The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, has maintained that suspended Justice Walter Onnoghen, remains the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.
In his response to the query given by the National Judicial Council, NJC, Mr Muhammad said he would step aside once the Code of Conduct Tribunal or the Appeals Court rule in favour of Mr Onnoghen.
He, however, insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari did not need the permission of the National Judicial Council, NJC, to appoint an acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.
According to him, 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 the first appointment.
“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.
“It was for the larger interest of the judiciary and the constitutionality that I accepted to be sworn in as acting CJN with the conviction that if the order of January 23, 2019, is eventually set aside, the status quo would be restored.
“But before it is set aside, there should be no vacuum in the office of the CJN and the chairman of the NJC.
“On January 25, 2019, I was summoned to the Aso Villa at the instance of the President. Prior to the summons, I was not aware of the fact that the Code of Conduct Tribunal made an order on January 23, 2019.
“Furthermore, beyond what I read in the newspapers and watched on the television just like any other Nigerian, I was not privileged to see any of the processes filed by the parties before the tribunal. Hence, I could not really appreciate the merit or demerit of divergent positions.
“On the 25th day of January, the President swore me in as the acting CJN and not as the substantive CJN. Justice Walter Onnoghen remains the CJN until he is removed from office in accordance with the provision of the constitution. He is only suspended,” he noted.