Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has broken his silence on the raging controversy over the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to send his name to the Senate for confirmation as the country’s substantive CJN.
Since he emerged the Acting CJN, prominent Nigerians, including former CJNs, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the National Assembly Caucus and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), have kicked at President Buhari’s apparent reluctance to forward his name to the Senate as required by the constitution so he could be confirmed as the substantive CJN.
President Buhari has severally accused judges in the country, including those of them on the Supreme Court Bench of corruption.
Onnoghen has been acting as CJN since November 2016. The constitution requires that an Acting CJN should only function in such a portfolio for no more than three months. Onnoghe’s period of acting lapses on February 10.
In a reaction to rising anger over the non-transmission of his name to the Senate by Buhari, Justice Onnoghen pleaded with Nigerians to exercise patience with President Buhari and allow him (Buhari) handle the issue his own way.
Onnoghen, in a statement he issued yesterday through his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Awassam Don-Bassey, appealed to Nigerians to allow the President a “freehand” to carry out his constitutional duties of appointing a substantive CJN.
He also advised Nigerians to support President Buhari in his quest to develop the country.
All the appropriate judicial bodies, including the National Judicial Council (NJC) had endorsed Onnoghen and submitted his name to Buhari for the office, in line with the procedure and the law.
Justice Onnoghen’s statement read: “The Honourable Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, His Lordship, the Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, wishes to appeal to Nigerians to allow Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, a freehand to perform his constitutional duties concerning the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Honourable Justice Onnoghen believes the President does not need any threat or ultimatum to perform his constitutional duties and therefore dissociates himself from those individuals and groups making such demands on the President.
“However, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Nigerian Judiciary sincerely appreciate the interest of Nigerians towards the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria to oversee the affairs of the Judiciary as the third arm of government, but believes that issuing an ultimatum to Mr. President appears to be going too far and smacks of disrespect for the exalted office of the President.
“The Acting Chief Justice therefore appeals for caution on the issue of the appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria as Mr. President goes about his constitutional duties, especially considering the fact that the given time for him to act as Chief Justice of Nigeria has not expired.
“In conclusion, the Acting Chief Justice wishes to thank all Nigerians for their support and continued prayers, while calling on them to back the Federal Government in the fight to make the country a better place for all.”