"As straight as an arrow!" Justice Amina Augie’s Journey to the Supreme Court of Nigeria

On 7 November 2016, Justice Amina Augie was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN), the highest court in the land. This makes Justice Augie the sixth woman to serve on the SCN, out of about 104 past and present judges of the court. The appointment of Justice Augie to this position is a modest indication of the progress of women’s entry into, and rise within the ranks of the judiciary in Nigeria. At the Federal level, the current President of the Court of Appeal is a woman, while at the State level, the State of Lagos continues to lead with the largest number of female judges with the Chief Judgeship of the State having been held by women for the past three terms. “She is as straight as an arrow”, is one phrase that has constantly been used to describe Justice Augie by those who have had contact with her pursuit of justice on the bench. This descriptor is often used for a couple of reasons. First, is the fact of her hard work and devotion to the pursuit of justice and, ensuring a fast and orderly justice delivery process. Second, is the analogy to an arrow depicting her proven integrity and an above the board probity against corrupting enticement that judges are exposed to. With this premise, a couple of questions are worth exploring. First, who is Justice Augie and what do we know about her? What can we learn from her professional trajectory as it relates to the law, justice and women’s rights? What does her appointment to the highest court in the land tell us about women in law in Nigeria? About women on the bench and the politics surrounding judicial appointments to the federal courts in Nigeria? Justice Amina Augie (neé Anne Eva Graham) was born on 3 September 1953, in Lagos, Nigeria as one of nine children. She had her primary and secondary education in Ibadan, Calabar, Enugu and Kaduna between 1958 and1971. She enrolled at the University of Ife, Ile-Ife between 1972 and 1977 where she received her undergraduate degree in law (LL.B). She continued to the Nigerian Law School and qualified as a barrister and solicitor in 1978. After completing the mandatory national youth service in Sokoto State, she enrolled at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria between 1980-1981 to pursue a masters in law (LLM). Even though she finished her examinations, she had to suspend the completion of her thesis in order to move to Lagos with her husband. Her quest for knowledge and personal enrichment led her back to the University of Lagos where she obtained an LLM degree in Criminology and related subjects. Aside from her formal education, she is also certified by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Nigeria and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Justice Augie has had an illustrious professional background spanning legal work, academia and the bench—a woman of many hats. Upon completing her legal education, she began her career as a Legal Aid Counsel in the Sokoto State Legal Aid Council in 1978, subsequently serving as the Head of the Legal Aid Council between August 1979 and December 1979. She then proceeded to work as an Assistant Lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria between 1980-1982. Between 1982-1984, she served as the Senior State Counsel in the Office of the Chief Counsel to President Shehu Shagari in Lagos. Her passion for knowledge acquisition and contributing to enriching the lives of others, led her to once again take on the role of teaching. From 1984 to 1988, she was a Law Lecturer at the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos [WU1] where she taught the Law of Evidence. Her judicial career began in 1988, when she moved to Sokoto State where her husband (now deceased) was running for office as Governor of Sokoto State. In this new location, she was appointed as a Chief Magistrate in the Sokoto State judiciary. In the meantime, she maintained her passion for teaching by serving as a part-time lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Uthman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto between 1989 and 1992, and later as an Associate Lecturer from 1999 to 2002.