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Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state is one of those expressing serious pessimism about the possibility of President Muhammadu Buhari confirming the newly appointed acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.
Onnoghen was appointed by the president at a time there was apprehension that a vacuum was to be created following the retirement of the former CJN, Mahmud Mohammed.
Fayose, a major critic of the President Buhari-led administration said there was the possibility of preventing Onnoghen from becoming the substantive CJN.
According to him, Onnoghen’s appointment as acting CJN was either a grand plot to deprive him of his well-deserved appointment as CJN because he is from the south-south region or that the cabals in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa want to hold him on the jugular, using his confirmation to get him to assist them to pervert justice.
Fayose, in a statement made available to NAIJ.com through his spokesperson, Lere Olayinka, said it was strange that despite that the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended only Justice Onnoghen to President Muhammadu Buhari for appointment as the CJN in line its rules, since October 13, 2018, his name was not sent to the Senate for confirmation.
He argued that this is the first time Nigeria is having an acting CJN for the first time in its history despite that Justice Onnoghen’s name was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari early enough.
“As at the time the NJC recommended Justice Onnoghen to President Buhari, it was 28 clear days to the November 10, 2016 retirement date of Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
“Why then was his (Justice Onnoghen) name not sent to the Senate for confirmation? Why appointing him as acting CJN when his name should have been sent to the Senate between October 13, 2016 that he was recommended to the president and November 10, 2016 that Justice Mahmud Mohammed retired?
“Obviously, there is more to this acting CJN appointment than meet the eyes and in my opinion, it could be that President Buhari never wanted Justice Onnoghen as a substantive CJN because he is from the South-South or that they want to use his pending appointment as substantive CJN to make him do their bidding,” he said.
Lamenting further, the governor said: “They have subdued the national assembly and are now in the last stage of muscling democracy by subduing the judiciary.
“If men of good conscience, especially leading lights in the legal profession refuse to raise their voices against this tyranny, they will all be consumed by the tyrant.”
The governor, who said playing politics with the judiciary, especially at the CJN level was dangerous to the survival of democracy, urged Justice Onnoghen to do his job without fear or favour, “bearing in mind that it is only God that put people in positions.”
“I am sure those who made sure Justice Onnoghen’s name was not sent to the Senate for confirmation until the tenure of Justice Mahmud Mohammed expired knew what they were doing. They obviously needed a situation where the CJN, being in acting capacity will be subservient to them, using his appointment as substantive CJN as bait.
“However, Justice Onnoghen must live above that temptation of wanting to be the substantive CJN at the expense of strict adherence to the rule of law and principles of democracy.
“He must resist any attempt to further gag the judiciary even if that will cost him his appointment as the substantive CJN,” the governor said.