CJN: Afenifere gives 9-day ultimatum to Buhari

The Pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, on Tuesday, issued a nine-day ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari to forward the name of the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to the National Assembly for confirmation and approval of his appointmentThe group, which met at the Akure, Ondo State home of the leader of the group, Pa Ruben Fasonranti, expressed worries over the non-confirmation of Onnoghen’s appointment, with almost a few days to the expiration of the three months tenure in acting capacity as speculated by the nation’s constitution.

The group noted that the president had refused to forward the recommendations of NJC to the National Assembly for confirmation of Onnoghen as the CJN.

Afenifere said: “We see this as an assault on the constitution if the three months expire and he is not confirmed as CJN. It will be an assault on our constitution and an attempt to crudely end a career of a worthy Nigerian.

“Therefore, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to, within the few days left to the expriration of the acting tenure of Justice Onnoghen, send his name to the Senate for confirmation as CJN, as he is the man in line because that is what the constitution says.”

The group also called for the restructuring of the country, urging the Federal Government to expressly constitute a committee to put the nation back on the path of greatness.

In the communique issued after its five-hour meeting and read by the Publicity Secretary of the group, Yinka Odumakin, the group reiterated its call for the implementation of the report of the 2014 national conference, noting that some of the recommendations in the report could adequately provide solutions to many of the challenges threatening the existence of the country.

The group expressed worries over the killing in the Southern Kaduna and some other parts of the country where herdsmen had been tormenting the people across Nigeria and called for a lasting solution to the frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Afenifere also sought for the unity of the race irrespective of religion, political affiliation and social background, saying: “Meeting was elated that Yoruba has closed ranks as witnessed in historic gathering which represents a new beginning for the Yoruba nation.

“It is high time the Yoruba nation put aside partisan differences, come together and make Yorubaland and redirect the affairs of Nigeria the way the Yoruba did in the years before independence, when we worked with our friends in Nigeria to negotiate federal constitution which brought our independence.

“The meeting observed that the state of Nigeria at the moment is very frightening, worrying and uncertainty looming in the air. We are worried by the mass killing going on in Southern Kaduna and all over Nigeria and the states appeared to be helpless, and sometimes unwilling to curb the excess of these killers.

The group said further that “today lies in the intensive care of sick countries because we have refused to run Nigeria; the multi-ethnic state along federal lines.

“Meeting resolved to set up a high-powered committee to rouse Yoruba nation and to network with our friends and like-minds across Nigeria to work on the urgency of now to insist that this country must be restructured before we go for another election in this country because we cannot afford to continue to slide dangerously on the part of anarchy.

“The main focus is to get all hands on deck for the mobilisation towards the implementation of the recommendation of the 2014 national conference which was submitted to the Federal Executive Council, that is, the minimum we demand.”

In a related development, the Cross Rivers State National Assembly caucus, on Tuesday, kicked against the continued alleged refusal of the Presidency to forward the name of Justice Onnoghen to the Senate.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, on Tuesday, on behalf of the 11-member caucus, leader of the caucus, Senator John Enohs, said the caucus was worried by the non-confirmation of the acting CJN.

According to him, “we are worried by this development for obvious reasons. As a hallowed institution, the judiciary is the bastion of our democracy and should be insulated from undue influence, politics and manipulation of political predators.”

While calling on the president to do the needful, the caucus maintained that “We, therefore, call on the president to act in a clear and decisive manner now by transmitting, without further delay, the name of Justice Samuel Walter Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation as the Chief Justice of Nigeria as recommended by the National Judicial Council.

“There is a growing sentiment in certain quarters that Justice Onnoghen’s elevation to the rank of CJN is held in abeyance precisely because he is either not from a particular ethnic origin preferred by powerful forces or his profound and atimes radical judicial pronouncements make him too principled to occupy this exalted office. The president’s inaction in this instance has acted as a cannon fodder for those alluding to a vast conspiracy to deny Justice Onnoghen his earned position,” the caucus declared.

To this end, the caucus said “as political leaders, we should collectively resolve to build a just and fair society devoid of ethnic cleavages, a society where hardwork and integrity are rewarded and not repudiated. As leaders, we should work towards the inauguration of a just order in which the East meets the North, South and West and together in confidence, united by a common and shared destiny and mutual respect, we confront the future together.

“We call on the Presidency to act in a decisive manner to reassure Nigerians that we are all equal and if we are able to harness our God-given talents, so that we can aspire to the highest position in our nation unencumbered by primordial forces. Justice Onnoghen is eminently qualified to occupy the position of CJN,” it stated.

Also, a human rights lawyer, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa, on Tuesday, asked the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to direct the president, and in his absence, the vice-president, to forward the name of Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation.

Adegboruwa, in the suit, is also asking for 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 CJN.

In the suit filed before the court, Adegboruwa is asking 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 Justice Onnoghen, who has already been selected by the National Judicial Council.

He is also seeking an order of injunction to restrain the National Judicial Council from entertaining any request from the president and the vice-president, to consider another candidate for the office of the CJN.

Mr Adegboruwa also prayed the court to forthwith direct Justice Onnoghen to assume, take over, be performing and discharging the duties and functions of the office of the CJN until such a time that the president would agree to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation or until he retires at the mandatory age of 70.

Adegboruwa, in a 42-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, traced the history of the previous appointments of all the Chief Justices of Nigeria, stating that it had never been the style of the executive to leave a vacuum in the highest judicial office of the land.

He stated that upon coming into force of the 1999 Constitution, the president had no discretion in the choice of candidate to occupy the office of the CJN, other than the person selected and recommended to him by the National Judicial Council.

Adegboruwa maintained that on February 10,the judiciary would be thrown into chaos as there would be nobody to preside over meetings of the NJC; there would be no chief justice to assign important appeals and there would be no further appointment, promotion or discipline of judges.

The matter has not been assigned to any judge for hearing.

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