from Preye Peters in Abuja
The Cross River State National Assembly Caucus has asked President
Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency send the name of Justice
Walter Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation without further delay
According to the Senators and Members of House of Representatives from
Cross River State, the continuous delay of President Buhari to forward
the name to the Senate for screening and subsequent confirmation
without any lawful and constitutional cause has brought the issue of
the independence of the judiciary and security of tenure of judges to
doubt and public discourse.
Addressing Journalists Tuesday on behalf of the eleven members of the
caucus, Senator John Enoh, PDP, Cross River Central explained that the
appointment of Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria has become
imperative against the backdrop that succession to the position has
been based on merit and seniority, adding that the established order
and convention has imbued the judiciary with a measure of stability
and positioned it to play the critical role of dispensing justice
immune to it undue influence of powerful vested interests.
The Federal lawmakers said the perception of President Muhammadu
Buhari as one guided by ethno-religious considerations in making
public choices may be confirmed, should he fail to seek Senate’s
confirmation of Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria before his
tenure as acting head of the Supreme Court expires on February 10.
Mr. Onnoghen, 66, is from Cross River State. He is the first
southerner to come close to getting appointed CJN, in decades.
The National Judicial Council, in exercise of its powers under Section
231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, had on October 13, 2016 recommended
Mr. Onnoghen as the next CJN to President Buhari on the expiration of
Mahmud Muhammed’s tenure.
But against convention, Mr. Buhari rather swore in Mr. Onnoghen as
acting CJN on Thursday, November 10, 2016, an appointment which will
expire on Friday, February 10.
Speaking through John Enoh, a PDP Senator, the lawmakers said already,
“There is a growing sentiment in certain quarters that Justice
Onnoghen’s earned elevation to the rank of CJN is held in abeyance
precisely because he is either not from a particular ethnic origin
preferred by powerful forces or his said to be preferred by powerful
forces or his profound and at times radical pronouncement make him too
principled to occupy that exalted position.”
“The President’s inaction in this instance has acted as cannon fodder
for those alluding to a vast conspiracy to deny Justice Onnoghen his
As political leaders, they continued, efforts should be made to build
a fair and just society, devoid of sectional cleavages; a society
where hard work and integrity are rewarded and not repudiated.
The lawmakers said they were worried by the “intriguing cobweb of
uncertainties” enveloping the judiciary which, as they said. is a
hallowed institution, the bastion of our democracy that “should be
insulated from undue influence, politics and manipulation of political
Therefore, “We call on the Presidency to act in a decisive manner to
reassure Nigerians that we are all equal and that if we are able to
harness our God-given talents, that we can aspire to the highest
position in our nation unencumbered by primordial forces. Justice
Samuel Walter Onnoghen is eminently qualified to occupy the position
of Chief Justice of Nigeria,” they said.
Mr. Onnoghen’s name should be transmitted to the Senate for
confirmation “without further delay”, they urged the President, asking
him to act “in clear and decisive manner”.
“Any action contrary to this will convey and validate growing
sentiments of vendetta,” they said.
An event of the failure of the President to forward Mr. Onnoghen’s
name to the Senate without any lawful and constitutional cause, the
lawmakers said, would not only threaten the independence of the
Judiciary but also open “floodgate of political and social
insinuations and entrenched the perception of ethno-regional prejudice
and politicization of the judiciary. This is most unfortunate.”