Embattled CJN Onnoghen ‘resigns’

Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) [Photo Credit: The Guardian]
Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) [Photo Credit: The Guardian]

Suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, has resigned, the News Agency of Nigeria is reporting.

Mr Onnoghen’s resignation follows the recommendation of the National Judicial Council for his early retirement.

The recommendation was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.

In its public statement, the NJC said that it had reached a decision on allegations of fraud against Mr Onnoghen and the acting chief justice of Nigeria, Muhammad Tanko.

But multiple sources confirmed to this newspaper that the decision reached by the council included a recommendation for Mr Onnoghen’s compulsory retirement.

The sources also said the NJC recommended a confirmation of Mr Tanko’s appointment as Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“I can confirm that what the NJC have sent to the President includes a recommendation for Onnoghen’s compulsory retirement and the confirmation of Tanko as Chief Justice,” said a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

Other sources who also did not want to be mentioned confirmed the information to this newspaper Friday afternoon.

Mr Onnoghen’s retirement was first published by the Cable Newspaper on Friday.

When contacted, Mr Onnoghen’s spokesperson Awassam Bassey, said he was out of town and could not confirm the details.

“I am not in Abuja and I have been trying to confirm that, but I have not gotten the details yet,” Mr Bassey said.

A lawyer representing Mr Onnoghen, Adegboyega Awomolo, also did not confirm the information when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr Onnoghen is facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over allegations of false declaration of assets.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission also accuses the former CJN of receiving illicit payments and bribes from lawyers.

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He denies all the allegations.

Presidency keeps mum

The News Agency of Nigeria says Mr Onnoghen submitted his resignation letter to the chief of staff to President Buhari.

The Presidency has yet to confirm the receipt of the letter.

NAN said a Presidency source confirmed that President Buhari had, before his departure to Jordan on Wednesday, received the National Judicial Council’s recommendations on the petitions written against Mr Onnoghen and the acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad.

The report was submitted to Mr Kyari, who was accompanied by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubalar Malami, at about 2:20 p.m on the day.

Profile

Mr. Onnoghen, 69, was born in Kruiku Town, Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State.

He got his Law degree from the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1977 before his BL certificate at the Nigerian Law School in 1978.

He started his career as a Pupil State Counsel in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, in 1979, after which he ventured into private practice.

In 1989, he returned to public service as judge in the High Court of his native Cross River State.

He joined the federal judicial service in 1998 as Justice of the Court Appeal, a position he held until 2005 when he was elevated to the Supreme Court.

He was the first of 20 CJNs, with an origin from the Southern part of Nigeria in 32 years.

After his recommendation in October, 2016, Mr Onnoghen was not confirmed by the Presidency till February 2017 when the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo confirmed his appointment. He was later sworn in on March 7, 2017.

He was billed to resign on December 22, 2020, upon the attainment of the age of 70.

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