*22 new SANs emerge as courts begin fresh legal year today
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, has okayed Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
Onnoghen, who is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, was nominated by the judicial body to take over from the current CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who will step down on November 10, upon clocking the 70 years mandatory retirement age.
Meanwhile, the FJSC, last week, forwarded Justice Onnoghen’s name to the National Judicial Council, NJC, which will in turn, forward same to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Though section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, conferred on President Buhari the power to appoint a CJN on the recommendation of the NJC, it, however, stressed that such appointment must be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
According to section 231(3), “A person shall not be qualified to hold the office of the CJN or of a Justice of the Supreme Court, unless he is qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and had been so qualified for a period of not less than fifteen years.”
If President Buhari approves Onnoghen who hails from Cross-River State as the 17th CJN, he will become the first Southern jurist to head the judiciary in about 29 years.
Onnoghen will clock 70 on December 20, 2020.
Remarkably, Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe who retired in 1987 was the last Southern CJN.
In recent times, there were clamour for the appointment of the new CJN from outside the Supreme Court hierarchy, with the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, advocating the elevation of senior legal practitioners into the apex court bench.
Had the idea sailed through, it would have scuttled Onnoghen’s chance of clinching the judiciary top-job.
However, the FJSC also forwarded the name of Justice Tanko Mohammed of the Supreme Court as stand-by nominee should President Buhari reject Onnoghen.
The man, Onnoghen
Hon. Justice W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen CFR, was born on December 22, 1950 at Okurike Town, Biase Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State.
Onnoghen had his Primary Education at the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike Town between 1959 and 1965.
He then proceeded to Accra, Ghana, to attend Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, Accra, Ghana between 1967 and 1972 for his Secondary School Education where he obtained his West African Examination Council, WAEC, Certificate.
He was at Accra Academy, Accra, Ghana, between 1972 and 1974 for his WAEC (A-Levels) before proceeding to the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana, between 1974 and 1977 to obtain his Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B (Hons)) and graduated with 2nd Class Upper Division.
He came down to Nigeria and attended the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos between 1977 and 1978 and was, thereafter, called to the Nigerian Bar.
Prior to becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court, Onnoghen was Pupil State Counsel, at the Ministry of Justice, Ikeja, Lagos, Ogun State from 1978 to 1979, Partner in the Law Firm of Effiom Ekong Company, Calabar, from 1979 to 1988; Principal Partner/Head of Chamber of Walter Onneghen Associates, Calabar, from 1988 to 1989; High Court Judge, Cross Rivers State Judiciary, from 1989 to 1998; Chairman, Cross Rivers State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal from 1990 to 1993; Chairman,
Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Student of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar, in 1996; Chairman, Failed Bank Tribunal, Ibadan Zone in 1998; Judge, High Court of Rivers State from 1992 to 2004; Justice of the Court of Appeal from 1998 to 2005.
Onnoghen is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and has attended several conferences and seminars around the world.
He is a member of the Body of Benchers and a Life Bencher.
The CJN-designate was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, JSC, in 2005.
Meanwhile, the outgoing CJN, Justice Mohammed will today, flag off the 2016/2017 new legal year of the Supreme Court.
Justice Mohammed will also use the occasion to administer oath to 22 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs.
The new SANs were selected from a total of 131 applicants.
Those to be conferred with the prestigious rank are the Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Mr. Olanrewaju Adesola Onadeko, Nnamonso U do Ekanem, Prof. Muhammed Tabiu, Dr. Valerie-Janette Ogbonna Azinge, Olufunke Abimbola Agbor, Olusola Oladimeji Ojutalayo, Richard Ayodele Akintunde, Oyesoji Gbolahan Oyeleke.
Others are James Onyeanwuna Njeze Ikeyi, Elisha Yakubu Kurah, Adewunmi Adedeji Ognsanya, Olatubosun Ola Olanipekun, Chief Kalu Ikwuonwu Umeh, Adewale Sunday Adesokan, Andrew Chukwuemeka Igbokwe, Fredson Chijioke Alexander Okoli, Olaseni Abiodun Adio, Olasheni Ibiwoye, Abdukhakeem Uthman Mustapha, Mba Ekpezu Ukweni, Edward Gyang Pwajok and Prof. Chukwu Amari Omaka.