By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA —Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has charged the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, to raise the bar of justice and restore the lost glory of the judiciary in the country.
He noted that corruption had permeated the institutions of government, including the judiciary, saying it was the responsibility of CJN, as the head of the judicial institution, to sanitize it as a way of restoring confidence of Nigerians in the constitution.
This is even as Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, stated that with the ample period of four years available for Onnoghen, to serve, no one expected him to give excuses of why he would not clean the judiciary of all malfeasance.
Both men spoke at the swearing-in of the new CJN at a brief ceremony held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, yesterday.
Osinbajo, who revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari, in a phone conversation with him on Monday, extended his congratulations to Onnoghen on his inauguration, also prayed for the CJN’s success in office.
Osinbajo also decorated Onnoghen, as the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.
He said: “From this day, March 7, 2017, Justice Onnoghen becomes the custodian and protector of the highest duties that society owes its people, fairness, justice and truth. The responsibility is an awesome one. It is the closest that man serves as the Almighty God having powers of lives, livelihoods and futures, having power to give and indeed to take away power, and authority to supervise all men and women to whom our law and constitution given the position of judgeship.
“My Lord, you assume this position at a crucial time in the history of our nation, it is a time when all arms of government have suffered the loss confidence of the people of this nation and is so also with the judiciary.
“It is a time when our Lords and Justices of our courts are called upon to resuscitate that confidence that the people of this nation want to have in the institutions of government and indeed in the judiciary. I pray that your tenure will revive and sustain that confidence.”
My confirmation has doused tension—Onnoghen
In his remarks, Onnoghen promised to uphold the principle of rule of law and ensure the independence of the judiciary.
He also stated that his confirmation had doused tension and brought peace in the country, even as he called for synergy among the three arms of government and more prayers for the country.
He said: “It is my pleasure to be here to keep this appointment with history. I’m very much grateful to God and Mr. President and to the Senate for finding me worthy.
“I had earlier on November 10, 2016 been sworn in as the Acting Chief Justice by the President. Today happens to be the final milestone and I am very much grateful to God, and Mr. President for this singular privilege and to the Senate for also screening me and finding me worthy to occupy this office.
“On my part as the head of the judiciary, I assure you that from the past experience, the key to everything in a democratic setting is adherence to the rule of law. There lies the solution to our problems. Let us try to encourage the independence of the judiciary so as to ensure the rule of law.
“If everyone realizes that they are subject to the rule of law and that there are certain things that are tackled according to the rule of law and behave accordingly, it will benefit all of us.”
He has no reason to fail —Saraki
Speaking in an interview with State House correspondents after the ceremony, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said he was confident Onnoghen would live up to expectations, saying he would have no excuse to fail.
“We want to see a judiciary that also cooperates with other arms of government in doing a lot of reforms. And I think he has about four years, and that gives time for a lot of reforms in the judiciary.
“I am confident that with time on his side and his commitment to some of the issues he has talked about in trying to ensure that the judiciary is independent, the rule of law, a lot is expected of him.”
“Normally, sometimes CJNs have a very short period of time, but he will have no excuse not to deliver on the reforms in the judiciary. We hope he does that and we wish him all the best.”