By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Cross River Elders Forum, on Tuesday, asked the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, to as a matter of urgent national importance, forward Justice Walter Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
Onnoghen’s three months acting tenure will expire on Friday.
The group, at a press conference it held in Abuja, maintained that such action by the Acting President would be in compliance with section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
It however wished President Muhammadu Buhari a speedy recovery and safe return to the country in good health.
“On behalf of the good people of Cross River State we the Cross River Elders Forum, without any intention to overheat the polity, hereby bring to the fore the critical issue on the appointment of the CJN.
“Firstly, we want to appreciate President Buhari’s consideration of Cross River State indigenes for appointment into top positions in his administration.
“Whenever the office of the CJN is vacant, the NJC in compliance with the succession principle and processes is constitutionally authorised to nominate a candidate for appointment as a substantive CJN.
“Consequently, when the exalted office of the CJN became vacant in 2916, the NJC in exercising its constitutional powers rightly nominated Justice Walter Onnoghen and sent his name to Mr. President for appointment as CJN.
“In keeping with his Oath of office, Mr. President accordingly appointed Justice Onnoghen Acting CJN. We thank Mr. President for finding him worthy of appointment to the exalted office of CJN.
“However, the President has not forwarded his name to the Senate as provided under section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and Justice Onnoghen has been acting for almost three months.
“This has concomitantly raised suspicion and great concern amongst most Nigerians, bearing in mind that got the past 30 years no Southerner has been appointed CJN, which of course is contrary to the principle of Equity, Justice and Fairness.
“We therefore humbly and passionately appeal that the President and Acting President, as a matter of urgent national importance, should do the needful and forward Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation.
“We the Elders of Cross River State Forum, pray that the Almighty God should grant President Buhari a speedy recovery and a safe return to the country in good health.
“We also want to use this opportunity to pledge our loyalty and support to President Buhari and Prof. Osibanjo, SAN, in their determination to checkmate corruption, fix our economy and also enthrone moral leadership at all levels of government to promote integrity in our polity and public institutions.
“We also thank all Nigerians who have raised their voices that it is right and just to confirm Justice Onnoghen as CJN”, read a statement signed by leader of the group, Mr. Lawrence Alobi.
President Buhari had on November 10, 2016, okayed Onnoghen who is presently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, to head the Nigeria judiciary in acting capacity.
According to section 231(5) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, “Except on the recommendation of the NJC”, Onnoghen’s appointment by President Buhari “shall cease to have effect after the expiration of three months from the date of such appointment, and the President shall not re-appoint a person whose appointment has elapsed”.