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Adegboruwa asks court to stop Buhari from appointing another CJN

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Activist lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has dragged Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice , Yemi Osinbajo, before a Federal High Court in Lagos, over the non-confirmation of the acting Chief Justice of the Federation, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Also enjoined in the suit is the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN.

The Lagos-based lawyer is praying the court to prevail on the President and his vice to forward the name of Onnoghen to the senate for confirmation.

The activist lawyer sought an “order of injunction to restrain the President and the Vice-President from appointing another candidate for presentation to the Senate, for the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, apart from Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is the most senior justice of the Supreme Court and who has already been selected and recommended by the National Judicial Council.”

He also prayed the court to stop the Senate from “accepting, entertaining, deliberating upon or considering the nomination of any other candidate that may be forwarded to it by the President and the Vice-President, apart from Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen, who has already been selected by the National Judicial Council.”

He also seeks an order of injunction to restrain the NJC from entertaining any request from the President and the Vice-President, to consider another candidate for the office of the CJN order than Onnoghen, who was already selected.

Adegboruwa prayed the “court to forthwith direct Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen to assume and take over and be performing and discharging the duties and functions of the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, until such a that the President would agree to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation or until he retires at the mandatory age of 70 years.”

In a 42 paragraph affidavit supporting his suit, Adegboruwa traced the history of the previous appointments of other CJN, stressing that it has never been the style of the executive to leave a vacuum in the highest judicial office of the land.

According to Adegboruwa, “Upon the coming into force of the 1999 Constitution, the President has no discretion in the choice of candidate to occupy the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, other than the person selected and recommended to him by the National Judicial Council.

Accusing the President of “negative bais against the judiciary which he had openly declared as his headache,” the lawyer stressed that Buhari was “deliberately withholding the appointment of Justice Onnoghen in order to destabilize the judiciary and to force him into compulsory retirement, being a Christian from Southern of Nigeria.”

He alleged that the President had a “hidden agenda to perpetuate civilian dictatorship and to implement his ethnic and religious agenda,” by frustrating the first CJN from the Southern of the country in the past 30 years.

Adegboruwa cited instances of the refusal of the President to obey the order of the ECOWAS Court to release former National Adviser, NSA, Col Sambo Dasuki(rtd) the order of the Federal High Court to release Shite leader, Ibrahim El Zakzaky, as precedents of the preference of the President for a system of lawlessness, contempt and total disregard for the judiciary and the rule of law.

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The lawyer also sought the following reliefs from the Court:

“A DECLARATION that under and by virtue of section 292 (i) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the failure, refusal or omission of the 1st Defendant, and in his absence, the 2nd Defendant, to forward the name of Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, recommended to him as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, to the Senate for its confirmation, amounts to a compulsory retirement of the said Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, in a manner that is inconsistent with the due process of law and is therefore unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

“A DECLARTION that under and by virtue of sections 292 (i) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the Defendants are obliged to select, recommend, appoint or confirm the appointment of the 4th Defendant as the Chief Justice of Nigeria unless and until he is lawfully removed from office as the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court having been so selected and recommended by the National Judicial Council.

“A DECLARATION that under and by virtue of section 153(1), Paragraph 21 of the Third Schedule and section 231 (1-5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the National Judicial Council, 3rd Defendant is the ONLY body authorized by law to select and recommend any candidate for appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria and if and when such recommendation is made, the 1stDefendant, and in his absence the 2ndDefendant, cannot lawfully reject or by pass it to appoint another person as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“A DECLARATION that under and by virtue of sections 153(1), Paragraph 21 of the Third Schedule and section 231 (1-5)f the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the selection and recommendation of Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, for appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria by the National Judicial Council is final and conclusive of the said appointment and the decision of the 1stDefendant, and in his absence the 2ndDefendant, in failing, refusing and omitting to forward the said selection and recommendation to the Senate for its confirmation, is unlawful, invalid, illegal and improper.

“A DECLARATION that under and by virtue of section 153(1), Paragraph 21 of the Third Schedule and section 231 (1-5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the 1stDefendant, and in his absence the 2ndDefendant, are not entitled in law to appoint any other person, as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, other than the Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, already selected and recommended by the National Judicial Council, which is the body empowered by law to so do.

“A DECLARATION that the Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, is the fit and proper person to be appointed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, upon his selection and recommendation by the National Judicial Council, and the 1stDefendant, and in his absence, the 2ndDefendant, are obliged to forward his name to the Senate for its confirmation.

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“A DECLARATION that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is not entitled to entertain, discuss, deliberate upon or in any other manner countenance the appointment by the 1st Defendant, and in his absence, the 2nd Defendant, of any candidate for confirmation, other than the Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, JSC, being the person lawfully selected and recommended by the National Judicial Council, as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“AN ORDER directing the 1stDefendant, and in his absence the 2ndDefendant, to forthwith forward the name of Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, being the lawful candidate duly selected and recommended by the National Judicial Council, to the Senate for its approval and confirmation.

“AN INJUNCTION, restraining the 1st Defendant, and in his absence the 2nd Defendant, their agents, officers, servants and privies, from appointing, nominating or in any other manner presenting any other person, to the Senate as candidate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, other than the Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, already selected and recommended by the National Judicial Council, which is the body empowered by law to so do.

“AN INJUNCTION, restraining the 3rd Defendant, its agents, officers, servants and privies, from entertaining, selecting, recommending or in other manner considering the candidature of any other person, to the 1st Defendant as candidate for appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, other than the Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen, JSC, already selected and recommended whist he is still in office as the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“AN INJUNCTION, restraining the 5th Defendant, whether by itself, its respective members, its servants, agents, officers or privies from receiving, entertaining, countenancing, considering, deliberating upon or in any other manner acting upon any request, letter, application or demand from the 1st Defendant and in his absence the 2nd Defendant, for the approval, confirmation or endorsement of the candidature of any other person, other than the 4th Defendant, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen, as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“AN ORDER, directing the 4thDefendant, Honourable Justice Walter Onneghen to assume, perform and discharge the all the duties and functions of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, until such a when the 1st Defendant, and in his absence the 2nd Defendant, forwards his name to the Senate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, being the most senior justice of the Supreme Court.”

The court is yet to fix a date for the hearing of the suit.

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