The Cross River State Caucus in the National Assembly has decried the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to send the name of Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The Caucus, which comprised lawmakers from the state in the House of Representatives and the Senate, asked President Buhari to with immediate effect, send the name of Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate as recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on behalf of the NASS Caucus, Senator John Enoh, declared that President Buhari’s compliance with their call will end the swirling speculations of vendetta against Justice Onnoghen and restore confidence in the judiciary.
Enoh said: “Exactly two months and 15 days, the Presidency has delayed and withheld to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria as required by Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“Any action contrary to this will convey and validate growing sentiments of vendetta. The President has foreclosed any insinuation as to incompetence or any disabling factor for him to be made Chief Justice of Nigeria,” Enoh said.
According to the lawmakers, the continuous delay of President Buhari to forward the name of Justice Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation without any lawful and constitutional cause has brought the issue of the independence of the Judiciary and security of tenure of judges to doubt and public discourse.
According to Enoh: “We are worried by this development for obvious reasons. As a hallowed institution, the judiciary is the bastion of our democracy and should be insulated from undue influence, politics and manipulation of political predators.
“This development has opened the floodgate of political and social insinuations and entrenched the perception of ethno-regional prejudice and politicisation of the judiciary. This is most unfortunate,” he said.
Enoh stated that so far, there has been a growing sentiment in certain quarters that Onnoghen’s earned elevation to the rank of Chief Justice of Nigeria is held in abeyance, precisely because he is either not from a particular ethnic origin preferred by powerful forces or his profound and radical judicial pronouncement makes him too principled to occupy the office.
“The President’s inaction in this instance has acted as a cannon fodder for those alluding to a vast conspiracy to deny Onnoghen his earned position,” he said.
He therefore called on Buhari to act in a clear and decisive manner by transmitting without further delay, the name of Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation.