Onnoghen was sworn in as acting CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari November 10, 2016 following the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC). He took yesterday’s oath on substantive basis following his confirmation by the Senate.
By virtue of the position, Onnoghen automatically gets the second highest national award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). Osinbajo decorated him with the badge and the sash for the award, yesterday.
Osinbajo, said: “From this day March 7th, 2017, Justice Onnoghen becomes the custodian and protector of the highest duties that society owes its people, fairness, Justice and truth. The responsibility is an awesome one.
“It is the closest that man serves as the Almighty God having powers of lives, livelihoods and futures, having power to give and indeed to take away power, and authority to supervise all men and women to whom our law and constitution given the position of judgeship.
“Since we do not force men and women to be judges, they voluntarily take on the position of high priests in the temple of Justice. They will of course be held to a much higher standard, a much higher moral and ethical standard than the rest of us.
They must not only be seen to be just they must be just indeed. The mere perception of judicial malfeasance poisons the waters of Justice let alone the reality. While delays in the administration of justice often defeats the ends of Justice.” he said
Saying that Onnoghen assumed the position at a crucial time in the history of Nigeria, when all arms of government had suffered a loss confidence, he added: “I pray that your tenure will revive and sustain that confidence.” he added
He added that President Muhammadu Buhari through a telephone call on Monday extended his congratulations to Onnoghen. Onnoghen urged all arms of government to adhere to the rule of law.
He said: “On my part as the head of the judiciary, I assure you that from the past experience, the key to everything in a democratic setting is adherence to the rule of law. There lies the solution to our problems.
“Let us try to encourage the independence of the judiciary so as to ensure the rule of law. If everyone realises that they are subject to the rule of law and that there are certain things that are tackled according to the rule of law and behave accordingly, it will benefit all of us.” he added
He thanked President Buhari, the Senate and Nigerians for the appointment and pledged his loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the ceremony, Onnoghen said.
“I have already initiated measures, I have my reform agenda, and that is my blueprint.”
Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade, described Onnoghen’s appointment as putting a round peg in a round hole. In a statement by his spokesman Christian Ita, Ayade said: “We the people of Cross River State rejoice with you on your appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
For us, this is another well-deserved honour and recognition of your deep intellect, integrity and experience. There is no doubt that you will bring your expertise and ingenuity to bear on the administration of the justice system in Nigeria.
“Given your antecedent, Nigerians can be rest assured that the much needed reforms in the judiciary will take place during your time as CJN, even as you strive to uphold its independence.”
While lauding President Mohammadu Buhari for considering yet another Cross Riverian for an appointment to such an exalted position as CJN, Ayade said: “I want to thank President Mohammadu Buhari for finding our son, Justice Walter Onnoghen worthy of the exalted office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Once again, His Excellency has demonstrated that he is indeed a President for all.”