The Senate will today (Wednesday) screen the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, three weeks after acting President Yemi Osinbajo sent his name to the parliament for confirmation.
Onnoghen, who will be screened before the Committee of the Whole Senate, may also be confirmed today as the substantive CJN, almost four months after the former CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, bowed out of service having attained the mandatory retirement age of 70.
His screening and possible confirmation will lay to rest the tension which arose from the failure of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to send Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation ahead of the retirement of the immediate past CJN last year.
Weeks before Justice Mohammed’s retirement, Justice Onnoghen was recommended to Buhari for appointment as CJN by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Following the recommendation, Buhari was in accordance with the constitution, expected to send Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation.
But the president did not, raising speculations that he was not favourably disposed towards his emergence as the CJN.
The perception was further fuelled by the president’s decision to swear him in as acting CJN on November 10, 2016.
However, in view of constitutional provisions that the acting CJN can only serve in this capacity for three months, concern was raised early last month that Justice Onnoghen’s tenure may be short lived.
However, in the heat of the controversy, Osinbajo, on the instructions of Buhari, sent Justice Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive CJN.
It is expected that the Senate will expeditiously screen and confirm Justice Onnoghen today as the substantive CJN.
The Senate will also today take a motion focusing on the alleged diversion of N5.1 trillion subsidy funds by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Raising a point of order during yesterday’s plenary, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), said every month, between five and 10 cargoes of refined products are imported into Nigeria while the equivalent of five cargoes are refined locally in the country.
He said whilst the federal government had been prosecuting only private sector oil marketers whom he said have been importing only 49 per cent of refined petroleum products since 2006, the NNPC which accounts for 51 per cent of the refined products imported into the country, is not being investigated for false subsidy scams.
According to him, whereas subsidy proceeds accruable to marketers amounted to only about N3.83 trillion, NNPC collected N5.1 trillion on subsidy, lamenting that “this has never been investigated; this has never been looked at and we are busy chasing independent marketers”.
After presenting his point of order, the Senate resolved to formally adopt a motion on the matter today and consequently refer it to a committee for investigation.