By CrossRiverWatch admin
As the tenure of the incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN, Mahmoud Mohammed from Taraba state, draws to an end, there are chances and even expectations that the next in line to assume the position of CJN, in the order of seniority, is Justice Walter Samuel Nkwanu Onnoghen, from Cross River state.
Justice Mahmoud who took office as the 15th CJN on November 20, 2014 was born on November 10, 1946 and is due for retirement on November 10, 2016 having attained the retirement age of 70years.
By convention, the next highest ranking Supreme Court Judge, is supposed to take over. But his chances may be scuttled if the President tows the line of some stakeholders who are suggesting that the next CJN should be appointed straight from the Bar as a way of breaking from the past and curbing endemic corruption in the judiciary.
While some argue that it is desirable to appoint a CJN from outside the long standing tradition, citing examples of Kenya which has done so and two distant instances of the first indigenous CJN, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, 1958-1972 and Teslim Elias, 1972-1975, others say those who are making the suggestion are only being political.
They accused those pushing for a change in the succession order of technically trying to prevent a judge from the South from emerging CJN, in preference for a northern judge.
They argue that having delivered several judgements against the ruling APC in the governorship election cases in the South South states, the ruling party considers the present set of Justices of the Supreme Court as pro PDP and are afraid of having a Southern judge whose tenure will last till the 2019 election as CJN.
Justice Walter Onnoghen was born on December 20, 1950; meaning he will soon be 66years and, if allowed to take over from Mohammed Mahmoud, he will have a little less than four years to spend in the saddle.
It will be recalled that the last time a Southerner was CJN was Justice Ayo Irekefe, 1985 – 1987. Ever since, for about 30 years non-stop, following the seniority succession system, it has been Northerners all the way.
Namely: Muhammed Bello, 1987 – 1995; Muhammed Uwais, 1995 – 2006; Modibo Alfa-Belgore, 2006 – 2007; Idris Kutigi, 2007 – 2010; Aloysius Katsina-Alu, 2010 – 2011; Dahiru Musdapher, 2011 – 2012; Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, 2012 – 2014; and Mahmud Mohammed, 2014 till date.
It is now the turn of Justice Walter Nkwanu Onnoghen if the succession order is not jettisoned. After him comes, again, two other Northerners, namely; Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed and Justice Suleiman Galadima.
As the situation is, the only thing that may constitute an impediment to Justice Onnoghen assuming the position of the CJN is in the event that those pushing for the appointment of a CJN from the ranks of greenhorns succeed in scuttling the tradition of succession which has served the apex court well for decades.
62 years old Justice Walter Samuel Nkwanu Onnoghen was born 22nd December, 1950. He is from Biase Local Government in southern Cross River State.
He obtained his Primary School Leaving Certificate from the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike town between 1959 and 1965 and later got his SSCE from Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, Accra, Ghana 1967 and 1972.
He started his A-Levels in Accra Academy, Accra Ghana between 1972 and 1974 and also obtained his LL.B from the University of Ghana, Legon between 1974 and 1977. He attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos between 1977 and 1978.
He began his career as a Pupil State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Ikeja, Lagos and Ogun State between 1978 and 1979 and later became a Partner at Effiom Ekong & Company Law Firm, Calabar between 1979 and 1988.
He was also Principal Partner/Head of Chamber, Onnoghen & Associates, Calabar, between 1988 and 1989 before joining the Bench as a Judge in the High Court of Cross River State from 1989 to 1998.
He was Chairman, Cross Rivers State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal from 1990 to 1993. Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the crisis between students of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community in Calabar in 1996. Chairman, Failed Banks Tribunal, Ibadan Zone in 1998.
He also served as a Judge in the High Court of Rivers State from 1992 to 2004. He was appointed Justice of the Court of Appeal in 1998 till 2004 and eventually became a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2005.
Justice Onnoghen is famed for being among the three justices, including Aloma Mariam Mukhtar (the first female Supreme Court justice and CJN) and George Oguntade, who dissented from majority verdict that upheld the validity of late President Yar’Adua’s presidential election in 2011.
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