The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, is set to send the name of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to the National Assembly for confirmation as the substantive CJN, The PUNCH has learnt.
Buhari had, on November 10, 2016, inaugurated Onnoghen as acting CJN following the retirement of Justice Mahmud Mohammed at the attainment of the mandatory 70-year retirement age.
The National Judicial Council had earlier forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the President to be named the new CJN based on the recommendation of the Federal Judicial Service Commission.
According to the law, the President is expected to forward the name of the nominee to the Senate for confirmation.
There have been speculations that Buhari is not ready to send the name of Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation.
But one of our correspondents learnt, on Tuesday, that Osinbajo was set to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate this week to beat the February 10 date, which the Supreme Court’s Justice acting appointment is expected to expire.
A source familiar with the arrangement said the nomination would be sent to the Senate on Tuesday or Wednesday (today).
“I can confirm to you that Onnoghen’s name will be sent to the Senate this week. The name will be sent today (Tuesday) or Wednesday before February 10 that his acting appointment will expire,” the source stated.
When asked what was responsible for the delay in sending his name since he was recommended, the source said the government had been busy carrying out background check on him following the recent searchlight on the judiciary.
“We are all witnesses to the recent discoveries in the judiciary. The government needs to be sure that whoever is going to be put at the head of that arm of government has a clean bill of health.
“The background checks have been concluded and the government is satisfied with its findings,” the source added.
There are, however, fears that the Senate may not consider Onnoghen’s nomination immediately as the National Assembly is currently on recess to allow committee’s work on the 2017 Appropriation Bill currently before the lawmakers.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, declined comment on the matter.
If his nomination is confirmed as the nation’s 17th CJN, Onnoghen, who hails from Cross River State, will become the first southern justice to head the judiciary in about 30 years.
Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe, who retired in 1987, was the last southern CJN.
Earlier on Tuesday, some indigenes of Cross River State, under the aegis of Cross River State Elders Forum, appealed to Buhari to promptly send the name of Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, leader of the group, Mr. Lawrence Alobi, a former Commissioner of Police in the Federal Capital Territory, appealed to the President to comply with Section 231(1) of the Constitution by sending Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation.
Noting that nobody from the southern part of the country had occupied the office of the CJN for the past 30 years, Alobi said the non-confirmation of Onnoghen since November, when he was made the acting CJN, had started igniting suspicion and concerns.
He stated, “However, the President has not forwarded his name to the Senate as provided under Section 231(1) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), and Justice Onnoghen has been acting for almost three months.
“This has concomitantly raised suspicion and great concern among most Nigerians, bearing in mind that for the past 30 years, no southerner has been appointed as CJN, which is contrary to principle of equity and fairness.
“In fact, the issue of the constitutionality of the appointment of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the substantive CJN has generated a lot of controversy across our political spectrum, which of course, is not healthy for the stability of the nation.
“We therefore humbly and passionately appeal that the President and Acting President, as a matter of urgent national importance, should do the needful and forward Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN in compliance with Section 231(1) of the1999 Constitution (as amended).”