5 Things you should know about Nigeria's new CJN

Nigeria has a new Chief Justice. Here are quick facts you probably didn't know about Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Onnoghen has been serving in an acting capacity since November 10, 2016; following the retirement of Justice Mahmud Mohammed.

Here are five things you should know about the new leader of the nation's judicial arm of government:

1. Onnoghen is 66-years-old.

He was born on December 22, 1950.

2. The new CJN hails from Biase local government area of Cross River State.

He is the first southerner to become CJN in 30 years.

The last Justice from Nigeria's south to hold the position was Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe.

Irikefe was CJN between 1985–1987.

3. Justice Onnoghen can be a radical when he wants to.

He is also not shy of going against the grain.

In 2007, Onnoghen was one of the Justices of the Supreme Court who 'annulled' the election which saw Umaru Yar'adua become President of the federal republic of Nigeria.

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Recall that in his inaugural address, Yar'adua admitted that the election which saw him into office was flawed.

Majority of the Judges on the bench of the apex court ruled that the irregularities that occurred during the vote weren't enough to nullify Yar'adua's election.

Onnoghen disagreed.

With him were Justices Alomah Muktah and George Oguntade.

"There are non-compliances that go straight to the fundamentals of an election", Onnoghen wrote in his verdict.

"In my view, two things are crucial and fundamental to the holding of an election. These are voters register and ballot papers. It is common knowledge that the two are the targets of the election rigger,  if not properly handled.

"By holding that there was substantial non-compliance with section 45 (2) supra is tantamount to holding that the election that was conducted on the 21st day of April, 2007 was done without valid ballot papers which to me, with the greatest respect, amounts to a nullity".

History would record that Onnoghen and his dissenters may have been outnumbered, but that he stood on the right path no less.

4. Justice Onnoghen attended the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike, Biase, from 1959 to 1965.

However, it was in Ghana where Onnoghen acquired his Secondary (1967-1972) and University (1974-1977) education.

Onnoghen studied law at the University of Ghana, Legon.

Nigeria's new CJN returned for the Nigerian Law School between 1977 and 1978.

5. Onnoghen upheld the death sentence meted on Rev King (aka Chukwuemeka Ezeugo).

Onnoghen was head of the panel of Supreme Court Justices who reviewed Rev King's case.

King was sentenced to death by the high court for murdering a church member in 2006.

The appeal court upheld the judgment of the lower court.

However, the Supreme Court would have the final say on the matter.

Parts of the Supreme Court panel's submission which Onnoghen headed, read: "The facts of the case could have been lifted from a horror film. This appeal has no merit. The judgement of the court of appeal is hereby affirmed".

During his confirmation hearing on the floor of the senate on March 1, 2017, Onnoghen promised to uphold the independence of the judiciary.

"Pocketing the judiciary will not be possible....the moment you pocket the judiciary, that will be the end of the judiciary," Onnoghen said.

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He also noted that as long as there's corruption in the larger Nigerian society, there will be corruption in the judiciary.

“There is corruption in the society and judiciary is part of the society", Onnoghen said.

He however said the judiciary still boasts “strong-willed, determined judicial officers with unquestionable integrity who have put their best to service.

“I believe you don’t have to see a Judge before you get Justice.”

Onnoghen is Nigeria's 20th Chief Justice.

He is however the 15th Chief Justice of Nigerian descent since independence.

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