A pro-democracy coalition has warned President Muhammadu Buhari against dropping Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), saying failure to send Onnoghen’s name to the senate for its confirmation might turn a dangerous path to early balkanisation of Nigeria.
The group operating as Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC), expressed concern that “this suspicious and deliberate action of the President in delaying the confirmation process has effectively put the unity of Nigeria on trial.”
President Buhari elected to appoint Justice Onnoghen as acting CJN on November 10, 2016 for a period of three months instead of transmitting his name to the senate for confirmation as recommended by the National Judicial Council under the leadership of the immediate past CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed.
Onnoghen, since the Supreme Court was established, is the first to be so appointed in acting capacity and he currently has less than 20 days to the expiration of the duration.
The coalition had previously accused the Presidency of trying to ethnicize and politicise the judiciary, by denying Onnoghen, the first Southerner in 30 years, an opportunity to enjoy confirmation like all his predecessors to serve as the CJN.
The coalition in a latest statement by its Co-Convener, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, warned that “the established precedence and processes for appointing a substantive CJN must not be compromised to suit ethnic and political interest.
“We are not unaware that they have been combing the whole universe to look for something incriminating which they could use as a cover to stop this courageous judge from becoming our substantive CJN.
“This same Justice Onnoghen was among the three Justices that gave a fearless judgement in favour of General Muhammadu Buhari as the then Presidential candidate of the All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2007.
“This is a pedigree that should automatically endear him to Mr. President.
“If he did that, so what could then be the reason for undermining his confirmation process as the CJN like his predecessors?
“We make bold to say that we have gotten to a point where we must tell ourselves the bitter truth and speak wisdom to leadership no matter how fragile or sensitive the situation is.
“If Mr. President thinks a Justice from the South of Nigeria does not deserve to be the CJN, he should quickly let us go for a referendum and decide the membership of this nation.
“We must stop living in denial and under false pretence of national unity,” the statement said.
CDNDC urged eminent Nigerians to prevail on the President not to jeopardise the unity of the country.
“Justice Onnoghen is a Nigerian and he should be allowed to serve like his predecessors,” the group said.