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Onnoghen urges calm over confirmation as CJN

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Justice Walter Onnoghen

• Disassociates self from ultimatum to president
• Umar urges Senate to reject other nominees

Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, yesterday appealed to Nigerians to be calm and allow President Muhammadu Buhari a free hand to perform his constitutional duties as they affect his appointment in substantive capacity.

In a statement issued yesterday by his Senior Special Assistant (Media), Awassam Bassey, Justice Onnoghen expressed the belief that the president did not need any threat or ultimatum to perform his constitutional duties.

He consequently disassociated himself from individuals and groups, giving ultimatum to the president on the issue.Although the CJN’s appeal appears to douse the growing anxiety over his non-confirmation, it has succeeded at keeping the issue on the front burner as a reminder of a constitutional responsibility that Buhari has to discharge.

“However, the Acting CJN and the Nigerian judiciary sincerely appreciate the interest of Nigerians toward the appointment of a substantive CJN 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 a mark of disrespect for the exalted office of the President.

“The Acting CJN therefore cautions on the issue of the appointment of CJN 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 CJN 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”, the statement read in part.

Justice Onnoghen was appointed in November last year in acting capacity after President Buhari failed to send his nomination to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

The development has since then been generating debates in the polity, leading to an ultimatum issued early in the week by a group asking the president to submit Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation.

The period of acting for Onnoghen would lapse on February 10, but the president is yet to send his nomination by the National Judicial Council (NJC) to the Senate, months after it was transmitted to him.

Yesterday too, former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd) advised the NJC not to forward any other name to the Senate for confirmation as the chief justice, urging the council to stand on the appointment of Onnoghen for the position.

In a statement, Umar said: “In a few days, the tenure of acting appointment of Justice Onnoghen will expire. Going by our extant constitution, the acting CJN will be disqualified from appointment as the substantive CJN unless the NJC resubmits his nomination to the president.

“Without providing any cogent and plausible or believable reason for its failure to forward the name of Justice Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation, the presidency leaves Nigerians guessing and speculating about the reasons.

“Already, many analysts view this action as a ploy to deny a southerner his right to succession based on his seniority in keeping with the protocol observed by the NJC in making the appointment.”

Umar argued that “in the event of this occurrence, the NJC must neither forward any other name nor should the Senate confirm any other nominee. This will serve to check the excesses of this administration and reinforce the unity of the nation which has already been pushed to the precipice by the recruitment and appointment policies of a government which tends to favour the north in violation of the federal character provision of the constitution.”



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