Breaking the Yoke of Patriarchy: Nigerian Women in the various Professions, Politics and Governance, 1914-2014 By PROF. SIYAN OYEWESO

Text of the Lecture Delivered at the 2014 National Conference of Association of Women Judges of Nigeria (NAWJN).


I feel highly honoured to stand before this august gathering of learned women and men as Guest Speaker. I express my sincere appreciation to the National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria (NAWJN) for counting me worthy of being invited as a resource person on this great occasion. This occasion which has been put together by NAWJN in honour of one of their key members, Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, the first ever female Chief Justice of the Federation, is quite historic. The President of the National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria (NAWJN), Justice Helen Moronikeji Ogunwumiju of the Federal Court of Appeal (Benin Division), Justice Adedotun A.G. Onibokun of Osun State Judiciary and Justice A. Aderonke Aderemi of Oyo State Judiciary take the credit for facilitating my presence here today. Thank you.


The question of the status of women in human society remains a very contentious one. Whether considered in a historical or contemporaneous sense, academic and non-academic discourses on gender issues particularly as they concern women are as interesting as they are controversial. The current advocacy for feminism which encapsulates the totality of the philosophy, vision and mission of women emancipation, equity and equality in modern societies has put the question of women position in the front burner of politics and economies of all modern states in contemporary times.

However, in spite of the huge successes recorded by feminist campaigns and propagations as exemplified in the advancements made by women in all walks of life, women are still unfulfilled. This is because while women have succeeded in breaking the gender barriers militating against their total breakthrough in developed countries of the world, the story is a bit different in patriarchal societies mostly on the African continent. But it must not be thought that it is only African societies that are patriarchal in nature. Patriarchy is a universal phenomenon which is noticeable in most cultures including the Western nations. For instance, in the United States, women had to establish various women movements to fight for their various rights and protest against all forms of discrimination. Also, the Western feminists have largely emphasised the negative aspects of African patriarchy to the total neglect of the rationality behind it and the outstanding exploits of African women in spite of the challenges they faced. Modern feminists have also shown total ignorance of the fact that some African societies were and still are matriarchal in nature and practised and still practised matrilineal descent.

Against this background, this paper examines the travails of African women across the ages using Nigerian women as case studies. The paper underscores the fact that, in spite of the patriarchal nature of the country, Nigeria women played significant roles in the societies in pre-colonial and colonial eras and have continued to contribute meaningfully to societal development in contemporary period. The paper also identifies the factors which have continued to hinder full realisation of the potentials of Nigerian women and suggests ways to address them. It also chronicles the pioneering Nigerian women professionals who have achieved outstanding successes in their professional callings and even surpassed their male counterparts. A major aspect of the paper is the historical documentation of notable Nigerian women who have blazed the trail in many aspects of the legal and judicial profession. The paper concludes that the social, cultural, religious and political barriers against the full realisation of the potentials of the Nigerian woman are gradually giving ways and the 21st century is the century of the Nigerian woman.

Confronting African Patriarchy: The Travails and Achievements of the Nigerian Women in the Pre-Colonial Period

Etymologically, the word ‘Patriarchy’ is derived from the Latin word ‘pater’ which means ‘father’. It is simply defined as a social order in which men take charge of decision making and implementation, as well as policies and actions that affect the affairs of the members of such societies. Arguably, every human society in the world in contemporary period is patriarchal in nature. Patriarchy is also rooted in global history at all stages of historical development and in all the continents from Europe to the Americas, from the Middle East to Australia and from Asia to Africa.

The African situation was more pathetic. In early African societies, women played the second fiddle to their men counterpart. They did not have rights to participate in political activities of the society and they were confined to the home stead. They, however, played important role in the economic and social lives of the family as they provided home training to the children and wards and assisted their husbands in their occupation. The advent of Islam had dual impact on women’s status in African societies. On one hand, Islam strengthened the existing patriarchal nature of the society by entrenching men supremacy and emphasising women submission. On the other hand, Islam encouraged women education and literacy. Across all the ages, a few exceptional women have not only proved the sterling qualities of the womanfolk but have also successfully challenged the patriarchal nature of their societies and have reached the peak of their professional callings.

In the pre-colonial Nigerian context, examples of such women who distinguished themselves as brave and strong individuals in the various sectors of the society abound. Principally, during the pre-colonial period, Nigerian women contributed mainly to the sustenance of the family. The economy then was largely subsistence and agriculture was the mainstay. Apart from being mothers and wives, they were homemakers. They farmed alongside their husbands and children. In Eastern Nigeria and among the Tiv people of Central Nigeria for instance, women engaged in productive economic activities such as the production of palm kernel and palm oil, garri processing and fish drying in order to complement the harvests from the farms and sustain the family. In all aspects of societal life during this period, women contributed their own quota.

Nevertheless, women were faced with some socio-cultural challenges such as prevention from land ownership which was the major means of production. Land was not an inheritance for women. Yet, they worked very hard to preserve the fruitfulness of the lands owned by their husbands. Because they were the homemakers, they had to ensure that the most basic requirement for their families’ survival was readily available; and this they did by ensuring that the source of that food–the fruitfulness of land resources–was ensured.
In spite of the patriarchal nature of the pre-colonial Nigerian society, it is important to stress that a few Nigerian women succeeded in achieving great political feats and became politically relevant in their societies. This was achieved through gallantry and uncommon bravery on the part of such women. Famous women who became political legends in pre-colonial Nigerian history included the legendary Queen Amina of Zaria who personally led series of expansionist wars in the 14th century and conquered many states and kingdoms in Northern Nigeria. Another one was Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan who was not only a rich merchant woman but a very fearful and brave woman of the 19th century who became a political force in the Ibadan military society. Other historic women in pre-colonial Nigeria who achieved political fame included Moremi of Ife, Inikpi of Igalaland, Emotan and Idia of Benin kingdom and Omu Okwel of the Ossomari kingdom. These and other women have become reference points in discourses on the exploits of Nigerian women in the pre-colonial era.
Nigerian Women in the Colonial Society: Famous Nationalists and Politicians, 1914-1960

The advent of British colonialism in Nigeria in 1900 reinforced the patriarchal nature of the Nigerian society in all ramifications. The colonial economy was export oriented and this seriously underplayed the prestige of traditional occupations. Nigerian women were largely at a disadvantage during this period. This was because trading and commerce were the traditional domains of pre-colonial Nigerian women. As a result of British colonisation of Nigeria, many smaller markets hitherto dominated and controlled by women were taken over by expatriate traders and British trading firms such as John Holt, United African Company (UAC), Lever Brothers and so on. In agriculture, cash crop incentives, technology and innovations were restricted to men. Consequently, women could not effectively carry out their previously significant economic roles the way they did in the pre-colonial period.

