The death of a former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Aisha Jummai Alhassa, came as a rude shock to Nigerians across social, political, religious and regional divides. The late Minister was a bridge builder, activist, role model and pace setter. She left an indelible mark on the Nigerian political terrain as a rare politician cum technocrat who will always tell truth to power, even if her opinion will jeopardise whatever position she occupies.

Nigerians will never forget her position on the state of the nation when she said she will not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in 2019 because of the comatose state of the nation, insisting the country needed better focus leaders to pull the country back from total collapse. She made her position public even as a sitting Minister in Buhari’s administration. Because of her outspokenness, the former National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole disqualified her from contesting for any position on the platform of the party. But the urbane lady was never deterred as she stood by conviction that Nigeria deserves better leadership than what it has been experiencing under President Buhari. She, however, made it clear that she had nothing against Buhari as an individual.

Late Hajia Aisha Jummai Alhassan (nee Abubakar Ibrahim) got into national limelight when she became the Chief Registrar of the Federal Capital Territory High Court December 23, 2003. With the full support of her former boss and the then the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Hon. Justice Lawal Gummi, she changed the face of the Judiciary in the FCT. On her watch as the Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court a new High court complex was built in Maitama district which today serves as the headquarters of the FCT judiciary.

The beautiful new complex has facilities that “far eclipse any other High Court” in the country and the African continent as at the time it was built. The four-storey architectural masterpiece which looks more like headquarters of multinational oil company than a court has, amongst other facilities, ten courtrooms and Judges chambers; Computerised library; Holding cell for accused persons and closed circuit security system.

Some other facilities in the complex which Justice Gummi described as “world class” include  access control by electronic cards; two stand-by generators sets; all air cooled central cooling system; fire detection, prevention and fighting system underground and overhead water storage; water treatment plant and dedicated transformer and power distribution system.

To curb the problems of shortage of courtrooms in the FCT, the late Hajia Aisha Alhassan superintended over the construction of a new Magistrate court complex in Wuse 2. It has Twenty-one court rooms ,including Magistrates chambers and other offices for judicial staff and ample parking space.  New courts rooms were also constructed in satellite towns including Kubwa, Kuje, Mpape and Kado while all the existing courts were given regular face lifts.

It is common knowledge that securing comfortable residential accommodation in the FCT is a nightmare. To inure Judges from this, Hajia Aisha Alhassan as the then Chief Registrar of FCT High Court purchased for them houses in choice locations while quarters were provided for Magistrate some of whom were hitherto sharing apartments or squatting with relatives. Because of epileptic power supply nationwide, diesels were supplied weekly to the residence of all Judges while the boreholes in all the offices and judges quarters are regularly maintained.

The work of Judges in the FCT have been made easier with the automation of their chambers and laptops installed with electronic law library and digital Law Reports to assist them in delivering sound judgements. Training was organised for them on general computing, electronic law library and judicial library management software to enable them optimally use the facilities.

New laptops were purchased for Magistrates and Area court judges who are law graduates. Computers and laptops were also procured for all Directors, department and sectional Heads while the former FCT High Court library at Wuse Zone Five was fully computerised.  This programme was aimed at keeping them abreast with the revolution taking place in technology in order to afford society the benefit of a quick and easy access to justice. On the watch of Late Hajia Aisha Alhassan the FCT judiciary moved away from the era of recording machines in the courts as stenographic machines were installed in the High Courts to achieve a faster and less cumbersome justice delivery. Aisha Alhassan also ensured that in the FCT gone were the days where you find Judges and Magistrates riding in “tokumbo” vehicles as the FCT Judiciary entrenched tradition of purchase of only brand new vehicles for them. The former Chief Registrar, with the approval of the Chief Judge, changes the ceremonial gowns of all the Judges in FCT judiciary from the “common place” gowns they formerly wear and increased the robbing allowance of Magistrates. The outstanding records of Hajia Aisha Alhassan will take volumes to pencil down and it is rather on a sad note that she did not complete her memoir before her demise.

