By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA— Bini Lawyers Forum, yesterday, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of plotting to sideline Justice Walter Onnoghen from becoming the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
The group, in a statement in Abuja, alleged that the President deliberately refused to forward Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation owing to the fact that he is a Christian.
“The forum wishes to note with dismay the plot by some Northern interest/forces led by President Buhari to jettison laid down rules, procedure and convention in the appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by the planned removal of Justice Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria simply because he is a Christian and from the South-South zone of Nigeria in order to pave way for the appointment of a Northern candidate.
“It is sad to note that the President has willfully and deliberately refused to act on the recommendation of the, National Judicial Commission, NJC, by refusing to send the name of Justice Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria to the Senate for confirmation three months after the receipt of recommendation from the NJC.
“In line with the written script of the Northern forces as executed by the President, Justice Onnoghen was sworn in as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in order to perfect their plan to oust him at the expiration of three months to pave way for a Northern candidate.
“We wish to note that Justice Onnoghen, who is presently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, by providence is the first Southern Justice of the Supreme Court to qualify for the position of CJN in about 30 years after the retirement of Justice Ayo Irikefe in 1987. It will be recalled that after the exit of Justice Irikefe, subsequent occupants of the position came from the North.
“In the light of the above, we humbly demand the immediate submission of the name of Justice Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria in line with the provisions of the Constitution.
“We enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to reject and condemn this dangerous precedent set by President Buhari in the governance of Nigeria, as the President has been driving governance on the wheel of ethnicity and religion since his assumption of office.”