President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday administered oath of office to Justice Walter Onnoghen as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
He takes over from Justice Mahmud Mohammed who bowed out of the bench of the Supreme Court yesterday after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
Onnoghen is expected to act until the name of substantive CJN is forwarded to the Senate and it is confirmed.
Justice Onnoghen becomes the first southerner since 1980 to assume the position of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. It could be recalled that by virtue of Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it is the prerogative of the president to appoint a CJN.
Section 231 (1) explicitly provides that, “The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”
The National Judicial Council had during one of its meeting about a month ago recommended Justice Onnoghen, for consideration for appointment as CJN.
It is on this premise that he was sworn in yesterday by President Buhari .
In his speech after the inauguration, Buhari said he is honoured as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to say goodbye to the former Chief Justice and to congratulate him for the time he spent in the highly respected position. He congratulated the new acting CJN noting that he came at a time that the institution that he is going to head and the nation are passing through trying time.
“Trying time in the sense of the three identifiable problems this country is facing; physical security, the problem of economy and corruption. In this room contains the constitutional bodies that are responsible for bringing Nigeria back into life in terms of security and managing it efficiently while making sure that the economy is resuscitated and that security of doing business at all stages in the country is free and fair.
“I sincerely congratulate the outgoing CJN and wish him the best of luck in his retired life and I wish the incoming CJN a successful tour of this vital constitutional body of our country,” Buhari said.
Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, CFR (Commander of the Federal Republic) was born on 22nd December, 1950 at Okurike Town, Biase L.G.A. of Cross River State.
He attended the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike Town between 1959 and 1966. He later proceeded to Accra, Ghana to attend Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, between 1967 and 1972 for his West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Exams.
He was at Accra Academy, Ghana between 1972 and 1974 for his WAEC (A-Levels) before proceeding to the University of Ghana, Legon, between 1974 and 1977 to obtain his Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B (Hons)) and graduated with 2nd Class Upper Division and was among the best graduating students.
He attended the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos between 1977 and 1978 for his B.L certificate.
He completed his compulsory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) in July 1979.
His previous professional appointments/positions held include: Pupil State Counsel, Lagos State, (1978 – 1979) Partner in the Law Firm of Effiom Ekong& Company, Calabar (1979 – 1988) Principal Partner/Head of Chambers of Walter Onnoghen & Associates, Calabar (1988 -1989) Chairman, Cross River State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal (1990 – 1993) Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Students of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar (1996).