The Oasis Reporters
February 04, 2017
Speaks On Delayed Submission Of His Name For Confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Thursday asked Nigerians not to pile pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari into making him the substantive CJN, stating that “the president does not need any threat or ultimatum to perform his constitutional duties” .
Several lawyers, pro democracy activists and other Nigerians have criticised Buhari for not submitting Onnoghen’s name to the Nigerian Senate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria almost three months since he was appointed in acting capacity following the National Judicial Council’s recommendation of Onnoghen to the President to be made the CJN. If the full three months lapses, a constitutional bottleneck would have arisen requiring the acting Chief Justice to immediately retire.
But the Acting CJN, in a statement by his media aide, Awassam Bassey, called on “Nigerians to allow Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, a free hand to perform his constitutional duties concerning the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria”.
According to the statement, “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 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.”
Pro democracy activists have expressed their displeasure with President Muhammadu Buhari’s lethargic attitude towards appointments, especially of those not from his ethnic group or religious inclination. They recall that it took him a whole six months to announce a cabinet while the economy hemorrhaged and the nation went into an unprecedented recession.
Now it is taking him three months to follow tradition and appoint the most senior judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice, especially as it was noticed that Justice Walter Onnoghen comes from the minority region of the South South, a people he does not seem too comfortable with, going by the previous election results.
Many pundits note that previous presidents of the country from the south like Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan all worked mainly with Chief Justices from the North seamlessly.
President Muhammadu Buhari is conversely perceived as a man who deeply distrusts people from other ethnic groups or religions and would only work with them if alternatives are not available or that the situation is helpless to him.
In an interview granted in the United States of America soon after his assumption of office, he told the interviewer that he would treat those 95% that voted for him with favoritism, who incidentally are mainly from the northern region where he hails from, while hoping that the Southern people that voted for his opponent would understand the “political reality” and expect less than salutary treatment, even though they would gain their political rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
This incident caused a political furore and backlash, such that his handlers tried without much success to douse the faux pax.
Most significantly, it would be recalled that owing to his success in overthrowing the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari on December 31st, 1983, then Major General Muhammadu Buhari constituted a Supreme Military Council, composed principally of Northerners in the army, with just one civilian Attorney general of the Federation, Barrister Chike Offodile, from the south east . Later, Major General Paul Omu from the south south was drafted into the council, making people to perceive that he’s only comfortable with people from his region.