On Sunday evening, the presidency disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the voluntary retirement of former Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen.
- Onnoghen’s retirement, according to the statement, took effect on May 28th, a day before the president swore the oath of office for a second term.
- “The President thanked Justice Onnoghen for his service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and wished him the best of retirement life.”
Backstory: Onnoghen’s retirement has been public knowledge for sometime now. His voluntary retirement is believed to be part of the deal struck with the executive to prevent further prosecution and outright dismissal following his suspension in late January.
Onnoghen was convicted last month by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on six counts of false declaration of assets and banned from holding any public office for the next 10 years on April 18th.
More justices for the top court: The same Villa statement on Sunday disclosed that Pres. Buhari has written to the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, on the appointment of five justices of the Supreme Court.
- ‘‘I am pleased to request that you initiate in earnest the process of appointing additional five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to make the full complement of 21 Justices,” Buhari wrote in his letter.
- ‘‘This is in line with the Government’s Agenda of repositioning the Judiciary in general and Supreme Court in particular for greater efficiency, with a view to reducing the backlogs of appeals pending at the Supreme Court.
Bottomline: Appointment of Supreme Court Justices is one of the few duties that constitutionally involves the input of the three arms of government. It is initiated by the judiciary (through the National Judicial Commission) which recommends suitable candidates to the president who then appoints the chosen nominees subject to the confirmation of the senate. With Onnoghen’s retirement there are now 15 justices on the highest court, as opposed to the maximum allowable figure of 21.