BThe Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, said on Monday that he was ready to step aside if the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) or the Appeals Court rules in favour of Suspended CJN Walter Onnoghen.
Muhammad stated that Onnoghen, remains the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.
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.
In response to a query handed down by the NJC, Muhammad noted that the National Judicial Council has no role to play in the appointment of an acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in the first instance, saying it ought to be consulted only when a substantive CJN is being appointed or re-appointed.
He said, “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”
Meanwhile, Muhammad has appealed to the NJC to throw aside the petition written against him by a group, Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative.
The group it will be recalled had written a petition to the NJC, urging the council to remove Muhammad as a justice of the Supreme Court for compromised without recourse to the NJC.