Media Rights Agenda (MRA) last month congratulated a former Head of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Unit at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Stella Isibhakhomen Anukam, following her election as a Judge of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.
Mrs. Anukam, then Director of International and Comparative Law at the Federal Ministry of Justice, was elected on Nigeria’s slot to the African Court at the 31st Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union (AU) held in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
According to Ms Sarah Sanda, spokesperson to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, “Nigeria secured the seat after fourth round of keenly contested elections” at the AU Summit.
In a congratulatory message, MRA’s Executive Director, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, expressed confidence that Mrs. Anukam would be a huge asset to the African Court with her wide-ranging experience and expertise in different aspects of Law, including in the area of human rights.
He said: “It is particularly gratifying for us that Mrs. Anukam is bringing to the court a background that is enriched by her engagement in different branches of law, including her experience in area of access to information, which is likely to be extremely valuable to the court at this point in time when many African countries, pushed by civil society, are powering on in the adoption and implementation of access to information laws. Given this current reality, the court may soon be confronted with dispute arising from this area of law.”
Mr. Ojo recalled the dynamism and commitment that Mrs. Anukam brought to her work as Head of the FOI Unit and praised her for the “commendable steps she initiated to ensure the effective implementation of the FOI Act across all public institutions.”
Mrs. Anukam was appointed Head of the FOI Unit in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, early in 2015, taking over from the erstwhile head, Mrs. Justina Suwa. In her capacity as Head of the FOI Unit, Mrs. Anukam liaised with all ministries, departments and agencies of the Nigerian Government on all matters relating to the FOI Act, particularly regarding their implementation of the Law.
A 1984 law graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Mrs. Anukam was called to the Nigerian Bar in August 1985 and has had a legal career spanning over 32 years, during which she has also served as the National Coordinator on Human Rights Issues in Nigeria.
With vast experience in human rights issues, Anukam led the Nigerian delegation to several meetings of the Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, including the 62nd Ordinary Session held in Mauritania in April, 2018.
She started her legal career in the Federal Ministry of Justice in 1987 as a State Counsel. Since then, she has served as legal adviser to many ministries, including the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, the Ministry of Power and Steel, and the Ministry of Communication. In 2003, Mrs. Anukam was appointed pioneer Legal Adviser and Secretary to the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
Mrs. Anukam is a member of several professional bodies such as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the International Bar Association (IBA), the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), the International Law Development Organization (IDLO), the International Federation of Female Lawyers (FIDA), the Inter-Pacific Bar Association, and the Association of Professional Negotiators and Mediators. She is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of Nigeria.
Mrs. Anukam’s mission at the African Court is to contribute to building a strong, just and independent court through the interpretation and application of the Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other relevant human rights instruments for the protection and promotion of human and people’s rights in Africa.