Also, the colonial political system did not give any formal recognition to women participation. From the 1920s when Nigerian educated elite began to participate in colonial activities, men were given more opportunities and leverages. The whole essence of colonial administration was tilted towards advancing the status of men in the society politically, economically, educationally, socially and culturally. As a consequence, the majority of the first sets of Nigerian nationalist and political elite were men such as Orisadipe Obasa, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Egerton Shyngle, Kitoyi Ajasa, Eric Moore, Sir Herbert Macaulay and a host of others.

Despite the unfavourable economic and political policies of the colonial government towards women, some notable Nigerian women still emerged and became famous during the colonial period. The Aba Women Riots of 1929 in Eastern Nigeria represented one of the earliest and most serious anti-colonial struggles in modern Nigeria. These riots were planned and executed by women to protest the taxation of women by the colonial authorities in Eastern Nigeria and it lasted several days during which several women were killed by the colonial police. The Aba riots not only contributed immensely to nationalist struggles in Nigeria but also showed the strength, bravery and determination of Nigerian women to protect and defend their interests.

Apart from the Aba women riots of 1929, some individual Nigerian women also made landmark political contributions in colonial Nigeria. One of such women was the late Madam Alimotu Pelewura of Lagos. She was a fish trader and leader of the Ereko Market Women Association in Lagos. She was a major force in the nationalist activities of the first political party in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) founded by Herbert Macauley in 1923. Madam Alimotu Pelewura led the Lagos market women against several obnoxious policies of the colonial government from the 1920s to 1951 when she died. She belonged to many economic and political organisations and participated in several protests and demonstrations, consequent upon which she was detained several times. The series of protests, petitions and demonstrations organized and led by Pelewura contributed to the improvement of political status of women in colonial Nigeria. The political activities of Madam Pelewura became so much acknowledged in Lagos that she became a member of the Ilu Committee in 1932. She was also on the NCNC delegation to the London conference in 1946.

Another famous woman in the politics of colonial Nigeria was Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. She was a social crusader and a political icon who established the Abeokuta Women Union in 1948. She was a leading member of the NCNC and she was behind the 1948 Egba women riots against colonial women taxation. She also had a face-off with Oba Ademola, the Alake of Egbaland forcing him to go on exile. She became so popular in Nigerian politics that the mention of her name scared the colonial officials. She was also on the NCNC delegation to the London conference in 1946.

Hajia Gambo Sawaba of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) distinguished herself as the first woman to publicly identify with professional politics in Muslim Northern Nigeria. As the leader of the women wing of Aminu Kano’s NEPU, Hajia Gambo mobilised the Northern women and advocated their voting and political rights. She was popularly known in the Kano-Zaria-Kaduna axis as a freedom fighter and a great mobiliser.

Another prominent female politician of the Pre-1960 era was Adunni Oluwole a rights activist whose commitment to social justice came to the fore during the 1945 general strike. Though not a wealthy individual, she supported the striking workers with financial and human resources. In May 1954, she founded the Nigerian Commoners Liberal Party.

Other women who made political marks during the colonial period included Mrs Margaret Ekpo. Significantly, in the 1950s, three Nigerian women were elected into the House of Chiefs. These were Chief (Mrs.) Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti who was elected into the Western Nigeria House of Chiefs, Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Ekpo and Mrs. Janet Mokelu who were both elected into the Eastern Nigeria House of Chiefs.

The Nigerian Women in the Legal Profession: Achievements, Prospects and Challenges

As we celebrate a rare legal icon today, we should be reminded that her success as a distinguished legal luminary is not hers alone. It belongs to all Nigerian women and is a fitting tribute to womanhood which over the centuries has been subjected to the intimidating influence of men. The emergence of women in the legal profession in Nigeria has come a long way even though with chequered history. Nevertheless, women professionals have contributed in their own right, in no small measure, to the advancement of the legal profession in Nigeria. At the various levels of the profession, we have had women of distinction who have carved a niche for themselves. The hallmark of their contribution is the appointment of the rare icon we are celebrating today, My Lord, Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, to the position of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Through the role of Justice Aloma Mukhtar, female representation in the law profession in Nigeria has recorded greater quality in spite of the low number in comparison to males. Particularly, Justice Aloma Mukhtar is a trailblazer. Her recorded accomplishments include being the first female jurist to be appointed to the highest court in Nigeria. She was also the first woman to be appointed into the Court of Appeal. She was called to the Nigerian bar in 1967 after she was called to the English bar. She was the first female lawyer in Northern Nigeria. She also served as the first female magistrate in Northern Nigeria and is currently the most senior justice of the Supreme Court. These accomplishments solidified her influence in such institutions as the Supreme Court, the Nigerian Bar, the Appeal Court, the Kano State Government, the High Court of Kano, the Federation of Women Lawyers, the National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria, the Federation of Women Lawyers and the International Association of Women Lawyers.

Within two years of assumption of office of Justice Muhktar as the CJN, another amazon in the judiciary, Justice Zainab Adamu Bukachuwa was, on March 26, 2014, named President of the Appeal Court. The implication of these appointments is that the two most powerful courts in the country are currently manned by women. At this point there is the need to purse and re-consider the statement once credited to Justice Karibi Whyte, the retired Supreme Court judge, about the absence of women at the apex court:

So what if there is no female Supreme Court Judge? Why must there be? It is not a gender issue…Whether there is a man or a woman it has nothing to do with the administration of Justice. When a suitable female arrives, we will appoint her.

On June 8, 2003, Justice Mukhtar was sworn in as the first female Justice of the Supreme Court. This appointment totally debunked Justice Karibi Whyte’s innuendo that “why must there be a female Supreme Court Judge”? Of course it is not “a gender issue”, but a woman can also do it. And they are doing it well.

