By G9ija

The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Mohammed, has opted to stay away from the sitting of the National Judicial Council which held Monday, to debate issues around the suspension of his predecessor Walter Onnoghen.

Mohammed was appointed in controversial circumstances by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday.

The NJC is statutorily chaired by chief justice of the federation, who is deputised by the next in the line of succession.

Prior to Onnoghen’s suspension, he chaired the NJC meetings and was deputised by Mohammed.

Onnoghen is standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on allegations of false asset declaration and concealment.

The NJC meeting is billed to discuss Mohammed’s appointment and take position on Onnoghen’s suspension.

The meeting is billed to start at noon today.

Sources told newsmen that Mohammed has opted to stay away from the proceedings to allow for dispassionate proceedings.

The acting Chief Justice is currently presiding cases at the Supreme Court.

It was earlier reported that lawyers in Abuja have reported to the courts in spite of a boycott order by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

With Messrs Onnoghen and Mohammed out of the picture, insiders said the meeting would have to resolve the first issue of who chairs the important session.

Two names are being thrown up: a former president of the Court of Appeal, Umaru Abdullahi, and Zainab Bulkachuwa.
While Abdullahi is the oldest member of the council, Mrs Bulkachuwa is being touted to lead the meeting being the head of the next highest court of the country, the Court of Appeal.

However, a source at the NJC said the most senior justice of the supreme after Mohammed, Bode Rhodes-Vivour, is being tapped to head the meeting.

“The meeting is always headed by the most senior judge, now that the CJN is suspended and the acting CJN is interested party, the next person, who should naturally be Tanko’s deputy will be the one to preside over the meeting,” a member of the NJC who pleaded anonymity for not being in a position to comment on the matter publicly said.

The meeting is expected to discuss allegations against Onnoghen which led to his CCT trial, and eventual suspension.

At least three petitions are also said to be tabled before the NJC, with two against Onnoghen and one against Mohammed.