One of the twists during the tenure of Aisha Alhassan as the Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court was an attempt by some forces to rope the then Chief Judge, Justice Gummi in a phantom corruption case. They successfully got the support of the EFCC to do the dirty job and the EFCC attempted to coax Hajia Ibrahim to join the plot against her boss. But the EFCC met a stone wall as the lady bluntly refused to join in the plot to frame her boss. To get her out of the way the EFCC cooked up false charges against her, and the then Director of Finance and Supply, Lamido Yusuf Zaria and dragged them to the Federal High Court, Kaduna for prosecution. Her persecution by the EFCC got prominence in the media as almost all the media houses in the country gave the trial very close marking.

After almost one year of trial Hajia Aisha Alhassan was and Lamido Zaria were discharged and acquitted by the court when it became evident that all the charges against them were cooked up. It is instructive to mention here that while the trial lasted there was an attempt by the EFCC to withdraw the charges against her and the EFCC emissaries sent messages to her about their plans. But the lady bluntly refused, insisting that if the case it stopped midway some people will go to town with stories that she bribed her way to squash the case.While discharging and acquitting them of charges of criminal misappropriation and theft preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Justice Abdullahi Liman held that the EFCC failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the quilt of the accused persons and were unable to dislodge the position of the accused that the money they were accused of stealing were actually used to rent properties in Jabi District, Abuja for FCT Magistrate courts.

He berated the prosecution for failing to invite the landlord of the property which is presently being used as Magistrate court to confirm whether he got payments for the use of his property following the accused persons initial statements to the EFCC that the money that were allegedly misappropriated were used to rent the property.

Justice Liman agreed with the evidence of defence witnesses from the Account department of the FCT High court and the office of the Auditor General of the Federation that no money was stolen by the accused persons and that the transaction for which they are being tried was legitimate and in accord with financial rules. He chided the prosecution for “putting the cart before the horse” by failing first to prove loss of money” by the FCT High court before dragging the accused persons to court and consequently discharged and acquitted them.

Late Hajia Aisha Alhassa later resigned from the services of the FCT Judiciary to go into private business and politics. The truth about her persecution became public knowledge when the then Chief Judge of FCT, Justice Lawal Gummi gave insight into her trial during her sent-forth dinner in Abuja and immortalized her for her loyalty, exemplary dedication and unquantifiable contributions towards the growth of the judiciary in the territory. Speaking at the send forth dinner organized by the FCT High Court, the Chief Judge, Justice Gummi, declared that the management of the court has taken a decision to name the Library in the Magistrates Court complex in Wuse District after her as a token of the appreciation for the “good contributions” she made to the court as the Chief Registrar.

“I don’t think we can quantify the good work that this lady did in the FCT Judiciary. For all these unquantifiable contributions I think nothing is too much to give Aisha. I have therefore decided in consultation with our administration that from today the Library in the Magistrate Court complex in Wuse Zone Two is hereby named as Aisha Jummai Alhassan Library”.

It was indeed a night of revelations as Justice Gummi had earlier narrated for the first time the circumstances that led to the persecution and failed prosecution of the former Hajia Aisha Alhassan by an anti-corruption agency and declared to the amazement of the guest at the dinner that the agency was actually after him for not doing their bidding in a criminal case they brought before him.

“We in the judiciary, the Judges and the Magistrates have what we call occupational hazards and I am sure the majority of the people in this hall this night might know what I am talking about.

“In my case, sometime ago a gentleman belonging to one of the security agencies approached me and said he has been directed by the President (a former President of this country), to bring a matter to me and that the former President had expressed the wish that I personally handle the matter. I said ‘oh, with all pleasure I will do that’. I got into the matter and various applications were made (it was a criminal matter), seeking for bail. I refused based on recognized legal principles. The accused persons had very good legal representation; they came up with a trump card, an ace.

“They said ‘well my Lord you have refused our various applications for bail for the accused persons but really my Lord you don’t have jurisdiction to try this matter. This is because they are having 99 transactions which gave rise to the matter before you. Of all those 99 transactions none took place in the FCT, they all took place in Lagos. So, please we want you to hand off and transfer the case to Lagos.”