Justice Mukhtar's ascension to the apex court has since opened the doors for other women lawyers to be appointed to the country’s highest court. In particular, it paved the way for the emergence of Justice Mary Odili and Olufunlola Adeyeye as Supreme Court Judges. The two appointments, no doubt, a confirmation of the new wind of change in Nigeria’s male dominated judiciary and a good indicator that women judges are now ready to make a strong presence in the judicial administration of Nigeria. This point was underscored by the erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu at the swearing-in of Justice Mary Peter-Odili as a Judge of the Supreme Court:

The action, no doubt, met the yearning and aspirations of women in Nigeria and indeed, the world…this day is indeed, significant because we have just witnessed the swearing-in of another female Justice of this Honourable Court, Justice Mary Peter Odili. This brings to three, the number of female justices in the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

In spite of this laudable achievement, the rejection, in the first instance, of the appointment of Honourable Justice Ifeoma Jumbo-Ofo as Justice of the Court of Appeal had generated some debate. The debate centres on the need to review the policies hindering the career advancement of women in states where their husbands are indigenes. This problem should be addressed in line with the submission of Justice Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye, retired Judge of the Supreme Court who, in a speech made at a valedictory court session in her honour said:

Complaints of this nature are now rampant. Most women transfer their services to the state of origin of their husbands immediately after their marriage. This is logical and in compliance with the tenets of marriage that the two spouses shall become one. In some native customs, particularly among the Yoruba, the wife no longer has a place in her ancestral home after marriage. Whenever there is vacancy at the top in the husband’s state of origin, she will be denied the post and there and then returned to her own state of origin, after climbing the ladder and putting so many years into the service.[1]

This remains a challenge that must be surmounted. Hence, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye’s argument should be critically looked into with a view to addressing this debacle. In spite of all this, the shining careers of our women in the legal profession are glowing tributes to the professional capacity of women and the endless possibilities that abound for the coming generations of aspiring women in any professional field. Justice Mukhtar’s illustrious career reinforces the success that can emerge from the struggle for women emancipation, empowerment and participation which the careers of other women lawyers have also shown.

In the current era where the strengthening of institutions is paramount to the overall development of nations, Justice Aloma Mukhtar has proved that female representation can increase the dignity of the legal institution which contributes significantly to governance and socio-economic growth. In this aspect, Justice Mukhtar has shown that the female gender is up to the task of providing meaningful contribution to the bench. In a profession that demands a very high level of firmness and resolve, Justice Mukhtar stands out. She was one of the justices who gave a dissenting judgement that was widely acclaimed in legal circles in the Yar’Adua/Buhari election result dispute in 2007. On assumption of office Justice Mukhtar inherited 139 petitions that had been pending in the Supreme Court. Out of this number she adjudged 106 as baseless and without substance. From the time she assumed office, she received 198 petitions from which she screened 150. This posture is representative of Justice Mukhtar’s determination to rid the justice system of ineffectiveness, bureaucratic bottlenecks and negative tendencies that have found no place in the heart of Nigerians. While interacting with members of the Nigerian Senate in 2012 before her appointment was confirmed, she said,

On the perspective of the Nigerian judiciary by the public, indeed as it is as at now, it is very bad and I am saddened by it. But then, I said earlier on, I will try, I don’t want to sound like a broken record. I will try to make sure that the confidence reposed in the judiciary, as it were before, will be returned. I will try as much as possible to ensure that the bad eggs that are there are flushed out; that there will be a cleansing by the National Judicial Council based on petition. It is sad that the ordinary man on the street thinks and feels that he cannot get justice. This is because of the situation we find ourselves. I will ensure that this perception changes.[2]

Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar’s competence and sheer capacity to influence legal administration has inspired the forthrightness and consistency of performance among a great number of competent and skilful women who have traversed the path of legal administration. These include the Honourable Justice Mary Ukaego Peter Odili who was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2011; the Honourable Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, the first woman judge in the North Eastern sub-region who was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2012; and the Honourable Justice Kudirat Motomori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun who as a High Court Judge served as Chairman Robbery and Firearms Tribunal for three years and now Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Head and Not the Tail: The Court of Appeal

Nigerian women are making waves at the Federal Court of Appeal. These phenomenal women include the Honourable Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa who is the first female president of the Federal Court of Appeal and the 6th in the history of the Court. It is also on record that the Honourable Justice W. S. Nkanu Onnoghen Justice of the Court of Appeal from 1998 – 2005. Justice Bulkachuwa was called to Nigerian Bar in 1976 represented Gombe State in Appeal Court. She was elevated to the Appeal Court in 1998. Before then she had worked as a judge in the High Court of Bauchi State and served as the Chief Judge of Gombe State.

The Appeal Court, with 16 divisions and 90 judges now has twenty nine (29) women with the potential and capacity to increasingly direct the course of the justice system in Nigeria. Distinguished female judges whose role in the Appeal Court has been significant include Honourable Justices Amina A. Augie JCA, CON; Monica B. Dongban-Memsem JCA, Uwani Abba Aji JCA; Sotonye Denton-West JCA, Helen M. Ogunwumiju JCA, Oyebisi F. Omoleye JCA, A.G. Mshelia JCA, Jumai H. Sankey JCA, Uzo I. Ndukwe Anyanwu, C.N. Nwa JCA, C.E. Nwosu-Iheme JCA, T.N. Orji-Abadua JCA, Modupe Fasanmi JCA, Rita N. Pemu JCA, Philomena Ekpe JCA, E.E. Iyizoba JCA, Uchecukwu Onyemenam JCA, Onyekachi Otis JCA, T. Akomolafe Wilson JCA, Fatima Akinbami JCA, Jumbo Ofo JCA, Tani Y. Hassan JCA, O.A. Adefope-Okojie JCA, M.O. Bolaji-Yusuf JCA, Y. Nimpar JCA, O.E. Williams-Dawodu JCA and A.O. Obaseki-Adejumo JCA.

The Female Representation at the Federal High Court of Nigeria

Hon. Justice Roseline Ukeje makes history as the first female Federal High Court Judge. While in service, Justice Ukeje demonstrated strong-will, independent mindedness and commitment to the tenets of her profession. As Chairman of one failed bank tribunal, she gave landmark judgment which ruffled some feathers in government. She was certainly a trailblazer as she was the first woman in the country to emerge as Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. She retired in 2008.

Although, the Federal High Court of Nigeria is today headed by Hon. Justice Ibrahim Auta, OFR, some female lawyers have also made their mark in the court. The female representation in the court today stands at Seventeen (17) comprising, Hon. Justice C.M.A Olatoregun-Ishola, Hon. Justice A.I Chikere, Hon. Justice B.B. Aliyu, Hon. Justice R. N.Ofili-Ajumogobia, Hon. Justice P.I. Ajoku, Hon. Justice A.A. Okeke, Hon. Justice Z.B. Abubakar, Hon. Justice M.A. Onyetenu, Hon. Justice D.V. Agishi, Others include Hon. Justice F.A.Olubanjo, Hon. Justice I.L. Ojukwu, Hon. Justice Phoebe Msuean Ayua, Hon. Justice F. O. Giwa-Ogunbanjo, Hon. Justice Evelyn Nmasinulo Anyadike, Hon. Justice Uche Nma Agomoh, Hon. Justice Oluremi Omowunmi Oguntoyinbo, Hon. Justice Chinda Ruhuoma and Hon. Sam-Wobo Adele, among others.

