BREAKING: Senate confirms Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice

The senate has confirmed Walter Onnoghen as the substantive chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Onnoghen was confirmed after he appeared before the upper legislative chamber on Wednesday.

He fielded questions from the lawmakers who asked him on his plans to take the judiciary forward.

Onnoghen was before the senate’s committee on whole which was presided over by Senate President Bukola Saraki for 45 minutes.

The supreme court justice assured the senators that judiciary would be independent under his stewardship.

He was confirmed after a voice vote.

Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River state, and Ita Enag, adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on senate, were present during the confirmation hearing.

More to follow…

Walter Onnoghen appears before senate for confirmation hearing

The senate has commenced a confirmation hearing for Walter Onnoghen, acting chief justice of Nigeria (CJN).

Bukola Saraki, senate president, had notified legislators of the upper legislative of the hearing on Tuesday.

The senate is currently screening Onnoghen with Saraki presiding over the committee of the whole.

Onnoghen has been acting CJN since November 10, 2016 when Mahmoud Mohammed, his predecessor, retired.

The presidency sent Onnoghen’s name to the senate – two days to the expiration of his tenure as acting CJN.

Onnoghen who is from Cross River state, is the only CJN from the southern part of the county in 30 years?.

More to follow…

Nigeria’s Senate Set To Screen Walter Onnoghen on March 1st

Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has announced that the upper chamber will screen the Acting Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen on Wednesday, March 1.

Senator Saraki made the announcement at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday morning.

Acting President, Yemi Oshinbajo, had sent the name of Justice Onnoghen to the senate for confirmation as Chief Justice Of Nigeria on February 8, just two days before the expiration of his three –month acting tenure.

Also, The National Judicial Council (NJC), had extended Mr Onnoghen’s tenure by another three months on the grounds that it may have been impossible for the Senate, which was on recess at the time, to reconvene and screen Onnoghen before the expiration date of his tenure.

The initial delay by President Buhari to send his name to the Senate had been trailed by criticism and condemnation, with some alleging ethnic bias as the reason for the president’s “seeming reluctance”.

The nomination was however contained in the presidency’s twitter handle saying: “Hon. Justice W.S. Onnoghen’s name has been sent to the Senate for confirmation as the next CJN.”

Justice Onnoghen has been a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria since 2005.

If confirmed by the Upper Legislative Chamber, he would be the first CJN from the southern part of the country in about 30 years.

 

Source: Channels TV

Onnoghen: Nigeria moving away from punitive justice system

Walter Onnoghen, acting chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), says Nigeria and other developing countries are moving away from punitive criminal justice system.

Speaking on Wednesday at a judicial colloquium on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, Onnoghen said the restorative system would ensure the protection of the rights of its citizens.

He explained that the system of justice recognised various needs of the society.

“One of the beautiful features of the ACJ act is the provision of a monitoring committee to ensure that the provisions of the act are effectively complied with by all stakeholders of the criminal justice system,” said Onnoghen, who was represented by Mary Peter-Odili, a justice of the supreme court.

“I am optimistic that at the end of this seminar, everyone will be well informed and convinced that domestication of the act is imperative in all states of the federation.”

The acting CJN commended the Centre for Socio-legal Studies for advocating for the proper implementation of the act.

With just 3 days left, Presidency may still confirm Onnoghen as CJN – Official

Three days to a constitutional deadline to confirm Walter Onnoghen as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, the presidency has given the clearest indication yet that it may still confirm the judge.

The spokesperson to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo,  Laolu Akande, gave this indication on Monday in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

When asked if Mr. Onnoghen’s name will be submitted by the acting president to the Senate before the February 10 deadline, Mr. Akande said, “There is still time, today is February 6, we will find out what will happen, there is still time.”

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Mr. Onnoghen’s role as Acting Chief Justice will lapse on February 10 after which President Muhammadu Buhari or Mr. Osinbajo as acting president would be unable to submit the judge’s name to the Senate any more based on a constitutional provision.

Several lawyers and activists have since condemned the president for not submitting Mr. Onnoghen’s name and not addressing Nigerians on reasons for his inaction, since the name was forwarded to him in October, 2016 by the National Judicial Council, NJC.

Influential statesman, Abubakar Umar, advised the NJC not to submit any other name to the president should he fail to submit Mr Onnoghen’s name to the Senate as appropriate.

“Already, many analysts view this action as a ploy to deny a Southerner his right to succession  based on  his seniority in keeping with the appointment protocol observed (by) the NJC in making the appointment,” Mr. Umar, a retired colonel, said.

“In the event of this occurrence, the NJC must not forward any other name nor should the Senate confirm any other nominee.”

Also at its meeting on January 31, the Yoruba Socio-Political group, Afenifere, condemned Mr. Buhari for ‘refusing’ to forward the recommendations of the National Judicial Council for the confirmation of Mr. Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“Afenifere is worried that almost few days to the end of the three months tenure in acting capacity allowed by our constitution, the President has refused to forward the recommendations of the NJC in respect of Justice Onnoghen to the National Assembly for confirmation.

“We see this as an assault on the constitution if the three months tenure expires and he is not confirmed as the CJN of Nigeria.

“It is an attempt to cruelly end the career of a worthy Nigerian. Therefore, we call on the President to within the few days left to the expiration of the tenure of the Acting CJN to send his name to the Senate for confirmation as Nigeria’s CJN,” the group said.

