The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday at plenary approved the appointment of Mahmud Mohammed as the new Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to replace Justice Aloma Mukhtar, whose tenure expires on Thursday, following her attainment of the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
The confirmation was sequel to a letter by President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday last week, asking the Senate to confirm Mohammed as the new CJN so that there would not be any lacuna in the judiciary at the retirement of Mukhtar.
Jonathan had, in the letter addressed to the Senate President, David Mark, said Mohammed’s appointment was in compliance with Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which he noted gave him the power to appoint the CJN, acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“It is my hope that this request will receive the usual expeditious attention of the Distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Jonathan said.
Mohammed, while responding to a question from one of the senators on why the appointment of CJN was always based on seniority of the judges, clarified that the practice was not a constitutional provision but a tradition of the legal profession, which Nigerian Presidents embraced over the years in appointing the CJN.
He stated that the President could appoint a legal practitioner of any age or experience to assume the office of the CJN without any constitutional hiccups. He, however, cautioned that any sudden interference with the tradition of seniority, which was inherited and practiced over the years, might bring discontent in the judiciary.