community leaders who are well-respected and serve the public.

“Initially, in a traditional setting, the Emir is usually the Chief Judge in his emirate. But with modernisation, things changed and judges were appointed separately with the Emir presiding when there is an appeal. With the recent developments, I foresee a stronger traditional structure that will command a lot of respect and restore the public’s confidence in the system. Cases will now be addressed without necessarily going to court,” Jamilu said.

 

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