The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed is due to retire from the country’s judiciary on Thursday when he will clock the mandatory 70 years.
Barring any last minute change, Justice Mohammed, who ascended the hallowed seat of the CJN in 2014, is most likely to be succeeded by Justice Walter Onnoghen who is the most senior justice in the Supreme Court.
Recently, the outgoing CJN, while speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2016/2017 Legal Year in Abuja, warned against the appointment of his successor from outside the Supreme Court, adding that the country’s judiciary has sustained the age-long succession-by-seniority for the appointment of the next CJN.
Consequently, the nominating body, the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), presented Justice Onnoghen for the office.
If Onnoghen becomes the CJN, he will retire on December 20, 2020 when he will be 70.
One of the most recent landmark decisions delivered by Justice Onnoghen was the verdict of the Supreme Court which ordered the Senate President Bukola Saraki to return to the Code of Conduct Tribunal to face his trial over alleged false assets declaration.
Adhering to the seniority tradition, the commission also nominated alongside Onnoghen, the next justice to him, Justice Tanko Mohammed, as stand-by nominee, as well as another senior justice.
If Tanko clinches the office, he will retire in 2024 when he will be 70.
The stand-by nominee is designed for consideration if the original nominee is rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari who is the appointing authority.
The President will forward his nominee to the Senate for screening and confirmation as CJN.
There has been no precedent of such rejection by the Presidency, though a couple of state governors had shunned the council’s Choices in recent past.
Three names would be forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC), which is the recommending authority. The council would, in turn, recommend two names to the President.
The Cross River-born Onnoghen is the first claimant to the judiciary plum job from Southern Nigeria in the last 29 years.
The last Southern CJN was Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe, who retired in 1987. There has been seven northern CJNs in-between.
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