Nigeria: 'Why Buhari Was Hesitant About Onnoghen As CJN'

A senior official at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday rejected accusations that appointments in the justice sector by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government were sectional and anti-Christian.

The official, who spoke in confidence, was responding to the letter written to the President by Colonel Dangiwa Umar (rtd) on Sunday in which he accused Buhari of skewing appointments in favour of northern Nigeria.

The official, who said he was not officially responding to Dangiwa, said: "The Colonel made the point of the president's initial reluctance to put forward the now-retired Justice Walter Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria and chose to attach a religious and sectional motive rather than objective facts on the side of the president.

"He didn't reason with a president who saw reasonable grounds of suspicion of financial offences which, if established by an investigation and due process could embarrass, not only the occupant of the office but the exalted office itself.

"Now, tell me; with the benefit of hindsight, and arising from facts and the conviction that followed, were those grounds not reasonable?

"Was the conviction not a confirmation of the commission of an offence?" he asked.

"Two, he (Umar) also tried to whip up religious emotion against the president by the allegation that there is an attempt to bypass Justice Dongban-Mensem with a Muslim judge as the President of the Court of Appeal.

"Her Lordship Justice Dongban-Mensem was first approved as President of the court following a recommendation by the National Judicial Council by President Buhari three months ago, who approved a further three months acting period starting from June 3rd.

"Legally speaking, the privilege to lead the Court of Appeal in an acting capacity is for six months.

"As it is today, the beneficiary is just three months in the office.

"It is therefore mischievous and unreasonable for anyone to start a campaign, premature as it is, over a right that has not arisen," he said.

The source also wondered why the former military governor ignored the fact of the last two appointments of the heads of the Superior Courts of Records, the Federal High Court and the National Industrial Court.

He said: "The beneficiaries of the appointments are both Christians.

"The ones that they succeeded were Muslims by their disposition.

"So, the basis of the alleged bias is lacking here.

"Unfortunately, this fact is completely ignored in his letter.

"What I can say, in summary, is that while Colonel Umar's biased and tendentious comments against the Buhari Administration are not new, on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels," he said.

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