Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen has been sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Onnoghen took over from Justice Mahmud Mohammed who bowed out yesterday after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years. He will act until confirmed by the Senate, upon submission of his name by the president.
Speaking after his inauguration inside the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, Onnoghen assured President Buhari of “the fullest cooperation of the third arm of government in the continuation of the war against corruption and misconduct in the judiciary.”
He said while he intended to carry on from where his predecessors stopped, he would “modify certain areas” with the ultimate aim of having a better judiciary befitting the nation.
Onnoghen, who described his inauguration as overwhelming, thanked God for making it possible and the president for the confidence reposed in him, saying “by the grace of God, we shall succeed.”
Earlier, President Buhari told Justice Onnoghen that he was taking over at a trying time for the country, charging him to play in constitutional role as expected.
The president said he was honoured to bid the Justice Mohammed goodbye and to congratulate him for the time he spent “in the highly respected position.”
“I congratulate the new acting CJN to come at a time that the institution that he is going to head, to play his role of the constitutional body after the executive and the legislature at this trying time for our nation. Trying time in the sense of the three identifiable problems this country is facing: physical security, the problem of economy and corruption.
“In this room contains the constitutional bodies that are responsible for the bringing Nigeria back to life in terms of security and managing it efficiently while making sure that the economy is resuscitated and that security of doing business at all stages in the country is free and fair,” he stated.
The president wished the former CJN the best of luck in his retirement; and the acting CJN, “a successful tour of this vital constitutional body of our country.”
Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, CFR (Commander of the Federal Republic) was born on December 22, 1950 at Okurike, Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State.
He attended the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike, between 1959 and 1966.
He later proceeded to Accra, Ghana, where he attended Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, between 1967 and 1972 for his West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Exams.
He was at Accra Academy, Ghana between 1972 and 1974 for his WAEC (A-Levels) before proceeding to the University of Ghana, Legon, between 1974 and 1977 to obtain his Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B (Hons)) and graduated with 2nd Class Upper Division and was among the best graduating students.
Onnoghen attended the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos between 1977 and 1978 for his B.L certificate.
He completed his compulsory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) in July 1979.
His previous professional appointments/positions held include:
Pupil State Counsel, Lagos State, (1978 - 1979); Partner in the Law Firm of Effiom Ekong & Company, Calabar (1979 – 1988); Principal Partner/Head of Chambers of Walter Onnoghen & Associates, Calabar (1988 -1989); Chairman, Cross River State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal (1990 - 1993); Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Students of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar (1996); Chairman, Failed Banks Tribunal, Ibadan Zone (1998).
He was also High Court Judge, Cross River State Judiciary (1989 - 1998); Justice of the Court of Appeal (Nov 1998-June 2005) and was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) since 2005. He is also a justice of the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
A Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Fellow of the National Judicial Institute, Hon. Justice Onnoghen has attended several conferences and seminars within and outside Nigeria and presented scholarly papers.
He is a member of the Body of Benchers and Life Bencher; Chairman, Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and Vice-Chairman, Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee among others.
Justice Onnoghen, who is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, is married with children.