Allegations of undue delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in sending the name of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, to the Senate for screening and subsequent confirmation, has got the Presidency unsettled.
Reacting Wednesday, the Special Assistant to the president on prosecution, Chief Okoi Okono Obla, advised Nigerians to stop using the delayed forwarding of the name of Onnoghen to the Senate as an excuse to attack and blackmail President Buhari.
He described some of the calls on the president as being laced with ethnic, religious and sectional meanings.
Said he, “We have an acting CJN of Nigeria. Well, if his tenure ends, the system will take care of itself. I don’t think the president has done anything wrong.
“In Nigeria, in the judicial branch of government, we have seen this happen. In my own state, Cross River State, the Chief Judge who is the current one was appointed on acting capacity and when his tenure expired, he was again appointed on acting capacity. So, trying to blackmail the president over this is bad.
“People are trying to read ethnic meanings, religious meanings and regional meanings to this because in Nigeria, everything is being looked at from the sectional perspective, I think they are not being fair to the president.”
Among those who have called on Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, forward Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for approval is the Cross River State National Assembly Caucus and the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, which issued President Buhari a 9-day ultimatum on the issue.
In response to the Cross Rivers State caucus demand, Obla said, “For goodness sake, has the president not appointed people from that very state where the Acting CJN comes from?
“Recently, the Auditor General of the Federation was appointed from that state based on merit, because he came first in the interview conducted and the president appointed him. The Chief of Naval Staff was the fifth in the Naval hierarchy but the president appointed him Chief of Naval Staff. So what are they saying?”
While stating that the president would respect the constitution in respect to the appointment of the CJN, Obla called on Nigerians to stop reading unnecessary meanings in the issue of the appointment.
On whether the Onnoghen could be reappointed as acting CJN, Obla said, “What I’m saying here is that the process will take care of itself. There wouldn’t be any vacuum, the process would take care of itself.”
Onnoghen was sworn in as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria November 10, 2016 and the 1999 constitution stipulates a maximum tenure of three-month in acting capacity, meaning that his tenure is only days away from expiring this February.
By Ebere Ndukwu …
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