Mrs. Hannatu Dauda is delectable and very unassuming. She is a multi-talented lawyer who is very passionate about the welfare of women and Children. In this exclusive interview with DNL Legal and Style, Mrs. Hannatu spoke about her passion for the legal profession, her exploit as the founder of FIDA in Gombe State and many mores.
DNL L&S: May we meet you ma
Mrs. Hannatu: I am Hannatu Dauda Simon, formerly known as Hannatu Philip Maiguwa, before I got married to the super man as I fondly call him. I am Waja by tribe, under Balanga Local Government Area, in Gombe State, obviously the jewel in the Savannah. I had my Primary Education at FCE Staff School Gombe and proceeded to FGGC Potiskum, Yobe state for my Secondary Education. Thereafter, I joyfully obtained my LL.B Hons from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 2002. In 2004, I further obtained my BL from the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja and was called to the Nigerian Bar the same year. I am presently pursing a Master’s Degree program at University of Jos. I am passionate about my career especially when it comes to advocating for the rights of women, children and the vulnerable. I love planning and coordinating, I am hardworking, optimistic, determined, f forgiving, patient sociable, humorous, down to earth and God fearing.
DNL L&S: What informed your decision to pursue a career in Legal Profession?
Mrs. Hannatu: My teacher and my Dad! My English teacher Mr Atonda (whom I am stll looking for) taught me a lot in life, but he was always condemning our efforts in class with words like ” none of you can read Law in this class” because he felt we were too dull for his liking. So I took that as a challenge and told myself that I must become a Lawyer. After our mock exams, he removed my script and brought to class and read out how I maintained ‘present continues tense’ from the beginning of the paper to the end. That was the first time he commended me and then encouraged me to go for Law. Also, My late father, Mr Philip Maiguwa really wanted me to be a Lawyer because he thought I was sharp in response, with debating and poetic spirit.So he started calling me Barrister from secondary school and behold, my fate.
DNL L&S: Can you still recall your first Court appearance?
Mrs. Hannatu: yes I do, it is natural for one to remember such days. It was a very embarrassing one for me. How can I forget? I was practicing with JM Lidani & Co at the time and my Principal sent me to court to move an application for bail. Though he guided me a little but he forgot to tell me how to watch and wait for d judge to write before I make further sentences. I looked so good that day and I was feeling ” a Lawyer has arrived” so my case was called, and I got up reading and started talking, reading and talking on and on without coma nor full stop. So, at some point, the judge stopped writing and dropped his pen, folded his hands and was staring at me wondering what I was up to. One of my senior colleagues pulled my gown n said; “Hey, stop, the judge is writing, slow down.” Ohh, I felt bad, but I have learnt and now that Judge is my best now. I still appear before him and I am very good at what I do. But at that time, it felt so terrible.
DNL L&S: How did you start your career in the Legal Profession and how has the journey been so far?
Mrs. Hannatu: Hmm, my journey so far has been an interesting one. During my attachment and one year mandatory youth service, I worked with the Ministry of Justice Bauchi and Gombe respectively. It was at these two places that I was drilled on the art of prosecution, legal drafting and state legislative bill development. This gave me the opportunity of mastering how to draft legal advices. I was also exposed to the knowledge on various government and non- governmental partnership. I became interested in the aspect of the rights of the woman, child and the less privileged and the vulnerable groups. From there, I proceeded to the Firm of J.M Lidani where I spent three years learning the rope. I gained a lot of experience in criminal and civil matters. During that period, I came in contact with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). I became very active in FIDA activities and was able to bring female lawyers in Gombe under the FIDA umbrella and ensured FIDA Gombe was inaugurated. I was in partnership with the women rights and protection agency (WRAPA), the guidance and counseling development(GCDA) where I acquired the basic knowledge of non governmental operations and programs.My several positions earned me awards from My university,FIDA, NBA, and several organizations which spur me to attaining a higher apogee.
Also, I joined the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where I spent four years as the legal officer. During this period, I had the opportunity of attending several trainings and workshops, serving as a Resource Person and also facilitating campaign on the rights of girls and women in collaboration with UNICEF, UNFPA and many others. I became more passionate when I transferred my services from NTA to the Ministry of Justice. I would say, it was here that I found out how much passion I have for the legal profession. I was exposed to several duties and responsibilities which are challenging and interesting at the same time.
DNL L&S: Establishing FIDA in Gombe State was no mean feat. How where you able to do this and has it been a success?
Mrs. Hannatu: My dear, it was not easy, especially because I was a junior Lawyer then and didn’t know some of the female Lawyers personally and even if I did, as a junior, you would be very skeptical about approaching your seniors. It was in 2010, I was just called by the National body (It was when Mrs. Ezinwa Okoroafo was our Country Vice – President). Till today I don’t know who gave them my number. So, I was asked to organize the female lawyers in Gombe, abreast them of the aims and objectives of FIDA and tell them how Gombe has been lagging behind, then compile the list with their addresses and forward to the National Body. I asked my husband for permission and he gave me the go ahead and also gave me a lot of encouragement because I wasn’t comfortable that I would be called for this when there were other seniors. He told me I could do it and I believed him. Without hesitation, I started following the female Lawyers in Gombe. I was visiting them from office to office, house to house for those who were not practicing, until I was able to get about 38 active members. I started communicating with the National Executives and they were guiding me on how to set up and Executive and other things. We continued until when everything was ready and they came to inaugurate us in the year 2010.
