Reluctant Buhari Appoints Onnoghen Acting CJN for 3 Months

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Justice Onnoghen

A reluctant President Mohammadu Buhari has appointed Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
With the expected exit of Justice Mahmud Mohammed as the CJN today, Onnoghen’s appointment is believed to have been made to avoid a constitutional  crisis rather that a strict adherence to the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (CJN) that Onnoghen be appointed as the next most senior justice and the most qualified to occupy the position.
Mohammad bows out from the judiciary after attaining the retirement age of 70 years.
The implication is that Onnoghen may not be confirmed and this would be the first time that a President ignored the recommendation of the NJC on the appointment of a CJN.
President Buhari invoked Section 230 (4) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that: “if the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then, until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the President shall appoint the most senior justice of the Supreme Court to perform those functions.”
President Buhari is yet to submit Onnoghen’s name to the senate for screening and confirmation as required by the constitution but had submitted the names of recently appointed supreme court justices, Sidi Dauda Bage (North-Central) and Paul Adamu Galinje (North-East) to the senate for the same purpose. Both justices have been screened by the Senate.
The Senate had also screened and confirmed the nominations of Justice Ejembi Eko (Benue) and Justice Amina Augie (Kebbi) as Justices of the Supreme Court.
The appointment lapses in 3 months.
buhari-pixBut The Infrastructure News recently reported President Buhari’s reluctance to accept the recommendation of NJC. A  group, Society for Good Governance,  accused President Buhari of targeting Onnoghen in the recent so called sting operation carried out by the Mamman Daura-led Department of State Security (DSS).
The group alleged that  the arrest of other judges was a diversionary tactic designed to cover the real motive of stopping Onnoghen from assuming duties as CJN in furtherance of the Islamisation agenda of the Buhari government.
“The so called sting operation was not within the purview of DSS but a function that squarely falls on EFCC and ICPC. The whole operation is in furtherance of the islamisation agenda of the country by the Buhari-led government. Justice Onnonghen was the target of the operation. Other judges whose homes were raided as claimed by DSS was a diversionary tactic and were to be released later.
“The raid was designed to arrest Onnonghen and pave the way for the two other muslim nominees for CJN: Justices Ibrahim Mohammad and Suleiman Galadima. Already all the security agencies are headed by muslims and a Christian CJN would be a stumbling block”, the group said.

Onnoghen graduated from the University of Ghana at Legon in 1977. He is from Cross River State.

The Presidency has, however, said Justice Onnoghen would undergo the process before inauguration Thursday.


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  1. Emmanuel Ogbeche November 10, 2016 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Does the constitution permit the duration?

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