18th March, 2019
Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammed has said President Muhammadu Buhari does not need to consult the National Judicial Council, NJC, to appoint him as acting CJN.
Muhammed, who responded to NJC query stated that the NJC ought to be consulted only when a substantive CJN was being appointed or re-appointed.
According to him, “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 explained that Justice Walter Onnoghen remained the substantive CJN, adding that the latter was only suspended.
Muhammed stated that if the Appeal Court or the Code of Conduct Tribunal reversed Onnoghen’s suspension, he would immediately step aside and return to his former position as a justice of the Supreme Court.
“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,” he said.
According to Muhammed, he was summoned to the Presidential Villa by Buhari and shown the certified true copy of a motion ex-parte granted by the CCT and signed by its Chairman, Danladi Umar.
“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,” he explained.
He, however, said he had nothing to do with the speech delivered by the President wherein the latter accused Onnoghen of frustrating his anti-corruption war.
Punch reports that Muhammadu, therefore, appealed to the NJC to dismiss the petition written against him.