IMMEDIATE past Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed yesterday in Abuja revealed how the judiciary under his leadership prevented a repeat of the June 12, 1993, election annulment that would have thrown the nation into a huge chaos and aborted her democracy. Mohammed, who formally bowed out of the bench, revealed that courts, especially the Supreme Court, had shortly before the 2015 general elections been thrown under heavy pressure and external influence by some people to subvert the wish of the populace. To get the general wish of Nigerians subverted, he said that various frivolous motions and court actions were instituted to achieve parochial aims but the moves were resisted vehemently in the face of intimidations. At a valedictory session held in his honour and attended by five former CJN, Justice Mohammed said that Nigeria owed the judiciary a debt of gratitude for standing firm on the contrary winds that threatened to blow the nation’s democracy off course during the last general elections. Specifically, he said that during the run up to the 2015 elections judicial officers in the country withstood immense pressure that would have truncated the nation’s democracy, but it was resisted in order to guarantee a level playing field for all contestants and smooth transition of government. The action of the judiciary in withstanding external pressure at that, he said, spared the country a reenactment of the June 12 1993 political saga which led to the annulment of the then presidential election. “In fact, the Supreme Court during the 2015 general election disallowed so many frivolous cases that were aimed at truncating the electoral process. The retired CJN appealed to Nigerian politicians to learn how to play to the rule of the game rather than subjecting the judiciary to unnecessary intimidation and pressure to do unlawful bidding through baseless and frivolous cases. Justice Mohammed said that the independence of the Nigerian judiciary must be jealously guarded in the interest of the country, warning that the independence of the judiciary must not be compromised for whatever reasons if the Nigerian society was to function effectively and peacefully. The former CJN said that the judiciary had proven to be an institution that must be protected, sustained and carefully handled than any other as he warned that where the rule of law was absent and due process disregarded, the sentinel of civilisation would be missing and that would not be in the best interest of the country. He reminded judges that competence in the performance of their duties requid legal knowledge, skills, thoroughness and preparation, and asked them to continue to improve on their performance. Mohammed also asked the judges and other judicial officers to be impartial in the delivery of justice, adding that impartiality was the fundamental quality required of a judge and core currency of repute that engenders respect for the judiciary. “Though various dynamics and court room antics may abound, but you as judges must remain as the resolute of justice. When you do that, the judiciary will burn as a beacon of hope for the common man,” he said. Justice Mohammed recalled that he initiated several reforms during his tenure as CJN and pleaded with his successor to maintain the reforms so as to make Nigeria a better nation. Also speaking at the ceremony, the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria represented by Chief Thompson Okpoko blamed the current travails in the judiciary on its ineptitude to curb the misconduct in the profession at the early stage. He said, “We in the profession both the bar and the bench have kept a blind eye to our problems for far too long, we have looked on the other side when improprieties and disgraceful conducts were manifesting themselves right in front of us, we have been soft in matter that required stern handling. “We have allowed rule to be twisted or bent because it will adversely affect our people. “We have sacrificed merit on the altar of geographical spread when we know that, no matter how much we spread we cannot cover everyone and everywhere. That kind of attitude must now give way to positive thinking as to what will be the best for our judiciary system and the profession.” He charged the incoming CJN to face the challenges headlong so that the judiciary would regain its last glory and confidence. Also speaking at the event, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, said that collaboration was the way forward for the judiciary to maintain its integrity and impartiality as the last hope of the common man, as he charged the new leadership to ensure steady progress of the arm. Buhari swears in acting CJN President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday inaugurated Justice Walter Onnoghen as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria. This follows the retirement of Justice Mahmud Mohammed at the attainment of the mandatory 70 years retirement age. Onnoghen is expected to act until the name of substantive CJN is forwarded to the Senate for confirmation. The brief inauguration ceremony witnessed by top government officials took place inside the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa. A highly placed judiciary source yesterday told Nigerian Pilot that there was no negative implication in appointing Justice Onnoghen in acting capacity as CJN. According to the source, President Buhari is trying to follow due process and procedure before Justice Onnoghen will be confirmed as the substantive CJN. He said that Justice Onnoghen would be confirmed as CJN in the next three weeks, as he may not complete the three months acting capacity. Onnoghen was born on December 22, 1950, at Okurike town, Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State. After obtaining a law degree from the University of Legon, Ghana, he started his career as pupil state counsel at the ministry of justice, Lagos, in 1978. He practised law for several years before he joined the bench. He became a high court judge in Cross River state in 1989, and later chairman, Cross River State Armed Robbery and Fire Arms Tribunal from 1990 to 1993. He was a judge in the high court of Rivers state from 1992 to 2004, and justice of the court of appeal from 1998 to 2005 – when he was elevated to the Supreme Court. He takes over from Mahmud Mohammed.