Emergence of Female Chief Judges: Breaking the Barriers and Charting New Pathways

On November 16, 1935 the first qualified female lawyer, Stella Jane Thomas (later Stella Marke) was enrolled at the bar. Prior to this date, law profession was an exclusive male profession in Nigeria and other commonwealth countries. It was almost impenetrable for Nigerian women. The enviable position of Stella Jane Marke among the female lawyers in Nigeria was not rivalled since 1935 until twelve years later when Modupe Alakija (late Mrs. Renner) came into the scene. She became the second female lawyer in 1947. Two years later another Miss Adebisi Adedoyin (later Mrs. Adebiyi was called to the English Bar thereby raising the number of female lawyers in Nigeria in 1949 to three. On November 25, 1952, Gloria Omodele Rhodes (later Mrs. Jackman) joined the league of Nigerian female lawyers and rose to become the first Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court. In 1953, the country produced three female lawyers- Kafayat Abimbola Augusto (later Mrs Bakare), Modupe Akingbein (later Justice Modupe Omo-Eboh) and Jayoola Aduke Alakija- who stamped their feet on the sand of time. In 1956, three other females joined the league of lawyers, viz Martina Efunyemi Akerele, Christianah Osibodu, and Atandare Beatrice Olukemi. By 1959, another five women were enrolled at the bar. The list includes Atinuke Oloka (late Atinuke Ige), Abimbola Aina Da Rocha, Remilekun Braithwaite, Muyinat Olabisi Dawodu, Modupe Maja and Ajibola Olubunmi Adelowo. By 1960, the number of female lawyers in Nigeria rose to twenty with the enrolment of four other lawyers: Odujirin Olufunmilayo Olabisi, Onalaja Morenikeji Omotayo, Femi-Pearse Obafunke Folasade and Akintade Sydney Aderinola. From 1960 onwards, Nigerian women have proved that legal profession can no longer remain the exclusive preserve of men.

In 1965, Victoria Ayoadede Uzoamaka Onejeme, among others, was called to the bar. She later became the first female Attorney General in Nigeria’s history when she was appointed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Old Anambra State in 1976. Justice Onajene who hails from Awka in Anambra State later became a judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court.

Shattering the Glass Ceiling in Lagos State Judiciary: From Justice Modupe Omo-Eboh and Justice D.E.A. Oguntoye to Justice Funmilayo Atilade

Existing records available in Judicial Archive indicate that Modupe Oladunni Omo-Eboh (Nee Akingbehin) was privileged by history as the first female High Court Judge in Nigeria. She hailed from Ondo State but married a former Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dr. Omogbai Omo-Eboh from Edo State. Justice (Mrs) Omo-Eboh died on the 25th of February, 2000. From the perspective of Lagos State Judiciary, however, it was Justice (Mrs) D.E.A. Oguntoye who was the first female appointed to the High Court of Lagos State.

Indeed, it was Lagos State that also broke down barriers impeding the appointment of female as a Chief Judge. The first female Chief Judge in Nigeria known to history was Justice Rosaline Omotosho. She served as the Chief Judge of Lagos State from April 12, 1995 to February 27, 1996.

With the completion of Rosaline Omotosho’s tenure, the Lagos State Government continued the tradition of appointment of competent women as Chief Judges. It is indeed on record that Justice Ibitola Sotiminu (2001-2004) and Justice Inumidun Akande (2009-2012) served meritoriously as Chief Judges of Lagos State. The fourth female Chief Judge, Justice Ayotunde Phillips was sworn in on June 14, 2012. Justice Phillips, a former Director of Civil Litigation was appointed a Judge of the State High Court on February 18, 1994. She attended the University of Lagos and earned her LL.B degree in 1973. She was called to the bar in 1974. Justice Ayo Phillips held sway at the Chief Judge till Saturday, July 26, 2014.

On July 26, 2014, history was made in the annals of Lagos State judiciary as Justice Phillips was succeeded by her younger sister, Hon. Justice Funmilayo Olajumoke Atilade. Both Justice Phillips and Justice Atilade are the first and second children respectively of the four children of late Hon. Justice James Williams, who himself was a judge in Lagos State and late Mrs. Henrietta Williams.

A Law graduate of University of Lagos, Justice Olajumoke Atilade commenced her legal career as Principal Legal Officer at the Nigerian Ports Authority from September 1979 to December 1981 (2 years 4 months) engaged in legal drafting and litigation. She was Senior/Chief magistrate Lagos State Judiciary from 1982-July 1996 (14 years 7 months where she adjudicated over mostly criminal cases, landlord and tenant cases and prison visits. She was a High Court Judge at the Lagos State where she supervised Judges in her district and assigned cases to them. She also supervised administrative staff in the district and supervised all assignments given to her by the Hon. Chief Judge. Still in that capacity, she adjudicated over cases and headed the general civil division. She did this until August 2014 when she was formally appointed and sworn in as the Chief Judge of Lagos State. Justice Atilade’s appointment is historic and significant. Its significance is best captured in the words of Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN):

…We are here to celebrate Justice Atilade who has risen to the height of the Judiciary, who got this at a time when it was common place that you cannot become a judge if you are a magistrate and if you want to be a judge, you have to resign as a magistrate. I know people who resigned from the magistrate because they wanted to become judges but by hardwork and perseverance, she got to where she is today. [3]

However, the appearance and contributions of women of exceptional characters and competence in Lagos Judiciary Nigeria legal profession has probably spurred Senator Ita Enang to warn the male lawyers to brace up. He complained that:

In Lagos State, a woman retired as Chief Judge. Her successor was also a woman of same parentage. So men, I think it is time for us to come up.[4]

What Senator Ita Enang has, however, forgotten is the fact that Lagos state has consistently appointed female Chief Judge in the past years. Apart from Justice Atilade who succeeded her sister as the state’s Chief Judge, it appears male Judges in the state’s judiciary will stay for several years before a male could become a Chief Judge. This is given the statistics from the Lagos State Judiciary which indicate that only 13 out of the 50 High Court Judges in the State are men. Again, ten (10) out of the twelve (12) judges next in rank to the incumbent Chief Judge, Justice O.O. Atilade are women. Besides, 128 out of the 184 judicial officers in the state are women. Given this scenario and stark reality, Senator Ita Enang and his co-travellers may have to devise other strategies at curtailing women advancement in the legal profession.

Hon. Justice Fati Lami Abubakar also has the enviable record of being the first female Chief Judge of Niger State. She also makes history as the first female lawyer, first female Attorney General and first Solicitor General in Niger State. While swearing-in Justice Fati Abubakar as Niger State’s first female Chief Justice, the state governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu said the new Chief Judge has been able to attain an enviable height in the judiciary because she followed the path of education. He described Justice Fati as a “paragon of empathy and welfare,” and also urged her to help transform the judiciary in the state. The governor advised her to instil discipline in the judiciary for citizens to have confidence in the system. Born on April 12, 1951, Justice Abubakar studied Law at the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University). She was the first female lawyer and Solicitor General and Attorney General of Niger State respectively. On the 10th of December, 2005 Justice Fati Abubakar delivered the 33rd Convocation Lecture of Obafemi Awolowo University and was also awarded a Doctor of Laws (LL.D) Honoris, Causa, making history as the first alumnus to be bestowed with such honour.

