The acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, is to remain in office in acting capacity, pending the action of the Senate on a letter from the presidency requesting his confirmation.
The presidency had in a letter signed by acting president Yemi Osinbajo, and delivered to the office of the Senate President, requested that the Senate confirms Onnoghen as substantive CJN after his three-month tenure in acting capacity, which ends on Friday, February 10.
This is just as the National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday wrote acting president Osinbajo, renominating Onnoghen for appointment as the CJN.
The presidency’s letter to the Senate confirms LEADERSHIP’s story that President Muhammadu Buhari had resolved to appoint Justice Onnoghen as the substantive CJN.
LEADERSHIP Friday, a sister publication, had in its edition of February 3, reported that top officials in the presidency and the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice had met with Justice Onnoghen and that the issue of his confirmation was discussed extensively and a resolution reached.
“They presented to Onnoghen the dossier the security agencies have on him to go through, showing why they delayed to confirm him. He would have to guard against some of these things when he takes full charge of the judiciary,” the report quoted a source as having said.
“With this development, acting President Yemi Osibanjo will forward a letter on behalf of President Buhari to the Senate for Justice Onnoghen’s confirmation any moment from now,” the LEADERSHIP Friday report indicated.
The Senate, which is now in receipt of the letter, would barring last-minute change on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 reconvene plenary where the nomination letter of Justice Onnoghen as the substantive CJN would be read to Senators by the Senate President Bukola Saraki, LEADERSHIP learnt yesterday.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Senate had on Thursday, January 26, 2017, suspended plenary sitting for three weeks in order for Standing Committees to scrutinise the 2017 Appropriation Bill at the ongoing budget defense exercise with ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs).
LEADERSHIP also recalls that the National Judicial Council (NJC) in exercise of its powers under Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) had on Thursday, October 13, 2016 recommended the name of Justice Onnoghen as the next CJN to President Muhammadu Buhari on the expiration of Justice Mahmud Muhammed’s tenure as CJN.
But in an unprecedented move, Buhari, rather than swear-in Onnoghen as acting CJN on Thursday, November 10, 2016, an appointment which will expire tomorrow Friday, February 10, 2017.
Before now, there has been uproar over the unusual development as well as uncertainty about the fate of Justice Onnoghen.
With the letter transmitted to the Senate, which is currently on partial recess, the Red Chamber is expected to grant the presidential request an accelerated hearing on resumption of plenary for the confirmation of the acting CJN.
Meanwhile, at the end of an emergency meeting it held in Abuja yesterday, the NJC resolved to renominate Onnoghen for the CJN position and forwarded same to Osinbajo.
A source in the NJC said the only agenda of the meeting was the issue of the acting CJN.
The action by the NJC it was gathered, is ensure that there is no lacuna in the nation’s judiciary, in the event that the Senate is unable to meet up with the time for the screening and confirmation of Onnoghen at the end of his constitutionally guaranteed three months tenure as acting CJN on February 11.
The NJC according to sources at the meeting, in its correspondence to acting president Osinbajo, requested that he extends Onnoghen’s tenure in acting capacity for another three months, in line with Section 231 (5) of the 1999 constitution as amended.