My Appointment Does Not Require Approval From NJC, Says Acting CJN Muhammad

Tanko Muhammad, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria has argued that his appointment, into the position by President Muhammadu Buhari, does not require the approval of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Mr Buhari appointed Mr Muhammad to head the judicial arm of government after he suspended Walter Onnoghen, a top jurist who until his suspension was in charge of the judiciary.

Mr Onnoghen is accused of non-declaration of assets traced to him. A six count charge to that effect has been slammed on him by the Buhari-led federal government.

The suspension of Onnoghen generated controversies across the country with critics accusing the president of not respecting the separation of powers as stipulated in the constitution.

They also accused the acting CJN for making himself available for swearing in without recourse to the NJC, the body constitutionally empowered to recommend the appointment of chief justices and heads of courts.

Following the petitions against Messrs Onnoghen and Muhammad, the NJC issued queries to the duo and in responding the latter said the president does not need the recommendation of the judicial body before appointing him in acting capacity.

Muhammad, who admitted participating in a panel of the NJC that removed Justice Obisike Orji of the Abia State High Court for accepting to be sworn in as chief judge by the Abia State Government without a recommendation of the judicial body, said his own case was different because he was only appointed as an acting CJN.

The jurist said the NJC ought to be consulted only when a substantive CJN is being appointed or re-appointed.

“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,” Punch Newspaper quoted the jurist to have said in his response.

“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 added.

While insisting that Justice Onnoghen remained the CJN, he said the jurist is only being suspended and might reclaim his position if found not guilty as he would immediately step aside and return to his former position as a justice of the Supreme Court.

He urged the judicial body to discountenance the petition against him as he was only the acting CJN and not the CJN.