Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose on Sunday raised the alarm that the refusal by President Muhammadu Buhari to send the name of Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation to enable him approve his appointment as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) was a deliberate plot to cage the judiciary and destroy its independence.
Fayose who said that the Presidency had already tethered the legislature through various antics was on the move to silence the judiciary to enable emergence of an emperor in a democracy.
The governor who said that apart from what he had alleged, Fayose said another possibility could be that the appointment of Justice Onnoghen 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 those cabals in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa want to hold him in the jugular, using his confirmation as substantive CJN to get him to assist them to pervert justice.”
The governor, who said the inordinate power game of the Aso Rock cabal was apparent in the unnecessary delay in announcing Onnoghen as substantive CJN, adding that the present arrangement was a breach of the succession plan in the apex judiciary.
Fayose noted that this is the first time Nigeria would be having an acting CJN in its history despite that Justice Onnoghen’s name was sent to President Muhammadu Buhari early enough.
In a statement issued in Ado-Ekiti by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Governor Fayose 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 with its rules, since October 13, 2016, his name was not sent to the Senate for confirmation.
He said; “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 biddings.”
He lamented that “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.”
Governor Fayose, who said playing politics with the judiciary, especially at the CJN level was dangerous to the survival of democracy, urging Justice Onnoghen to do his job without fear or favour, “bearing in mind that it is only God that puts 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.