Walter Onnoghen has resigned as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) with immediate effect, a media report said.
The report said Onnoghen turned in his resignation letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday evening, a day after the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended his compulsory retirement for misconduct.
By virtue of Section 306 of the 1999 constitution, his resignation takes immediate effect.
Section 306 says “(1) Save as otherwise provided in this section, any person who is appointed, elected or otherwise selected to any office established by this Constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the authority or person by whom he was appointed, elected or selected. (2) The resignation of any person from any office established by this Constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.”
The resignation, TheCable understands, was the “best possible option” for Onnoghen under the current circumstance.
It will also save Buhari from having to get two-thirds majority of the senate to confirm Onnoghen’s retirement as stipulated in Section 292 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that a “judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances – (a) in the case of – (i) Chief Justice of Nigeria… by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate”.
Onnoghen chose the option of resignation as a measure of damage control, his associates were quoted as saying.
His retirement benefits in cash and kind will cost tax payers about N2.5 billion.
As part of the package for a 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.
However, if he is dismissed, he will not be entitled to any benefits.
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”.
But for the crisis, Onnoghen, 68, was due for retirement in 2020.