President Muhammadu Buhari with the consent of the National Judicial Council (NJC)has extended the appointment of Tanko Muhammad as the acting chief justice of Nigeria by another three months.
Mr Buhari sent the recommendation to the NJC and the supervisory body approved the appointment on Thursday, a spokesperson for the NJC, Soji Oye, said in a statement on Saturday.
Mr Muhammad was first appointed in January after the president controversially suspended Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen who was accused of false declaration of asset.
Mr Onnoghen was convicted on Thursday by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and was barred from holding public office for 10 years. He has denied all allegations against him, and has appealed the ruling.
The president’s suspension of Mr Onnoghen sparked uproar as the move was deemed unconstitutional.
Also, coming just weeks before the February presidential election, it raised suspicions, with the opposition accusing Mr Buhari of moving to appoint a stooge who would ensure judicial support after the polls would have been rigged.
Mr Onnoghen notified two weeks ago he was stepping down, but the Presidency has yet to announce whether his exit had been approved by the president.
In what appeared to be the first pointer to the Presidency’s decision, a statement by presidential aide Garba Shehu on Thursday, following Mr Onnoghen’s conviction, referred to him as “former” CJN.
The statement released on Saturday by the NJC denied an unnamed media report that the council would meet next week to deliberate on the extension of Mr Muhammad’s term as the acting chief justice of Nigeria.
It said the approval had already been given.
“Contrary to the above, the Council actually met on Thursday 18th April, 2019 and at the 88th Meeting considered and approved the request of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for the extension of the Appointment of Hon. Dr. Justice I. T. Muhammad, CFR, as the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria for another three (3) months and Council has since forwarded its approval to the President.
It was not immediately clear when the president sent the request.