Justice Tanko Muhammad, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, has stated that President Muhammadu Buhari does not need the permission of the National Judicial Council to appoint him as the acting CJN.
The Acting CJN stated this in his response to the NJC.
The Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative had filed a petition to the NJC seeking for the removal of the acting CJN for allowing himself to be sworn in by the president without recourse to the NJC.
Justice Muhammad however in his response said; “In my respectful view, the National Judicial Council has no role to play in the appointment of an acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in the first instance, that is to say on first appointment. The council comes in where the appointment as the acting CJN is to be renewed or extended. I humbly refer to Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution.”
He further noted that Justice Walter Onnoghen, the suspended CJN, still remains the substantive CJN.
Justice Muhammad further stated that if the Appeal Court of the Code of Conduct Tribunal reverses the Onnoghen’s suspension, he would immediately step aside.
“It was for the larger interest of the judiciary and the constitutionality that I accepted to be sworn in as acting CJN with the conviction that if the order of January 23, 2019 is eventually set aside, the status quo would be restored.
“But before it is set aside, there should be no vacuum in the office of the CJN and the chairman of the NJC.”
“On January 25, 2019, I was summoned to the Aso Villa at the instance of the President. Prior to the summons, I was not aware of the fact that the Code of Conduct Tribunal made any order on January 23, 2019.
“Furthermore, beyond what I read in the newspapers and watched on the television just like any other Nigerian, I was not privileged to see any of the processes filed by the parties before the tribunal. Hence, I could not really appreciate the merit or demerit of divergent positions.
“On the 25th day of January, the President swore me in as the acing CJN and not as the substantive CJN. Justice Walter Onnoghen remains the CJN until he is removed from office in accordance with the provision of the constitution. He is only suspended.”
Regarding the president’s speech accusing Onnoghen of corruption on the day of his appointment, he noted that he was not responsible.
The Acting CJN noted that Onnoghen is the substantive head of the judiciary, but he is currently suspended by a valid court order which was why he took the position as an acting CJN pending the determination of the CJN’s suspension.
He consequently appealed to the NJC to dismiss the petition written against him.