Apart from Niger State, Northern states of Zamfara, Sokoto and Kaduna currently have female judges as their Chief Justice. In the saddle in Kaduna is Raila Cudjoe while the highly Islamic conservative Zamfara State has Justice Hauwa Kulu Aliyu as their first female Chief Justice. Similarly, Hon. Justice Aisha Dahiru made history as first female Chief Judge of Sokoto State. Hon. Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkhachuwa had served as the first female Chief Judge of Gombe State before her elevation to the Court of Appeal. It is on record, too, that Taraba State also has a female, Hon. Justice Josephine Y. Tukur as the Chief Judge.

Kwara State also produced its first female Chief Judge in person of Justice Raliat Elehi-Habeeb. In the course of her career, she was sacked by the State Government but was eventually reinstated by the Supreme Court.

Abia State also recently joined the league of states with female Chief Judge when Governor Theodore Ahamefula Orji swore-in Justice Nnenna Chioma Oti on April 7, 2014 as the state’s new Chief Judge. Justice Oti took over from another female Judge, Justice Stella Nwakanma who had served in acting capacity. Even before Justice Oti was sworn in, the Ag. Chief Justice was also a female, Hon. Justice T.U. Uzokwe. In Bayelsa State, Justice Kate Abiri is the state’s first female Chief Justice. It is on record too that, Hon. Justice Rosaline Bozimo the immediate past Chief Judge of Delta State, is known to history as the first female Chief Judge of the State.

Osun State has also recognized the quality of women in legal profession. Justice Oyebola Adepele Ojo made history as the first female Chief Judge of Osun State in 2013 since the founding of the State in 1991. An Indigene of Ede, Justice Oyebola A. Ojo became a High Court Judge on December 21, 2000 and became the President of the Customary Court of Appeal in July 2010. Justice Ojo studied Law at University of Lagos and graduated in 1984. She was called to the bar in the same year and enrolled as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. She was sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of the State on March 5, 2013 and became substantive Chief Judge on June 17, 2013. In Oyo, the Honourable Justice Badejoko Olateju Adeniyi was the immediate past Chief Justice of the State.

Ogun State Judiciary today has as its head, the first female Chief Judge, Hon. Justice O.O. Olopade. Apart from the Chief Judge, Ogun State has also appointed a woman as Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Mrs. Abimbola Akeredolu. The Governor also appointed a female as the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Patricia Oduniyi. In Ogun State, the administration of Justice is now in the hands of women. This point has been succinctly put thus by Governor Ibikunle Amosun:

Today is a International Women’s Day and there is nothing more than what we are doing today. Our Chief Judge is a woman, the Attorney General is a woman and the Solicitor General is a woman. There is no state in Nigeria that has achieved this. [5]

Again, it is evident that women are also occupying key positions in Akwa-Ibom State. For instance, in Awa Ibom, the Chief Judge is Hon. Justice Idongesit Ntem Bassey, a position she has been occupying since September 25, 2008. Justice Isua was appointed a High Court Judge in December 1991. Indeed, Akwa-Ibom has a triumvirate of three women in key positions like the Deputy Governor, Noble Lady, Barrister Valerie Ebe, and the Head of service, Mrs. Cecilia Udoessien. Udoessien’s predecessor in office was also a female, late Elder Grace Anwana. It is apt to remark that a female, Senator Helen Esuene from Eket Senatorial District has also joined the gubernatorial race, seeking to become the 10th and the first female Governor of Akwa-Ibom State.

In appreciating the overwhelming presence of female judges in Nigeria’s High Courts, I need to add that Lagos State, Delta State, Rivers State, Enugu State, Ogun State and Abia State have the highest number female judges. While Abia, Enugu and Ogun States have ten female High Court judges each, Rivers State has twelve, Delta State has sixteen while Lagos State has thirty three (33) female judges.

It is also important to stress that female Judges have also recorded significant presence in the National Industrial Court and as at October 2014, the court has ten (10) female judges, viz: Hon. Justice M.N. Esowe, Hon. Justice F.I. Kola-Olalere, Hon. Justice O.A. Obaseki-Osaghae, Hon. Justice O.A. Shogbola, Hon. Justice E.N.N. Agbakoba, Hon. Justice O.Y. Anuwe, Hon. Justice R.B. Haastrup, Hon. Justice O.O. Oyewumi and Hon. Justice R.H. Gwandu.

Another evidence of Nigerian woman overwhelming impact on the judicial sector is the high number of women judges in FCT High Court. As at today, the court has nine (9) female Justices: Hon. Justice O.O. Goodluck, Hon. Justice A.A.I. Banjoko, Hon. Justice M.E. Anenih, Hon. Justice F.A. Ojo, Hon. Justice M.A. Nasir, Hon. Justice C.N. Oji, Hon. Justice V.V.W. Venda, Hon. Justice A.O. Otaluka and Hon. Justice A.S. Adepoju.

In spite of the phenomenal advancement of women judges, it is important to observe that Yobe and Jigawa states are yet to produce any female judge till date.

The upward rise in the appointment of female judges in Nigeria is in perfect agreement with the Beijing Affirmative Action which considers the inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels as one of the critical areas of concern for the empowerment of women. The Beijing declaration states that women’s equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interest to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all level of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be attained.

Women of Justice: Aduke Alakija, Hairat A. Balogun, Priscilla Kuye, Atinuke Ige and Roseline Patrica Ireofe Bozimo.

One of the exceptional women legal practitioners who have been great examples and role models include the nonagenarian lawyer and diplomat Mrs. Aduke Alakija who served as President of the International Federation of Female Lawyers, a founding member of the West African Students Union and member of the Nigerian delegation to the United Nations from 1961 – 1965.

Another woman lawyer who has equally attained the first class status in the legal profession is Hon. Justice Hairat Aderinsola Balogun. Called to the bar at the tender age of 21 on February 5, 1963, she later became the first female Attorney General of Lagos State. In 1981, Hairat Balogun was elected as the first Secretary-General of the Nigeria Bar Association and held office till 1983. She is also a Life-Bencher, former Chairman of the Body of Benchers, a recipient of the National Honour of OON (Officer of the Order of Niger) for services rendered to the legal profession and a Life Member of International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).

It is apt to acknowledge the contributions of Dame Priscilla Kuye to legal practice and legal activism. Within the context of the Nigeria Bar Association, she served the Lagos Chapter and later became a member of the National Executive Committee, and later the Financial Secretary, the Second and the first Vice-President. The high water-mark of her service to the bar was her emergence on 24th January, 1992 as the first female President of the Nigerian Bar Association and the only female till date. It is on record that Pascilla Kuye was also the first female President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce. In 2011 she became a Life Bencher.

The late Justice Atinuke Ige was also a giant in the legal profession. Atinuke Ige was called to the Bar in 1959 and was appointed a Magistrate in 1962. She became the Chief Registrar of the Western State Court of Appeal in 1975. In 1976, she was appointed a Honourable Judge of the Oyo State High Court and subsequently appointed a judge of the Court of Appeal in recognition of her seniority at the bar and bench. Her commitment to duty, scholarship and incorruptibility was unrivalled. Till death, she enjoyed the respect of other judges of Court of Appeal who were all junior to her by membership of the Bar.

Hon. Justice Rosaline Bozimo (OFR) is another eminent Nigerian female lawyer who has made significant impact on the legal profession. She made history as the first female Chief Judge of Delta State and occupied the esteemed office between April 3, 2003 and January 1, 2011. Rosaline Bozimo graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with LL.B degree in Law in 1973 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1974. She started her legal career as a private practitioner but later joined the judiciary of the old Bendel State. In 1983, she started her legal career as a Private practitioner but later joined the Judiciary of the Old Bendel State. In 1983, she was appointed a Magistrate of Bendel State, a Chief Magistrate in August 1988 and the first Chairman of the Tenders Board of the High Court of Delta State in September 1991. In December 1991, she was appointed a Judge of the State High Court. Bozimo later served as the Chairman of the Armed Robbery and Firearms. Tribunal Effrum, Delta State and Chairman, Failed Banks Tribunal, Enugu Zone. On August 1, 2014, Hon. Justice Rosaline Bozimo broke another record with her appointment as the first female Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Abuja, since its establishment on 27th June 1991. Justice Bozimo took over the mantle of leadership from Retired Justice Eri, former Chief Judge of Kogi State who assumed duty as Administrator on August 1, 2008. She broke the chain of male dominated administrators of the institute which started from the tenure of Hon. Justice Andrew Otutu Obaseki (1991-1995), Hon. Justice Olajide Olatawura (1995-2000), Hon. Justice M.A. Ope-Agbe (2000-2003), Hon. Justice John Ademola Ajakaye (2003-2006), Hon. Justice Timothy Oyeyipo (2006-2006), and Hon. Justice Umari Eri (2008-July 31, 2014).

Female Presidents of Customary Courts of Appeal

A number of female lawyers have also made significant presence in Nigeria’s Customary Courts of Appeals as Judges and as Presidents. In Osun State, the Customary Court of Appeal is presided over by Hon. Justice Gloria Erhiyowwe Olagoke, a 1984 Law graduate of the then University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University. She started her law practice in 1986 as State Counsel Grade II in the Old Oyo State. She rose through the ranks in her career and in 1993 moved from the bar to the bench with her appointment as Senior Magistrate Grade I. Justice Olagoke has served Osun State in different capacities and at different judicial divisions of the State. In December 2000, she was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Osun State. The hallmark of His Lordship’s doggedness was her appointment first as Acting President of the State Customary Court of Appeal in 2010 and later that year, her conferment, and sworn in as the substantive President of Osun State Customary Court of Appeal.

It is on record too that Ondo State has produced Hon. Justice Folashade Aguda-Taiwo as the first President of the Customary Court of Appeal in Ondo State. A woman of enviable legal academic experience coupled with vast law practice, she was found competent and worthy to preside over the Ondo State Customary Court of Appeal which was hitherto non-existent. A woman of sound and rich legal background, her uprightness, profundity, incorruptibility and impartiality stand her out among the body of benchers and especially in the National Association of Women judges. Hon. Justice Folashade Aguda-Taiwo is a member of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Management Group (NCMG) among other associations.

Distinguished audience, Pleateau State is another state in Nigeria that has produced the first female President, Customary Court of Appeal. She is Hon. Justice Julie Kyentu. According to Justice Nimpar, “Judges as we all know play a vital role in the advancement of human rights and thereby setting a new way of thinking in the jurisprudence of equality”. At a reception and Lecture in honour of Justice Julie Kyentu by the Plateau State Chapter of National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria, Justice Nimpar of the Plateau State High Court remarked thus:

Today, we feel highly grateful to God for one of us who was recently sworn in as a president of the Customary Court of Appeal. Her ascension may seem routine to those of us in the legal profession, being the most senior judge in that court. She still faced challenges but because God was on her side, today we can say God be the Glory. Let us put it on record that Plateau State also has two Justices of the Court of Appeal, the only state in Northern Nigeria with such representation. The women of Plateau State are making giant strides in different spheres of human endeavours but without recognition.

In the same vein, Delta State also has a female President of the Customary Court of Appeal. She is Hon. Justice Stella Ogene. In Enugu State Judiciary, a female lawyer is also the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice (Mrs) V.N. Nebo. In Abia State, Hon. Justice Stella M.C. Ururuka is the President of Abia Customary Court of Appeal while Hon. Justice Dr. Ngozika Okaisabor is the President of FCT Customary Court of Appeal. Other states where female have emerged as Presidents of Customary Courts of Appeal include Edo (Hon. Justice J.N. Asemota, Rivers State (Hon. Justice Christy Gabriel-Nwankwo and Kaduna State, (Hon. Justice Linda Amina Yaroson).

From Folake Solanke to Funke Aboyade: The Making of Female Senior Advocates of Nigeria, 1975-2014

Until 1975 when Nigeria changed the nomenclature to Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), exceptional lawyers who had distinguished themselves in legal counsel and advocacy were elevated to the rank of Queen Counsels (QC). While few Nigerian male lawyers were able to receive this enviable honour, no woman was able to reach this status. The maiden honour of SAN was conferred on Chief F.R.A. Williams and Dr Nabo Graham-Douglas on April 3, 1975. Since the commencement of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria scheme in 1975, Nigeria has produced about 400 Senior Advocates (SAN) in the legal profession. By October 2014, eighteen of the recipients - less than five percent- are women. While this number appears very marginal the quality and strengths that the women brought to the profession cannot be ignored as they displayed competence and showed commitment to their job.

