Any attempt by the present leadership to alter the existing tradition of appointing the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and other judicial heads to suit ethnic interest will spell doom for Nigeria, a pro-democracy coalition has warned.
“Fellow Nigerians, under no circumstances must we allow the executive to distabilise the judiciary and jeopardise our future; the consequences of ethnicising and politicising the judiciary will bring down this nation to her knees,” says Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC).
President Muhammadu Buhari is still indifferent in forwarding the name of Justice Nkanu Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), less than one month remaining to serve out in acting capacity.
This development is unsettling the judiciary and has equally raised serious concern across the country, with some groups and individuals alleging ethnic conspiracy to deny Justice Onnoghen, being the first Southerner in 30 years to merit the CJN position based on established judicial convention.
The coalition in a statement by its Co-Convener, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, tasked Nigerians, especially “the leadership and traditional institutions to prevail on President Buhari to send the name of Justice Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN without further delay.
“Anybody that has foresight will know that the Supreme Court is the last institution in Nigeria that is standing forthrightly and holding this country together in justice; we therefore warn on the dire consequences of allowing the executive to alter the existing tradition of appointing the CJN.
“The reason why we must act now and defend the judiciary is because this President may not be around when the consequences of undermining the Supreme Court will erupt and consume this nation if Justice Onnoghen is denied to favour ethnic interest.
“Buhari has succeeded in ethnicising the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in his own time; you can be rest assured that future Presidents from other parts of Nigeria will follow similar pattern and equally pick an INEC Chairman from their tribes when the time comes.
“We must never allow this circle of impunity into our judicial system. When justice becomes ethnicised at the Supreme Court level to serve executive interest, we can as well kiss this country goodbye,” the group said.
Instead of forwarding his name to the Senate for confirmation as the next CJN, being the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, President Buhari elected to appoint Justice Onnoghen in acting capacity.
He is the first person to be so treated, while his predecessors were all priviledged to be directly confirmed without generating this type of ugly development.
Justice Onnoghen was appointed on November 10, 2016 to act as the CJN for a period of three months, and this will elapsed on February 10, 2017.