Today, our membership has grown. We have over a hundred registered Fidans in the state out of which about 85 are active members. We are not relenting. We are still working on ensuring that every female lawyer in Gombe state becomes a member of FIDA. In terms of achievement. We have really done a lot in ensuring that we touch lives. We have had a lot of programs which was aimed at making people feel the presence of FIDA in the state and we are doing more. We are hoping that we would be able to partner with organizations, especially those that have programs for women and children. FIDA is about giving hope, support and voice to women, children and those who are vulnerable. We have indeed made FIDA a force to reckon with in Gombe State and I celebrate the joy of being the founder of FIDA in Gombe State.
DNL L&S: How has it been campaigning for the rights of women and Children?
Mrs. Hannatu: It has been exciting campaigning for the rights of those who are dying in silence. It is my sweet pleasure to be a voice to the voiceless. Now, 70% of women in the State know the importance of Education, women empowerment, shunning stigma to speak out when they are sexually harassed and when they suffer domestic violence. They now yearn to participate in politics too so as to have equal representation. Our girls who believed so much in Hawking are now rushing to school to study skillful courses that was erroneously seen as the exclusive preserve of boys. There are girls who are now studying causes such as Architecture, Engineering, and Aviation and so on. We coach the girls on how to campaign for their rights, urging their parents to allow then study like the boys, pleading with the government to support them with scholarship and skillfully materials.
I have had to personally go to mainstream media sensitizing the society on an obnoxious malady which has attained an alarming rate in Gombe State – RAPE! There is high report of rape cases now and perpetrators are being punished severely by the courts which is serving as a deterrent. These achievements did not come without challenges, mainly because of the culture that believes in a woman’s societal limitation. But we are happy that more men are getting sensitized and are beginning to understand that in return for a woman’s submission to a man as the head, the man must have to also love and respect her. Today even the men go out to support the campaign on violence against women and children. Our joy is complete.
DNL L&S: As one who is passionate about the welfare of women and children, do you think government at both the Federal and State level have done enough to protect these categories of people?
Mrs. Hannatu: Well. I will say it differs from State to State. Some of the States have gone far in this area while some are still trying. Sometimes it depends on how the organizations are being able to persuade the Federal Government or the State Government to take these issues seriously. But honestly many a time, we keep wondering what the Nigerian Legislature is doing to rescue some ugly situation. There are laws enacted to support the rights of women and children; the VAPP ACT,2015 ( Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, ACJA Administration of Criminal Justice Act, the Child’s Right Act. but till today most of the states have not domesticated these law to poise us to performing optimally. Coming to the issue of child education, most of this children are now willing and ready to learn but there are no adequate learning facilities, some of the classes in the rural areas are without furniture’s, or even light, no library, no Laboratories, no acquisition centers and no security. Some schools do not have fence and even if you have fence with the spat of insecurity, parents are reluctant to allow their children to such schools. Some of the villages do not have schools that are close by. So the children have to trek a distance before getting to a school. All these challenges have left many of us who are passionate about these ones helpless and sometimes frustrated. But we would continue to push and scream and beg and cajole. We would not relent.
DNL L&S: Do you still go to Court?
Mrs. Hannatu: Oh yes I do. That is where the fun of being a Lawyer is. It is when one enters a court and comes out that one feels fulfilled to say ” Thank God I read Law. So I am a practicing lawyer and a passionate one for that matter.
DNL L&S: What would be the pick of your career?
Mrs. Hannatu: Hmmm I have my dream, but as God pleases! I totally believe in what he has for me in life, I am not in a hurry, so I don’t think much about what I would be. I Just put my best and get ready for his own pick concerning my career.
DNL L&S: What in your view does it take to have a successful career as a lawyer?
Mrs. Hannatu: Hardwork, patience, selflessness, creativity, diplomacy and prayers
DNL L&S: What are some of the values you live by?
Mrs. Hannatu: Good upbringing, church values and a feeling of chastity.
DNL L&S: What inspire you?
Mrs. Hannatu: My parents, my husband and my teachers
DNL L&S: Who are your role models in the legal profession?
Mrs. Hannatu: Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Barr Mrs Paul Usoro, Festus Kayemo and Justice Beatrice Iliya
DNL L&S: How do you juggle your work schedule and your home front?
Mrs. Hannatu: I am a good planner, so I have drawn a time table to guide me. It may interest you to know that I have house helpers, but I still wake up every morning to make breakfast and lunch for my husband before I leave for work. Though hectic, but I try so hard not to abandon my family for my work. I strike a balance. So that while on one, the other does not suffer.
DNL L&S: If you were not a lawyer what other profession would you have loved to venture into?
Mrs. Hannatu: A News Caster my dear, that was my second choice (mass communication) and that was why I took the Job with NTA despite being a Lawyer and I produced a program ‘ U and the Law’ which was aired weekly on NTA untill I transferred my services.
DNL L&S: Tell us a little about your family.
Mrs. Hannatu: I am married to a very handsome, loving and hardworking man. We have been married since 2000. Our marriage is blessed with two kids. We also have a lot of dependents.
DNL L&S: How do you relax?
Mrs. Hannatu: I made my room so comfortable that I cherish staying in with fruits and chops on my table listening to good music because I am also a gospel artist. I have 3 Albums.
DNL L&S: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career as a lawyer and how did you overcome them.
Mrs. Hannatu: The battle of living up to my family’s expectation without letting my career suffer. Also, dealing with criminals daily and feeling guilty as a mother when they are convicted even when I know I am only doing my duty and ensuring that people pay for their actions.
Thank you so much.