The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has appealed to Nigerians not to pressure President Muhammadu Buhari into appointing him the substantive Chief Justice.
Mr. Onnoghen made the appeal in a statement by his media aide, Awassam Bassey.
Mr. Buhari has come under criticism for not submitting Mr. Onnoghen’s name to Senate for confirmation as Substantive Chief Justice, almost three months since he was appointed in acting capacity.
The National Judicial Council had earlier recommended Mr. Onnoghen to President Buhari to be the substantive chief justice of Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr. Onnoghen’s role as Acting Chief Justice will lapse on February 10 after which Mr. Buhari might be unable to submit his name to the Senate again based on a constitutional provision.
Several lawyers and activists have since condemned the president for not submitting Mr. Onnoghen’s name and not addressing Nigerians on reasons for his inaction.
On Thursday, influential statesman Abubakar Umar, advised the NJC not to submit any other name to the president should he fail to submit Mr Onnoghen’s name to the Senate as appropriate.
“Already, many analysts view this action as a ploy to deny a Southerner his right to succession based on his seniority in keeping with the appointment protocol observed the NJC in making the appointment,” Mr. Umar, a retired colonel, said.
“In the event of this occurrence, the NJC must not forward any other name nor should the Senate confirm any other nominee.”
However, on Thursday, Mr. Onnoghen appealed to “Nigerians to allow Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, a free hand to perform his constitutional duties concerning the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.”
“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,” his spokesperson said.
“However, the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Nigerian Judiciary sincerely appreciate the interest of Nigerians towards the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria 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.
“In conclusion, the Acting Chief Justice wishes to thank all Nigerians for their support and continued prayers while calling on them to back the Federal Government in the fight to make the country a better place for all.”