A Federal High Court in Abuja has been urged to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint the current acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, as the substantive CJN.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, in the suit filed against the president, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), is also praying court to compel Buhari to transmit a letter to the Senate for Onnoghen’s consideration and confirmation
He urged the court to declare that Onnoghen’s appointment in acting capacity by the president is “an aberration, a violation of the principle of separation of powers, an affront and erosion on the independence of the Nigerian judiciary, an abuse of constitutional powers, illegal and unlawful.”
Also joined as defendants in the suit brought pursuant to Order 3 Rules 6, 7 and 9 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 are Justice Onnoghen, and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The plaintiff who sued in his personal capacity and on behalf of the generality of Nigerians, also prayed the court to compel the president to uphold the principle of separation of powers and rule of law and restrain the president from further eroding on the independence of the Nigerian judiciary being the third arm of government.
According to the plaintiff, by virtue of Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution the 1st defendant (president) in exercising his powers to appoint the CJN must act on the recommendation of the 5th defendant (NJC).
Omirhobo stated further that by virtue of Section 231(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the 1st defendant as the head of the executive arm of government cannot hand pick and and/or choose who he wants to be the head of the judicial arm of Nigerian government.
He also wants the court to determine whether the qualification, assessment and evaluation necessary for the appointment of the CJN are the exclusive preserve of the FJSC (3rd defendant) and NJC (5th defendant)?
Among others, the plaintiff wants the court to determine: “Whether by virtue of Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the president in exercising his powers to appoint the NJC must act on the recommendation of the 5th defendant?
“Whether by virtue of Section 231(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the 1st defendant as the head of the executive arm of government can hand pick and/or choose who he wants to be the head of the judicial arm of Nigerian government?
“Whether the judicial arm of government of Nigeria is an appendage of the Nigerian executive arm of government?
“Whether the period from 13/10/2016 when the 4th defendant was recommended to the 1st defendant for the appointment to the office of the CJN to 09/11/2016 when the outgone CJN retired was adequate time for the 1st defendant to appoint the 4th defendant and transmit same to the Senate for consideration and confirmation?
“Whether in the face of Section 231(2) of the 1999 Constitution, the preconditions for the appointment of a person to the office of a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria made by the 1st defendant on the recommendation of the 5th defendant are same as those required by Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution in the appointment of the CJN by the 1st defendant?”