According to Justice Gummi, the defense team had a very legitimate argument so he thereafter transferred the case to Lagos “based on established legal principles and that was to be my tribulation”. He declared that “the gentleman was not happy with that and he decided to come for me and he came for me with all the arsenals at his disposal and they were huge and awesome.

“He couldn’t come to me directly. He decided to go for my lieutenant and my chief lieutenant happens to be Aisha (Alhassan). She was arrested and she was subjected to the most inhuman treatment while in detention.”

Continuing his account in a hall where you could have heard the pin drop, the Chief Judge said that “after some days of her tribulation she was approached by one of the gentlemen that manhandled her and called her to his office and said, ‘look madam, we know that all the allegations that we leveled against you have nothing to do with them, that you were told to do so by your boss. Please just tell us so and you can walk away from this place now.

“Now, to her everlasting credit this lady told them, ‘you know what, even if you are going to kill me I am not going to say that, you can do your worst but I am not going to do what you want me to do.”

When Hajia Aisha Alhassan went into partisan politics in 2010 she joined the PDP, the party on which her immediate elder brother, Senator A. Ibrahim contested and won election into the upper chamber of the National Assembly. Hajia Alhassana won the PDP primaries and went ahead to defeat former Governor of Taraba state, Rev Jolly Iyame in the Taraba North Senatorial Election. Hajia Alhassan polled 114, 131 votes to beat the former governor who contested on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Nyame polled 92, 004 votes, 22,127 less than the PDP candidate. However, Hajia Alhassan dumped the PDP for the APC over the culture of impunity prevalent in the party before the new leadership of the party led by Prince Uche Secondus came on board to reform the party.

Nigeria missed opportunity of having her first democratically elected female governor in 2015 following the sack of the Taraba State governor, Daruis Ishaku by the Taraba Election tribunal based on the fact that the primaries that produced him as the PDP candidate, which was conducted in Abuja was in breach of the Electoral Act.

In April, Professor Kyari Mohammed, INEC’s returning officer in Taraba State, declared that Ishaku scored 369,318 votes to emerge victorious while Senator Alhassan came second with 275,984 votes, with Chief David Kente of the Social Democratic Party polling 29,966 votes to come third. While the matter was pending before the Tribunal President Muhammadu Buhari nominated her as minister.

Senator Alhassan was born on September 16, 1959 in Jalingo, Taraba State. Her father, Alhaji Abubakar Ibrahim, is a recipient of the national honours of the Order of the Niger, OON. She is a law graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and went into Students Union politics in ABU Main campus in 1977 when she was a little over 18 years. She contested (for the first time by a non-undergraduate) for the post of Vice President of the SUG in 1978 at 18 years plus. She won the election and became the Vice President and the only female in the SUG Exco of that year (1978 – 1979). She later became the acting President of the SUG and holds the record as the first female to occupy that office in ABU.

Senator Alhassan’s record is replete with the prefix “first” from birth. She is the first daughter of Alhaji AA Ibrahim; apart the first ABU SUG acting President; she was the first female magistrate in Kaduna State judiciary, later first female Magistrate in the FCT. She rose through the ranks and became the first female Chief Magistrate in the FCT in 1996. She was then moved to Judicial Administration as the first female Deputy Chief Registrar and Director Litigation, High Court of the FCT Abuja in 1997.

During the last military regime she was appointed the first female Attorney General of Taraba State in 1997 and on return to FCT Judiciary, after return to democracy, she was appointed the first female Secretary of the FCT Judicial Service Committee in November, 2002 and was later appointed the first female Chief Registrar of the High Court of the FCT in December 2003.

She voluntarily retired from the FCT Judiciary as Chief Registrar on December 31, 2009 and went into active politics in line with her family’s tradition in October 2010.

QUOTE

During the last military regime she was appointed the first female Attorney General of Taraba State in 1997 and on return to FCT Judiciary, after return to democracy, she was appointed the first female Secretary of the FCT Judicial Service Committee in November, 2002 and was later appointed the first female Chief Registrar of the High Court of the FCT in December 2003.


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