Mr. Onnoghen has also spoken on the controversy, asking Nigerians not to pressure Mr. Buhari into submitting his name as substantive chief justice.

Many Nigerians had expected President Buhari to arrive Nigeria by Monday when he was scheduled to resume after an announced 10 working days vacation. The president was expected to, upon his arrival on February 6, address the controversy surrounding the appointment of the head of Nigeria’s judiciary.

However, the onus now lies on Mr. Osinbajo to act after Mr. Buhari extended his vacation.

It was in reaction to what action his principal would take that Mr. Akande made the statement.

Mr. Akande also spoke on the media report that Mr. Onnoghen has been cleared by the State Security Service, SSS (also called DSS), of any wrongdoing.

“I did not know of any investigations and I am not going to talk on that,” he said.

Mr. Onnoghen has also said he is not aware he was investigated or cleared by the SSS.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, his media assistant, Awassam Bassey, said he was not in the know of any investigation of his principal by the SSS or of any report on him.

“We were just informed through the media like yourself. I was just with His Lordship and we were looking at it. Frankly speaking, we are not the source quoted in that report.

“I don’t have any information as to where that report is coming from,” Mr. Bassey said.

A report by The Nation newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that Mr. Onnoghen was investigated by the SSS and that he had been given a ‘clean bill of health’.

“All hurdles against the nomination of Justice Walter Onnoghen as CJN have been resolved. He has been absolved of all allegations against him.

“As a matter of fact, the nomination was delayed as a result of the need to address these allegations. Now, Justice Onnoghen has been given a clean bill of health.

“Every allegation was investigated and proofs indicated that Onnoghen has no case to answer. The government went to this extent to ensure that the holder of the office of CJN is above board,” the report stated.

The SSS is known to conduct background investigations on public office holders including judges, ahead of their appointments, in line with its constitutional obligation to ensure the security of Nigeria.

President Buhari appoints Walter Onnoghen as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria

The uncertainty surrounding succession to the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has persisted even as the Presidency said Wednesday that an acting CJN would be sworn in today by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The president’s failure to appoint a replacement for Justice Mahmud Mohammed, whose tenure lapsed 12 midnight Wednesday, had threatened to create a leadership vacuum in the judiciary.

But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Shehu Garba, said Wednesday that there was no prospect for confusion as the president would inaugurate an acting CJN later today.

“An acting CJN will be sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari at 2.00 pm Thursday,” he stated in a text message, adding that he had no information about who would be appointed into the office.

“The Attorney-General of the Federation will present the person to the president tomorrow for swearing-in,” he said.

A reliable source, however, said Wednesday that the most senior justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Walter Onnoghen, might be the choice of the president in line with Section 230 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which provides: “If the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the president shall appoint the most senior justice of the Supreme Court to perform those functions.”

By virtue of Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it is the prerogative of the ?president to appoint a CJN.

Section 231 (1) explicitly provides: “The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”

?At its emergency meeting held on 11 October, 2016, the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended Justice Onnoghen, being the most senior justice of the Supreme Court, for consideration for appointment as CJN.

But the process of appointment was stalemated by the failure of the president to indicate his acceptance of the NJC recommendation by forwarding its nominee to the Senate for confirmation.

Although in law, the president is not bound to accept the NJC recommendation, he could also not bypass the council in making the appointment.

If for any reason, the president does not accept the NJC recommendation, he is at liberty to ask the Council to recommend to him another suitable candidate for the office.

Senior lawyers said yesterday that unless the president exercised his powers under Section 230 (4) of the Constitution, there might be a leadership vacuum that could precipitate a constitutional crisis in the third arm of government.

The lawyers argued that except the president activated this section of the Constitution, the most senior justice of the Supreme Court could not automatically assume the leadership of the judiciary.

By swearing in someone in an acting capacity today, the president would have activated this proviso even as he leaves in abeyance the process of appointing a substantive chief justice of the federation.

?Last Monday, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Sebastian Hon, called on the president to act with dispatch and ensure that the name of the next CJN was forwarded to the Senate for clearance.

Hon, in a statement, ?said it was scary that the name of the next CJN had not been sent to the Senate with less than a week before the incumbent, Justice Mohammed, would retire.

He said: “The tenure of office of the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, will expire at 12 midnight on 9th November, 2016.

“The name of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, the next most Senior Justice of the Supreme Court, has since October 10, 2016, been forwarded to the president, who is expected, constitutionally, to forward it to the Senate for confirmation.

“Till this moment, Mr. President has not forwarded Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation. This is scary, to say the least.

“Senate confirmation hearings are not jamborees but are grave constitutional exercises, requiring incisive investigative and at times confrontational posturing. In other words, the Senate needs to obtain the biodata of the CJN nominee ahead of time, to enable the upper legislative chambers to conduct a thorough investigation cum confirmation exercise.

“The time to act is now, as the Senate must confirm Justice Onnoghen latest on Tuesday, to further enable his swearing-in just before or just after Justice Mahmud bows out.

“The image of the Judiciary has nosedived in the recent times; and Mr. President must be seen to be preventing any further dent on the image of this crucial arm of government.

“Mr. President should once again act as the father of the nation, by forwarding Justice Onnoghen’s name for confirmation – since he is the only southerner entitled to occupy the seat of the CJN for close to 30 years.

“This gesture will go a very long way in cementing our sectional divides. Again, the time to act is now!”