International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
As part of the celebration, DNL Partners brings you list of women who blazed the trail in the legal profession in Nigeria.
Iconic, intelligent and brave women of the law:
STELLA JANE THOMAS
First female lawyer in Nigeria and West Africa
First female magistrate in Nigeria
Stella Jane Thomas was born in Lagos in 1906 to a wealthy businessman of Sierra Leonean descent Peter J. Thomas.
Stella travelled to the United Kingdom in 1926 where she studied law. A bold undertaking that would make her West Africa’s first female lawyer. In 1929, she gained admission to the Middle Temple Inn of Court, where she received her professional training for the next four years.
On May 10 1933, she was called to the Bar and was applauded with a feature in the Nigerian Press. Her achievement was also celebrated by the London-based West African Students Union with this printed announcement:
We are pleased to avail ourselves of the privilege to publish here, the first female Ogboni Agba, who recently passed her final Bar examination. Miss Thomas is to be the first lady Barrister in the whole of West Africa. In the spirit and letter of the WASU doctrine of unity and co-operation, Miss Thomas hails from Nigeria, Gold Coast and Sierra Leone.
JUSTICE MODUPE OMO-EBOH
First female High Court Judge in Nigeria
Justice Modupe Omo – Eboh who is from Lagos State and who married a former Justice of the Court of Appeal Justice Omo-Eboh from Edo State.
Late Justice Modupe was called to Bar in March 14, 1953. She became the first female High Court Judge in Nigeria on November 10, 1969.
JUSTICE MARIAM ALOMA MUKHTAR, GCON
First female Chief Justice of Nigeria
First female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria
First female justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria
First female judge of the High Court in Kano State judiciary
First female lawyer from Northern Nigeria,
Youngest Judge in Nigeria.
Justice Muktar who hails from Kano State was born on November 20, 1944. She had her secondary school education at Rossholme School for Girls, East Brent, Somerset, England.
After her A level at the Reading Technical College, Reading, Berkshire, England, she enrolled into the Middle Temple and the Gibson and Weldon School of Law on Chancery Lane London.
After completing her Law programme, she was eventually called to the English Bar in absentia in November, 1966 and to the Nigerian Bar in 1967. In January 1977, she was made a judge of the Kano High Court. That made her the third female judge in the history of Nigeria, the first female judge from the North and being 32 years of age, she was the youngest judge in the country.
In September 1987, she became a justice of the Court of Appeal, the first and only woman among 28 men. It took another six years before another female judge, Late Justice Atinuke Ige, was appointed to the Court of Appeal.
In 2012, Justice Aloma Mukhtar made history by becoming the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan swore her in on 16 July 2012 as the 13th indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, and conferred on her the Nigerian National Honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
JUSTICE ROSELINE OMOTOSHO,
First female CJ in Nigeria
Justice Omotosho was a product of the prestigious Gray’s Inn, London between 1957 and 1959 and passed her final bar examination in Second Class. She was called to the English Bar in February 7, 1961 and enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria in June 15, 1961. She died July 1, 1999.
Justice Omotoso, a legal icon became the first female Chief Judge in Nigeria and West Africa. She joined the High Court of Lagos State on March 6, 1978.
The Lagos state Judiciary has immortalized Justice Omotosho by naming a newly built court house after her as the first female to occupy the office of the Chief Judge. The late Justice Rosaline Ajoke Omotoso served from April 12, 1995 to February 27, 1996, when she retired.
VICTORIA AYODELE UZOAMAKA ONEJEME
First female Attorney-General in Nigeria
Victoria hails from Awka town of Anambra State. She was called to Bar in 1965 and became the first female Attorney-General in the country’s history when she was appointed the AG and Commissioner for Justice of old Anambra State in 1976. She later became a judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja.
CHIEF MRS. FOLAKE SOLANKE
First female lawyer to be conferred with Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)
Chief Folake Solanke was born in Abeokuta in the present day Ogun state on 29th March 1932, She attended Ago Oko primary school Abeokuta from 1937-1939, Emo girls school Abeokuta from 194o-1944 and Methodist girls high school Yaba Lagos from 1945-1949.
In 1950, she did a one year higher course in Queens’ College then in Onikan Lagos before proceeding to England for her post basic education. In 1951, she entered the King’s College in the University of Durham, now the University of Newscastle in England where she obtained her BA (2nd Division) Latin and mathematics in 1954. Diploma in Education (2nd Division) in 1955 thus setting for herself a teaching career. In 1960, she was admitted into Gray’s Inn London for her professional training and was called to bar in 1962.
Upon returning to Nigeria from England in 1962, Chief Folake Solanke joined the chambers of MA Odesanya now honourable Justice Odesanya, Lagos from August 1962 – May 1963 from which she moved to the chambers of Chief FRA Williams in Ibadan as Junior council in 1963. She was conferred with Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1981.
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