Confirm Onnoghen Now

nigerian senate building

The Senate penultimate Tuesday resumed plenary with the confirmation of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, among other critical national issues constituting the order paper of the day for deliberation.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki on resumption of plenary after a four-week recess read a letter from the presidency dated February 7, 2017 praying the Senate to confirm Justice Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) pursuant to Section 231 of the 1999 federal constitution as amended.
While Nigerians await Onnoghen’s confirmation or otherwise, The Tide notes with dismay the politics surrounding Onnoghen’s candidature as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.
We sincerely regret that perhaps if not for the pressure from the judiciary and other stakeholders in the Nigerian project, the presidency, judging from its body language would have deviated from the convention of appointing a substantive CJN after Onnoghen’s recommendation and nomination by the National Judicial Council (NJC) as prescribed by the constitution.
We recall that a fiery Lagos-based legal practitioner, Chief Malcolm Omirlobo dragged President Muhammadu Buhari before an Abuja High Court over the president’s refusal to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation within the stipulated timeframe as enshrined in our statutes.
The lawyer did not act in isolation as several other pressure groups from the bar, the bench, civil rights groups, politicians and others protested in their numbers, urging the presidency to forward Onnoghen’s name before President Buhari’s medical vacation to the United Kingdom.
Indeed, the issue dominated national discourse during and after Onnoghen’s three-month tenure as the acting CJN which expired on February 10, 2017. The NJC had on November 10, 2016 nominated and forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the presidency.
The Tide commends the spirit of unity and understanding exhibited by Nigerians, irrespective of their political, religious and ethnic affiliations on the matter.
We therefore urge the Senate to, without further hesitation, confirm  Justice Onnoghen as the substantive CJN so as to put a final seal on the matter. The most senior jurist in the Supreme Court, over the years, had always been so appointed and Onnoghen’s case should not and cannot be an exception.
Since 1958, prior to Nigeria’s independence, the process of selecting a CJN has followed laid down tradition and procedure, whereby the most senior and qualified judge in the apex court has occupied the number one judicial position and any action contrary to this convention will constitute a breach of the constitution.
The Tide wishes to place on record that since 1987 (30 years ago) no southerner has occupied the number one judicial slot and depriving Onnoghen who is the most senior and adjuged as the most qualified by the NJC will amount to giving credence to unnecessary sentiments canvassed in certain quarters.
The Senators should therefore eschew political differences and extricate the judiciary from politics if our democracy project must grow by just doing the needful.
Nigerians and the global community do not expect anything less from our distinguished senators.