• We’re conscious of our statutory obligations –Presidency
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Fred Itua, Abuja
There is anxiety over the tenure of acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Onnoghen acting CJN on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, after the tenure of Justice Mahmud Mohammed ended.
In conformity with the Constitution, president Buhari was required to have sent Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as substantive CJN.
The Constitution, as amended, required that the president, upon recommendation by the National Judicial Council (NJC), submit the nomination of the next substantive CJN, before the expiration of three months, which is the constitutionally recognised period Onnoghen can act.
As anxiety mounts, the presidency, yesterday, said it is conscious of its statutory obligations with regards to a substantive CJN and assured that it will act within regulated statutory time, adding that the process was on.
The presidency’s delay has attracted a lot of criticism from Nigerians, especially from the Judiciary.
Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in response to Daily Sun’s enquiry on the matter said “the presidency is conscious of its statutory obligations in that regard and will act within regulated statutory time. The process is on.”
Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Prof. Akin Oyebode had, in a television interview, last month, described as unacceptable, Buhari’s delay in sending Onnoghen’s nomination to the Senate.
Oyebode said it was unprecedented in the history of the country to have an acting CJN, and added that Buhari’s delay in sending Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation was another albatross on his neck.
He said it was not the prerogative of Buhari to reject Onnoghen as substantive CJN, but the Senate.
On the conspiracy theories that Buhari refused to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation because he (Onnoghen) was from the South-South and also a Christian, the professor or law urged the president not to look at whether Onnoghen is facing Jerusalem (a Christian) or Meccah (a Muslim). He urged the president to listen to wise counsel from his Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, who are both lawyers.
Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina had, also, on the same breakfast show, debunked allegations that his boss refused to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as substantive CJN because he (Onnoghen) was from the South-South or a Christian. Adesina, however, said the law stipulates that Onnoghen could only be acting CJN for three months, adding that the period was yet to elapse. He urged Nigerians to be patient with Buhari, and noted that Onnoghen’s name would definitely be sent to the Senate for confirmation as substantive CJN.
In the Senate, there was no correspondence from the presidency to confirm Onnoghen.
When contacted, Media Adviser to the Senate President, Mr Yusuf Olaniyonu said there was no request from Aso Rock. He added that official communications from the presidency are routed through appropriate channels.
Senate spokesman, Abdullahi Sabi could not be reached for comment as his mobile telephone number was unreachable at the time of filing in this report.
Also, the office of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu could not confirm if a letter extending the validity period of the acting CJN was in their possession.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki is currently out of the country. Senate plenary has also been suspended for three weeks to allow committees attend to the 2017 budget.