President Muhammadu Buhari will have to make a decision on who of the justices of the Supreme Court would be named as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.

It is not clear at the moment who among the nation’s justices, would be picked by the President when the time comes.

But there is a general consensus that the next in terms of seniority will be sworn in at least as the acting Chief Justice.

The incumbent, Justice Tanko Muhammad voluntarily threw in the towel on Sunday, thus paving the way for the appointment of a successor.

By tradition, the recommendation of a new CJN is usually done by the National Judicial Council, NJC, which until he stepped aside was chaired by Justice Muhammad.

The last CJN accused by his colleagues of gallivanting with his spouses and some of his staff is believed to have resigned on health grounds.

Justice Tanko Muhammad, Channels Television reported, did not attend the opening of the training for Judges on Alternative Dispute Resolution organized by the National Judicial Institute.

Training of Judges by the Institute is usually declared open by the CJN or any of his representatives.

However, it was the Administrator of the Institute, Justice Garba who declared the session open.

Can of Worms

Recall that 14 justices of the Apex Court had in a letter expressed serious reservations over the manner matters pertaining to the administration of justice were being handled.

Somehow, that letter addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria found its way into the public domain.

Given the run of events at the Supreme Court, it was perhaps proof of the level of incompetence introduced at the apex court, and clear evidence of the fact that the confidence enjoyed by the CJN among his colleagues on the Bench was fast eroding.

Mohammad replaced Justice Walter  Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria due to a controversy which blew into the open.

Onnoghen was accused of all manner of things, including acts of corruption, and forced despite what some senior lawyers described as questionable processes to appear before a Code of Conduct Tribunal.

The development led to the decision of the Chief Justice as he then was to quit the headship of the apex court.

Will tradition be followed in choosing the next CJN? 

Nigerians are waiting to see what will happen now that a vacancy has been created at the highest judicial level.

The Vanguard has reported that barring any last minute change, the National Judicial Council (NJC) would recommend Justice Kayode Ariwoola to President Muhammadu Buhari as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Justice Kayode Ariwoola.. Incoming Ag. Chief Justice of Nigeria

Justice Ariwoola is undisputably the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court after the incumbent who has decided to go home.

Quoting dependable sources, the Vanguard further reported that in line, with age-long tradition, “where an incumbent head of court vacates office either by reason of death, retirement, resignation or sack, the next most senior judicial officer in the court takes over.”

This is the background as Nigerians prepare for the arrival of another Chief Justice, the second in quick succession, within the Buhari era.

Justice Tanko was born in December 1953.

If not for his resignation, the learned judge was expected to take a bow at  70, meaning he would have stayed on board to steer the ship of the apex court until December 2023.

If Muhammad had stayed on, he was also expected to be the judicial officer who would have sworn in the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2023.

Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who may likely succeed him if nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari and confirmed by the Senate, was born on 22 August 1958.