The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed will on Thursday bow out of the Bench of the Supreme Court after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
However, Mohammed will be stepping out without a successor, as President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to appoint a successor.
By virtue of Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it is the prerogative of the president to appoint a CJN.
Section 231 (1) explicitly provides that, “The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.”
The National Judicial Council (NJC) in October had recommended the most senior Supreme Court Justice, Walter Samuel Onnoghen, for consideration for appointment as CJN.
By precedent, the most senior justice has been appointed CJN, but the president is not bound to accept his nomination, he also can not bypass the council in making the appointment.
If for any reason the president does not want the first nominee he is expected to request for another suitable candidate for the office from the council.
Section 230 (4) of the Constitution is also instructive. It provides that, “If the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the president shall appoint the most senior justice of the Supreme Court to perform those functions.”