The first among these exceptional women is Chief Mrs Folake Solanke. Born in Abeokuta in Ogun State on March 29, 1932 to the famous proprietor of Alabukun medicine store in Abeokuta, J.S. Odulate, Chief Solanke has proved to be an epitome of success for Nigerian women. In 1960, she was admitted into Gray’s Inn London for her professional training and was called to bar in 1962.
Chief Solanke learnt her rope at the chambers of M.A. Odesanya, now Honourable Justice Odesanya, Lagos, from August 1962 to May 1963 from where she moved to the chambers of Chief F.R.A. Williams in Ibadan, Oyo State as a junior counsel in 1963. In 1972, she was appointed commissioner, Western State of Nigeria and Chairman, Western Government Broadcasting Corporation Television and Radio Network Service. Her diligence and contributions to the Legal profession earned her the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the first woman to be conferred with the prestigious rank. The place of Chief Solanke is historically significant for women in the legal practice because she broke the existing barrier in the male-dominated profession and opened the windows of opportunities for the later generation. In 1981, she was conferred with the title of Yeyemofin by the Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuade. At the 51st Zonta International Congress in Hong Kong, Chief Solanke was elected the International President for the 1994-1996 session. This feat is historical for two reasons. First, Chief Solanke was the first black and African president of Zonta. Second, she was the first black and African to head any international non-governmental organisation. Indeed and in addition, her achievement is a source of inspiration for other African women.

In fact, Chief Folake Solanke is generally acknowledged as the lady of many “firsts” among which are: first lady state commissioner in the Western State of Nigeria, 1972, first lady chairman of the board of WNTV & WNBS, 1972, first lady Senior Advocate of Nigeria, 1981, first governor of Zonta International, District 18 (Africa), 1982, first non-Caucasian to be elected international president of Zonta International, 1992. She has also been given many titles: ‘Queen of the Bar’, ‘Lady SAN’, ‘the Mother Who Knows the Law’, ‘the Yeyemofin of Ife’, and ‘Grandmother’. According to Gani Fawehinmi, Chief Folake Solanke is ‘A Beauty and A Brain’.

After Chief Solanke received the SAN, it took about nine years, 1989, before another female lawyer could be inducted into the exalted rank. Mrs Phoebe Ajayi-Obe was the second female lawyer who earned the honour. A graduate of Law from Obafemi Awolowo University, Mrs Ajayi-Obe demonstrated outstanding academic brilliance and excellence. It was not until six years later that another Nigerian female lawyer broke the deadlock. Late Chief Mrs C.O. Ajayi Okunnuga was also an outstanding lawyer who distinguished herself among her peers. Before she embraced private legal practice, Mrs Okununga was one of the first female chief magistrates in Nigeria. In April 4, 1995, she was conferred with the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). In September 14, 1998, Mrs Abimbola Williams was awarded the Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Before her appointment as SAN, she was a member of the Lagos State Judicial Service Commission for the appointment of Judicial Officers between 1994 and 2009. She was also the African Vice Co-Chair of the International Legal Network, Terralex between 2005 and 2009. Her appointment was a testimony of her industry and hard work.

Mrs Olufunke Adekoya became the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in September, 2001. She graduated from University of Ife in 1974 where she obtained LL.B. (Hons) and proceeded to bag LL.M Harvard Law School, Boston, Massachusetts in 1977. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1975 and became the Solicitor, England and Wales in 2004. She has been a member of the Body of Benchers since 1999 and was elevated to Life Bencher in March 2007. Mrs Adekoya has distinguished herself as an outstanding lawyer. An expert in arbitration, she has represented both local and transnational parties as counsel in both domestic and international arbitration proceedings within Nigeria and abroad. She has also acted in numerous disputes as either party appointed Arbitrator, Sole Arbitrator, or as a Presiding Arbitrator. A member of the LCIA African Users Council and the Nigeria’s ICC National Committee, Mrs Adekoya is listed on the ICDR Energy Arbitrators List, the panel of neutrals of the Lagos Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and the Nigerian Communications Commission. She lectures regularly on arbitration law and procedure and has been approved by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators as a Tutor at the Associate Fellowship Course level.

In the year 2007, Mrs Funke Adekoya was nominated and voted as the Most Outstanding Female Legal Practitioner of the Year by Financial Standard Newspaper and Women Entrepreneurs African Network. Importantly, Mrs Funke Adekoya is a pioneer managing partner at LEX, one of the largest and leading full service commercial law firms in Nigeria. LEX is a product of fusion of Adekoya’s litigation based law firm with three other firms. In LEX, Mrs Adekoya heads the Dispute Resolution Practice Group that provides legal advice and representation in all modes of dispute resolution both within and outside Nigeria. In the contemporary legal practice, Adekoya is acknowledged as one of the most competent arbitrators and litigators in Nigeria particularly in the area of commercial and corporate law.

Chief Mrs Anayo Offiah was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in September 2003. The first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria from the South-East, Mrs Offiah possesses admirable rear qualities that distinguish her from her peers. She has held many enviable positions both at state and national levels. A member of many learned and professional bodies, Mrs Offiah has chaired different election tribunals. She was the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Enugu State from 1994-1997, the Chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Enugu 1998-2002, was the Chairperson of the State Local Government Election Tribunal Enugu Zone and in 2006, she was made a member of the body of benchers. An experienced arbitrator, she has presided in numerous arbitration proceedings all over the country. Another woman of distinction is Mrs. Miannaya Aja Essien was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985. She has distinguished herself as the leading business lawyer in Nigeria. She was conferred with Senior Advocate of Nigeria in year 2007.

In the year 2008, Mrs Olabisi Solebo, the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria from the Northern region was admitted into the inner bar. This was followed in 2010 by Mrs. Sylvia Ekamma Shinaba. Sylvia possessed a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LL.B Hons.) from Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, United Kingdom and was called to The Nigerian Bar in October 1986. Like her predecessors, she was a member of different learned and legal bodies.
Since 2010, percentage of Nigerian women that were admitted into the inner bar has increased. This includes Mrs. Nella Andem-Ewa, Mrs. Dorothy Udeme-Ufot, Mrs. Anthonia Titilayo Akinlawon, Mrs. Agatha Obiozo Mbamali, Mrs. Joy Okungbowa Adesina, Chief Mrs. Connie-Jean Aremu, Mrs. Adele Eberechi, Mrs. Victoria Olufunmilayo Awomolo and Mrs. Olufunke Aboyade.

In October 2014 when another set of renowned legal luminaries was conferred with the silk, no female lawyer was able to make the list. The lack of consistent appearance of female lawyers on the list has raised the question on the criteria for the enviable honour. This position has been observed by Mrs Derinsola Kappo:

What the significance difference of 10 female senior advocates to about 300 male SANs means is that Nigerian female lawyers are not competent enough to be so awarded. While one is not saying the criteria be lowered, we cannot say women are not doing enough to merit the award. This is a profession that does not recognise gender. We have eminent lawyers who deserve the award, for example, Mrs Hairat Balogun, a former Attorney General of Lagos State and one-time Chairman, Body of Benchers. One is yet to see the reason why she is not given. I understand she had applied for the award in the past and was not considered for the award... So I feel the politics is weighing more in favour of male than female lawyers.[6]

It is significant to note that whereas the number of Nigerian women in the legal profession may be low, the few who made their ways into this male-dominated space have continued to make their presence felt. This great feat was observed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, when he complained that:

Women are as equal as men, none is weaker than the other but it does appear that men are almost showing that they think they are stronger, hence they went for private practice and allow the women to take the greatest of places.

