PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday sworn-in Justice Walter Oonoghen as the new Chief Justice of Nigeria in an acting capacity.
This followed the exit of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed who bowed out of the bench of the Supreme Court yesterday after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
Onnoghen is expected to act until substantive CJN is appointed as forwarded to the Senate by the President and confirmation.
Justice Onnoghen becomes the first southerner since 1980 to as assume the position of the chief Justice of Nigeria, even though in an acting capacity.
By virtue of Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it is the prerogative of the president to appoint a CJN.
Section 231 (1) explicitly 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 subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”
The National Judicial Council had during one of its meeting about a month ago recommended Justice Onnoghen, for consideration for appointment as CJN.
It is on this premise that he was sworn in yesterday by President Buhari .
President Buhari in his speech after inauguration of the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, pointed to some of the problems bedevilling Nigeria that required concerted efforts of the executive, judiciary and legislature to address.
He listed that issues of security, economy and corruption as the focus for all the arms of the government to collaborate in addressing in an expeditious manner.
Buhari said he was honoured as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to say goodbye to the former Chief Justice and to congratulate him for the time he spent in the highly respected position.
He congratulated the new acting CJN noting that he came at a time that the institution that he is going to head would play its constitutional role at the trying time of the nation.
Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, CFR (Commander of the Federal Republic) was born on 22nd December, 1950 at Okurike Town, Biase L.G.A. of Cross River State.
He attended the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike Town between 1959 and 1966. He later proceeded to Accra, Ghana to attend Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, between 1967 and 1972 for his West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Exams.
He was at Accra Academy, Ghana between 1972 and 1974 for his WAEC (A-Levels) before proceeding to the University of Ghana, Legon, between 1974 and 1977 to obtain his Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B (Hons)) and graduated with 2nd Class Upper Division and was among the best graduating students.
He attended the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos between 1977 and 1978 for his B.L certificate. He completed his compulsory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) in July 1979.
His previous professional appointments/positions held include: Pupil State Counsel, Lagos State, (1978 – 1979), Partner in the Law Firm of Effiom Ekong & Company, Calabar (1979 – 1988), Principal Partner/Head of Chambers of Walter Onnoghen & Associates, Calabar (1988 -1989).
He was the Chairman, Cross River State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal (1990 – 1993); Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Students of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar (1996) and Chairman, Failed Banks Tribunal, Ibadan Zone (1998).
He was also the High Court Judge, Cross River State Judiciary (1989 – 1998), Justice of the Court of Appeal (Nov 1998-June 2005). Hon. Justice W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) since 2005. He is also a Justice of the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
A Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Fellow of the National Judicial Institute, Hon. Justice Onnoghen has attended several conferences and seminars within and outside Nigeria and presented scholarly papers.
He is a member of the Body of Benchers and Life Bencher; Chairman, Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and Vice-Chairman, Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee among others.
Hon. Justice Onnoghen, who is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, is married with children.