The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen has publicly refused to be drawn into the debate over Pres. Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation as substantive chief justice.
Ironically, Onnoghen’s public statement on Thursday through his media aide, Awassam Bassey, will only add more pressure on the president who hasn’t given any reason for his foot dragging.
With just 10 days to go before his acting role constitutionally elapses, Nigerians have mounted pressure on the presidency to take action on Onnoghen whose name was submitted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) since last October.
The development has led to Buhari being pressured to forward Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation.
The opposition, pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, and other concerned stakeholders had issued ultimatums, demanding that Buhari confirms Onnoghen as the substantive CJN, stating that acting otherwise reeks of nepotism and abuse of office.
However on Thursday, Onnoghen through his aide pleaded with, “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.”
The acting chief justice’s plea will only bring the issue to the front burner four days to Buhari’s return from vacation abroad and eight days before Onnoghen must be confirmed or forced to step down.
“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,” the statement said.
The Acting CJN said he appreciates all the goodwill, solidarity, and support Nigerians have shown him so far. He however told Nigerians to desist from issuing ultimatums to the President, as there was still enough time left for his confirmation.
“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 statement said.
“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.”