President Muhammadu Buhari has authorised Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to send the name of Walter Onnoghen to the senate for confirmation as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
The authourisation was contained in a letter supposedly written by the President and sighted by journalists.
It read in part: “Your Excellency may recall that I sent a letter dated 10th November, 2016, to Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen CFR, appointing him as acting chief justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“His acting appointment is due to lapse on the 10th of February, 2017.
“I am therefore, authorising 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.”
It is not immediately clear if the Senate has received the letter from the presidency as the National Assembly is currently on a break to enable the various committees carryout thorough scrutiny of the 2017 budget proposals of the different ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs.
This recent development is coming on the heels of huge controversy surrounding the authentication of Onnoghen’s appointment, with many Nigerians reading tribal sentiments into the issue.
The acting CJN is the first southerner to have risen to the highest judicial office in the country in 30 years and many Nigerians say that could be the reason why the Buhari-led administration has been foot-dragging in announcing Onnoghen as the substantive CJN.
Justice Onnoghen is the first individual from the south to attain that height in 30 years, since Ayo Irikefe left the office in 1987, succeeded by Mohammed Bello.
However, Onnoghen had urged Nigerians not to put the President under undue pressure but rather allow him to freely carry out his constitutional responsibilities.
He made this known through a statement issued by his spokesman Awassam Bassey, in which the acting CJN dissociated himself from persons or groups who were agitating that President Buhari must forward his name as substantive CJN.