For the first time in 29 years the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, has recommended a Nigerian of southern origin as the next Chief Justice of the country.
The nominee is Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, who is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court. He 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 mandatory 70 years of retirement age.
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. Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe who retired in 1987 was the last Southern CJN.
The FJSC, has already 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”.
Hon. Justice W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen was born on the 22nd December, 1950 at Okurike Town, Biase L.G.A. of Cross Rivers State.
He attended the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike Town between 1959 and 1965.
He later proceeded to Accra, Ghana to attend Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, Accra, Ghana between 1967 and 1972 for his West African Examination Council (WAEC) Exams.
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 attended the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos between 1977 and 1978 for his B.L certificate.
Her previous professional appointments/positions held include:
Pupil State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Ikeja, Lagos, Ogun State (1978 – 1979)
Partner in the Law Firm of Effiom Ekong & Company, Calabar (1979 – 1988)
Principal Partner/Head of Chamber of Walter Onneghen & Associates, Calabar (1988 -1989)
High Court Judge, Cross Rivers State Judiciary (1989 – 1998)
Chairman, Cross Rivers State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal (1990 – 1993)
Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Student of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar (1996)
Chairman, Failed Bank Tribunal, Ibadan Zone (1998)
Judge, High Court of Rivers State (1992 – 2004)
Justice of the Court of Appeal (1998 – 2005)
A Fellow, Chaterred Institute of Arbitrators, Hon. Justice W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen has attended several conferences and seminars around the world. He is a member of the Body of Bencher and Life Bencher.
Hon. Justice W.S. Nkanu Onnoghen was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) since 2005.