Justice Walter Onnoghen has officially been sworn-in as the 17th substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) by Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
After taking his oath of office, Onnoghen was also decorated by the Acting President with the national honour of the Grand Commander of Order of the Niger (GCON), as customary with the inauguration of CJNs.
The Acting President who said Justice Onnoghen is assuming the position at a crucial time in the nation’s history also revealed that he spoke with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, and that the President had sent his good wishes to the CJN.
Present at the occasion were Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former CJNs members of the Federal Executive Council, Justices of the Supreme Court, his family members, among others.
It would be recalled the senate had during plenary last Wednesday confirmed the nomination of Justice Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
After answering series of questions put before him by the Senators, Onnoghen took a bow and left the red chamber. Senate President, Bukola Saraki, then put the question for his approval before the Senate, who unanimously agreed to his confirmation.
During the screening process, Federal Lawmakers questioned him on issues of the independence of the judiciary, judicial reforms, corruption in the Judiciary, as well as disobedience of court orders.
The new CJN maintained that the independence of the judiciary would continue under his watch.
Justice Walter Onnoghen, who would be retiring from active service in 2021, has been leading the country’s judiciary in an acting capacity since November 10 when he was so appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, following the retirement of Mahmud Mohammed.
Osinbajo, had sent his name to the Senate for confirmation as Chief Justice Of Nigeria on February 8, just two days before the expiration of his three –month acting tenure.
Also, the National Judicial Council (NJC), had extended Mr Onnoghen’s tenure by another three months, on the grounds that it may have been impossible for the Senate, which was on recess at the time, to reconvene and screen Onnoghen before the expiration date of his tenure.
The initial delay by President Buhari in sending his name to the Senate, had been trailed by criticism and condemnation, with some alleging ethnic bias as the reason for the President’s “seeming reluctance”.
Walter Onnoghen has been a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria since 2005 and his eventual confirmation makes him the first CJN from the southern part of the country in about 30 years.
The 67-year-old Justice who hails from Kruiku Town, Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State, bagged his Law degree from the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1977 before his BL certificate at the Nigerian Law School in 1978.
He started his career as a Pupil State Counsel in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, in 1979, after which he ventured into private practice.
In 1989, he returned to public service as a judge in the High Court of his native Cross River State. Justice Walter Onnoghen joined the federal judicial service in 1998 as Justice of the Court Appeal, a position he held until 2005 when he was elevated to the Supreme Court.