At last, following public outcry, the presidency has sent the name of Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate to be considered as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and this has been confirmed by the Senate.
A close aide to Senate President, Bukola Saraki, disclosed that the letter requesting the confirmation of the Acting CJN, whose tenure would lapse on Friday, February 10, had been received by his boss.
“It is true, I can confirm that to you,” he said.
The transmission of Onnoghen’s name reportedly came on the directive of President Muhammadu, who is currently on medical holiday in the UK, to Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, after weeks of intense heat generated by the delay in taking the step.
Onnoghen, 66, if his nomination is accepted by the upper legislative chambers of the National Assembly, will be the first CJN from the South in decades, hails from Cross River State.
The letter conveying Buhari’s directive to Osinbajo, read: “Your Excellency may recall that I sent a letter dated 10th November, 2016, to Honourable Jutice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen CFR, appointing him as acting chief justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the letter read.
His acting appointment is due to lapse on the 10th of February, 2017. I am therefore, authorizing you to write to the Distinguished Senate, in conformity with section 231 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, requesting for the confirmation of the same Honourable Jutice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen CFR, as the substantive Chief Justice of the Federation with effect from the date of the senate confirmation.
“Please accept, Mr. Acting President, the assurances of my kind regards.”
Stakeholders have however opined that Nigerians should not expect an automatic approval of the Acting CJN, before the expiration of his current tenure in acting capacity on February 10.
The Senate is currently on recess, and it would be left for Senate President, Bukola Saraki to decide whether to reconvene it to kick-start the screening process before Justice Onnoghen’s tenure as acting CJN lapses on Friday.
“The Senate President is in receipt of the letter from the acting president, but it will be left to Senator Saraki to reconvene plenary to start the screening process.
“But even if he does so, the presidency should not expect us to rubber stamp Justice Onnoghen’s nomination, as we would have to carry out our own background checks, investigation and screening before deciding whether to confirm him or not,” a senator said.
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