Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, has appealed to Nigerians not to put undue pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari into appointing him as the substantive Chief Justice.
The appeal was contained in a statement issued by Onnoghen’s media aide, Awassam Bassey.
President Buhari has been roundly criticized by many Nigerians for failing to submit Onnoghen’s name to Senate for confirmation as Substantive Chief Justice, almost three months since he was appointed in acting capacity.
The acting CJN, who is the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, was recommended to the President by the National Judicial Council, NJC, as required by the constitution, but Buhari sent his name to the Senate, in acting capacity; a decision that was deemed controversial.
Constitutionally, the CJN can only function in an acting capacity for 3 months, and Onnoghen’s 3-month tenure will expire on February 10.
But the acting CJN, on Thursday said that the President must be allowed to freely discharge his constitutional responsibilities.
He dissociated himself from the various calls by many prominent Nigerians that seem to be forcing the President’s hands to announce a substantive CJN.
“Nigerians (should) allow Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, a freehand to perform his constitutional duties concerning the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria,” Onnoghen’s spokesman, Bassey stated.
“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.”
Bassey however noted that the Acting CJN as well as the Nigerian Judiciary appreciate the interest of Nigerians towards the appointment of a substantive CJN 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 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,” the statement read.
Onnoghen also called on Nigerians to continue supporting the Federal Government “in the fight to make the country a better place for all.”