I extend my profound gratitude for the privilege to address this special court session convened to honour a truly distinguished jurist, Justice Amina Adamu Augie, CFR, JSC, affectionately known as Jarumar Kabi. This remarkable occasion commemorates the culmination of Justice Augie’s 35-year tenure on the Bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, making her the first woman to reach such heights in our legal system. It is a momentous event that I wouldn’t have missed for anything in the world.
Before I delve into my address, I must take a moment to recognize and celebrate the 70th birthday of Justice Amina Adamu Augie, which occurred on 3rd September 2023. On behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association, I extend warm birthday wishes to My Lord, with prayers for many more happy years ahead.
The Significance of Valedictory Court Sessions
Valedictory court sessions, such as the one we are partaking in today, offer sober and solemn reflections on the transient nature of life and the positions of privilege that we are occasionally blessed with. In such moments, it is fitting to express gratitude for the grace of God that sustains us through our respective journeys. These moments remind us of the fleeting nature of life and encourage us to be thankful for each day.
Today, we come together to celebrate the remarkable career of Justice Amina Adamu Augie. Although it is customary to highlight the judicial pronouncements made by a retiring jurist, I would like to take a different approach. I wish to underscore the foundation upon which our collective legal endeavours rest—the grace of God. This perspective is not a departure from the celebrated contributions of Justice Augie to our jurisprudence but a deeper look into the motivation and driving force behind her remarkable career.
Acknowledging the Role of Divine Grace
Justice Augie has consistently acknowledged and recognized the grace of God in her life and accomplishments. This perspective is best exemplified by a sermon-like address delivered by Her Lordship at the thanksgiving service for Justice B. B. Kanyip, President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, in 2019. In her speech, Justice Augie emphasized how God orchestrates our paths, bringing us to positions where we can positively impact the lives of others. This message of divine guidance and providence resonates deeply with her career.
Two notable cases presided over by Justice Augie exemplify this point. The first, the case of Mrs Precious Omonyahuy & Ors v. IGP (2015) LPELR – 25581 CA, revolutionized fundamental rights enforcement in Nigeria, albeit at the cost of lives tragically lost. The ruling in this case established a critical precedent for standing in human rights claims and served as a poignant reminder that real lives and tragedies underpin many legal precedents.
The second case, Re–Abdullahi (2018) LPELR – 45202 SC, marked the first time in Nigeria’s legal history that a deceased appellant was substituted in a criminal appeal. This groundbreaking decision, authored by Justice Augie, demonstrated a profound commitment to justice even in novel and challenging circumstances. In both instances, the pursuit of justice was driven by a genuine concern for the welfare of individuals and society.
Justice Augie’s Contributions and Legacy
Justice Amina Adamu Augie’s contributions extend beyond the courtroom. Her leadership in enacting the Child Rights Act of 2003, a comprehensive legislation safeguarding children’s rights and well-being, reflects her passion for protecting vulnerable members of society. Her advocacy for the Act in the face of cultural and religious opposition is a testament to her unwavering dedication.
As a jurist, Justice Augie is exemplary, combining knowledge, integrity, and a firm yet gentle demeanour. Her judicious control of proceedings, forthrightness, and commitment to the pursuit of justice are hallmarks of her judicial career. Justice Augie’s judgements are known for their clarity, conciseness, and unwavering focus on justice.
Furthermore, her presence on the Supreme Court bench as a woman signifies a broader transformation within the legal profession, breaking barriers and paving the way for more women to rise to positions of authority within the judiciary and other sectors.
Challenges and Recommendations
The retirement of Justice Augie from the Supreme Court reflects the ongoing challenge of staffing this vital institution. The shortage of justices places immense burdens on the existing justices and affects the timely disposition of cases. As our constitution prescribes, I urge the prompt appointment of additional justices to attain the full complement of 21 judges.
Additionally, I propose constitutional amendments to increase the threshold for the number of justices appointed to the Supreme Court while limiting its jurisdiction to certain constitutional matters. Such measures would enable the Supreme Court to function as the policy-making court it is meant to be.
In closing, I reiterate my heartfelt congratulations to Justice Amina Adamu Augie on her distinguished career and well-deserved retirement. I pray she enjoys a peaceful and joyous retirement surrounded by family and loved ones. May the grace of God continue to guide her steps in this new phase of life.
Thank you all for your attention.
Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, OON, SAN
PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
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