President Muhammadu Buhari has finally accepted the retirement letter of suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
Onnoghen has been enmeshed in a false asset declaration scandal since January 2019, as upon resuming office as CJN, failed to declare a domiciliary US dollar account, a domiciliary euro account, a domiciliary (pound sterling) account, an e-saver savings (naira) account and a naira account, all maintained with Standard Chartered Bank (Nig.) Ltd in Abuja as part of the compulsory asset declaration form.
Onnoghen, 68, was due for retirement in 2020, but he turned in his resignation letter as CJN on April 4, 2019, to save himself from prosecution.
In a statement at the weekend, President Buhari said he had accepted the ‘voluntary retirement’ of Onnoghen and thanked him for his service to the country.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the voluntary retirement from service of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria, effective from May 28, 2019.
“The President thanked Justice Onnoghen for his service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and wished him the best of retirement life,” the statement said.
The NJC had recommended Onnoghen for compulsory retirement after deliberating on a petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alleging “financial impropriety, infidelity to the constitution and other economic and financial crimes related laws”.
His retirement benefits in cash and kind will cost taxpayers about N2.5 billion.
As part of the package for retired chief justice, a house will be built for him in Abuja with a nine-digit sum for furnishing — in addition to a severance gratuity that is 300% of his annual basic salary of N3,363,972.50, as well as pension for life. He is also entitled to a number of domestic staff and sundry allowances for personal upkeep.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has ordered the Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad to appoint five new justices for the Supreme Court.
He said, “Pursuant to the provisions of Section 230(2) A&B of the Constitution of the Fed Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended), I am pleased to request that you initiate in earnest the process of appointing additional five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to make the full complement of 21 Justices as provided by the aforementioned provisions of the Constitution.
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“This is in line with the government’s agenda of repositioning the judiciary in general and Supreme Court in particular for greater efficiency, with a view to reducing the backlogs of appeals pending at the Supreme Court.”