ABUJA, NOVEMBER 10, 2016 – The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, will today, retire from service.
Unfortunately, a successor is yet to be appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, whose duty it is to appoint a CJN based on the recommendations of National Judicial Council (NJC).
Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, has bestowed upon the President of Nigeria, the prerogative of appointing a CJN.
The Section 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 and subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”
On its part, NJC at its emergency meeting held on October 11, had recommended Justices Walter Samuel Onnoghen for consideration for appointment as CJN.
Going by precedent, the most senior Justice succeeds the outgoing CJN.
While Justice Onnoghen may have found favoure with NJC following his nomination to the President since October 11, the nomination was yet to be forwarded to the National Assembly for screening and confirmation.
Although the President is not bound to accept the nomination of NJC, he cannot however, bypass the body in making the appointment.
If for any reason, the president does not want to appoint the recommended justice, he is at liberty to ask the NJC to recommend to him another suitable candidate for the office.
Section 230 (4) of the Constitution is also instructive. It provides, “If the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the President shall appoint the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court to perform those functions.”
Thus, as the incumbent CJN bows out of office today, it was not certain if the next most senior Justice would be sworn in on acting capacity.