Justice Walter Onnoghen, who was confirmed as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, by the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday, has acknowledged that there is corruption in the Judiciary, adding that he will do his best to reverse the trend.
Onnoghen was speaking during his confirmation hearing at the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.
Asked by the Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan, about how he intends to fast-track corruption cases in Nigerian courts as well as address the issue of corruption in the judiciary, Onnoghen answered: “We all agree there is corruption in the Judiciary.”
“We are working to stem this and encourage transparency in our dealings.
“The Judiciary is not the last hope of the common man, but the last hope of every man,” he said.
The acting CJN also pledged to maintain the independence of the judiciary if he is confirmed.
“You don’t need to see a judge before you get justice,” he said. “Independence will be reinforced. I won’t compromise on that.”
The lawmakers raised various issues of concern which they urged Onnoghen to work around if eventually he is confirmed as substantive CJN.
Among them is the seeming lack of confidence by the public in the lower courts, which results in every little case ending up at the Supreme Court.
The lawmakers also wanted to ascertain whether the CJN would be able to stand his ground “on issues relating to reckless decisions from the Executive” arm of government.
Onnoghen was also urged to modernize the country’s judicial system, as one of the lawmakers puts it, “in the UK, you hardly see lawyers or judges carry pen, jotting everything.
”According to Olusola Adeyeye, an Osun State senator, modernization would go a long way in reducing the workload of both the bar and the bench.
After the screening exercise, the Senate Onnoghen was confirmed via a voice vote.
Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade and the Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Senate matters, Ita Enang, were present at the confirmation hearing.
Justice Onnoghen was recommended for nomination by the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, which forwarded his name to the National Judicial Council, NJC for onward recommendation to President Buhari.
He was then appointed CJN in acting capacity by the President before Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, on February 8, forwarded his name to the Senate to be confirmed substantive CJN.
Onnoghen graduated from the University of Ghana and had worked as a private practitioner before joining the Cross River State civil service from where he rose to becoming first a High Court Judge, then proceeded to the Appeal Court and later in 2005, was appointed a Supreme Court Judge.