Buhari, PDP clash over CJN Onnoghen’s confirmation
Piqued by the delays in nominating Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said it has reviewed “the dirty politics surrounding the appointment of a substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), particularly at the Presidency.”
Consequently the party declared that President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to submit the Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation was “shockingly embarrassing.”
The party called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to reject the option of recommending another person and insist on Onnoghen as its only
choice, to frustrate what it called the President’s attempt at reserving the position for only a person from the northern part of the country.
However, the Presidency has denied insinuations that the President does not want to forward the name of the Acting CJN to the Senate for confirmation, saying that the law stipulates 90 days.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed that Justice Onnoghen could serve as Chief Justice of Nigeria in acting capacity for three months, stressing that the acting CJN “has not even served one” out of the three months stipulated by the Constitution.
Similarly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, yesterday, said President Buhari still has a three-month window within which to decide on the matter.
“We don’t think that there is a live issue for reporting, given that the President has a three-month statutory window within which to decide the matter. By our count, that three-month period has not lapsed.”
President Buhari on November 10, 2016 inaugurated 66-year-old Justice Onnoghen as the Acting CJN in compliance with Sections 230(4) and 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution at a brief ceremony in the Villa.
However, as 2016 drew to an end and Justice Onnoghen’s name was not forwarded to the National Assembly for confirmation, speculations became rife that the delay was indicative of the presidency’s disinclination towards his appointment as substantive CJN, more so when his acting status ends in February 2017.
Officials in the judiciary say it is unprecedented to have a CJN in acting capacity for three months.
Also, in a telephone interview with The Guardian in Abuja, the spokesman to the national caretaker committee of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said the party was still very surprised that the President has refused to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.
PDP said: “We in the PDP are bewildered by the action of the President. It is unprecedented since the beginning of Nigeria and even this democracy, for
the President not to go by the recommendation of the NJC.
“Normally, in the Supreme Court now, there is a tradition that has been well established which is the fact that it is the most senior justice that is appointed as CJN whenever there is a vacancy in the position of that office of the CJN.”
“The president,” PDP said further, “by his actions, his pronouncements and everything he has done since he assumed office has demonstrated that
he is not a president for all. Buhari is a president for a section of the country,who is extremely parochial, nepotistic, very tribalistic and does not hide it; and he doesn’t care about it.”
PDP noted that “the man (Onnoghen) will only serve for a few years and leave his position.” PDP noted that the last seven justices of the
Supreme Court have come from the North and this should be the first time Nigeria would produce CJN from the South.
There are allegations that President Buhari has no confidence in Justice Onnoghen doing his bidding to allegedly pervert justice, hence he appointed him in acting capacity contrary to practice and convention in the Judiciary.