Imagine in Nigeria, the Chief Justice of the Federation is a woman; the President of the Court of Appeal is a woman; and it also appears now that the next Chief Justice of the Federal High Court is likely going to be a woman. Therefore it is dangerous for men, not too dangerous but men should also come forward.

In Akwa Ibom, it is becoming more dangerous, the Deputy Governor is a woman, the Chief Judge is a woman, the Head of the Civil Service of the state is a woman, and now, a woman is contesting to take over as the next governor.[7]

Emergence of Female Professors of Law and Deans, Faculties of Law

Prof. Jadesola Akande in her lifetime was a maker of history and a pacesetter in law education in Nigeria. She was not just the first female Professor of Law in Nigeria, she was also the first Dean of the Faculty of Law, Lagos State University (LASU). During her tenure, LASU set an enviable record at the Nigeria Law School. For many years, LASU Law Faculty was the best in Nigeria. She was succeeded in office by another female Professor of Law, Prof. B.A. Susu.

At the University of Ibadan, the Faculty of Law has also been headed by two female Professors of Law. The Faculty was first headed by Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, a graduate of the University of Ife and London School of Economics (LSE). She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1979. She initially lectured at the University of Benin between 1983 and 1990 where she pioneered the teaching of Petroleum Law. She was also at the University of Lagos between 1990 and 2002. Yinka Omorogbe later became a Professor in the Department of Public and International Law, University of Ibadan. Between August 1, 2005 and 2007, she served as the Dean and the first female elected Dean of the Faculty of Law, upon completion of her tenure she took up appointment as the Corporations Secretary and Legal Adviser to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). She occupied that position between January 2009 and July 2011. Prof. Omorogbe is an internationally recognized expert and consultant in Energy and Natural Resources Law.

Prof. Yinka Omorogbe was succeeded in office by Prof. Oluyemisi Bamgbose, a Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology. She teaches Criminal law, Criminology, Law of Evidence and Comparative Criminal Law and Procedure. Prof. Bamgbose has a strong interest in women and children issues. Apart from being the Dean, she is also the current Director of the Women’s Law Clinic (a Specialized Law Clinic) at the University of Ibadan. She is an Alumni of the University of Lagos.

At the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Ifeoma Enemo had made mark as the immediate past/ first female Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. She is currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria and the Supervising Dean, Faculty of Education. She obtained her Master’s Degree from University of Lagos and her Doctorate in International Law from the University of Nigeria. Ifeoma Pamela teaches Family Law, the Law of Tort and International Law at the undergraduate level and the Law of International Institutions at the Post-Graduate level.

The Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, has also produced another distinguished female Professor of Law, Prof. Ngozi Ezeilo. Prof. Ezeilo is an activist and versatile legal scholar and is recognized as a leading authority in the field of human rights, especially on the rights of women and children. She is of the Department of Public and Private Law, University of Nigeria and pioneered, since 1997, the teaching of the Course ‘Women, Children and the Law’ hereby making her Faculty and University the first to do so.

The Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Akoka, has also been headed by a female Dean, Prof. Chioma A. Agomo. Prof. G.A. Agomo holds LL.B. and LL.M from Queen Mary College, University of London and was later admitted to practice law at the Nigerian Bar. Her areas of specialization include Law of Contract, Industrial Law, Insurance Law and Gender and the Law. In her long career, Professor Agomo served as Head of Department of Commercial and Industrial Law at the University of Lagos and became Dean of the Faculty of Law in 2004. She was the first female academic to occupy that position and the first female elected Dean of a Faculty since the establishment of the University in 1962.

Another distinguished female Professor of Law at University of Lagos is Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa, a research professor of Law. An accomplished academic, Professor Atsenuwa received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Ife before proceeding to the University of London where in 1987 she obtained a Master of Laws degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. She capped her academic quest with yet another Master of Laws degree from the University of Warwick (Law in Development). For about 24 years now, Professor Atsenuwa has been engaged in academic research and teaching at graduate and undergraduate levels in the areas of Criminal Law, Criminal Justice, Human Rights.

Women Making Waves in the Academia and University Administration

Another major area of professional attainment in which women have been exceptional is in the academia and university administration. Foremost among such women is Professor Grace Alele Williams who was the first Nigerian woman to earn a PhD degree, the first Ph.D holder of Mathematics in Nigeria and the first female Professor of Mathematics in Nigeria. Her laurels include her appointment as the first female Vice Chancellor of a Nigerian university.

Another career that speaks volumes about the resilience of the Nigerian woman in this aspect is the career of Professor Mrs Jadesola Akande, who obtained her PhD in Law from the University College London in 1971 and became a Professor of Constitutional Law in 1991 and then the pioneer Dean of the Faculty of Law and the first female Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University.

In addition to this is Professor Comfort Memfin Ekpo, the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo with a Ph. D degree from Wales and many years of teaching experience at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where she has also been a member of the University’s Governing Council. Professor Charity Angya, Vice Chancellor of Benue State University is another example. She has PhD in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan and today exemplifies the increasing status of the Nigerian woman in institutional administration.

Moreover, Professor Oluyemisi Obilade, a Professor of Adult Education and Women Studies is the current Vice Chancellor of the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu Ode, she obtained her doctorate degree in Education from the Obafemi Awolowo University. I must also add that Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, is also currently headed by a female Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mrs. Cordelia Ainenehi Agbebaku. Prof. Agbebaku, a Professor of Law, was the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University from 2nd May, 2011 until her appointment by Governor Adams Oshiomole with effect from 18th February, 2014. She was appointed a Professor of Law in 2003 and had served as the Dean, Faculty of Law, prior to her present appointment. Prof. C.A. Agbebaku was born in January 1961.

The University of Mkar, Benue State also had a female as its foundation Vice-Chancellor, Professor (Mrs) Nancy Ngunan Agbe. Until her appointment she was a Professor of Geography at Benue State University. Furthermore, Professor Sidi Osho, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti is also in this category. With a PhD from the University of Ibadan, over 160 publications and over twenty years of teaching and research experience, Professor Osho remains a role model in agricultural research in Nigeria. She completed her tenure on 3rd January 2014.

Professor Oloigbe Imouokhome Aize was also the former Vice Chancellor of Covenant University. She had her PhD in Counseling from the University of Ilorin and was formerly University teacher at the University of Roehampton in the United Kingdom.

In the same vein, the current Vice-

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