Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen who hails from Okurike Town, Biase Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State, was born on December 22, 1950. He had his primary school education at the Presbyterian Primary School, Okurike Town between 1959 and 1965. From there, he proceeded to Accra in Ghana from where he obtained his West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate from  Odorgorno Secondary School, Adabraka, Accra, Ghana between 1967 and 1972, he had his WAEC (A-Levels) at Accra Academy, Accra Ghana between 1972 and 1974.

Justice Onnoghen then proceeded to University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana between 1974 and 1977 to obtain his Bachelor of Law Degree (LL.B (Hons)) and graduated with 2nd Class Upper Division. After obtaining his first degree, he came back to his country home, Nigeria, enrolled in the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos between 1977 and 1978 for his B.L certificate.

Before his appointment as the Chief Justice of the Federation, he worked with the Ministry of Justice, Ikeja, Lagos, Ogun State between 1978-1979, as the Pupil State Counsel. When he left Ministry of Justice, he went to partner in the Law firm of Effiom Ekong & Company, Calabar between 1979 – 1988. He later became the Principal Partner/Head of Chamber of Walter Onnoghen & Associates, Calabar from the period of 1988 – 1989.

For 9 years, between 1989 – 1998, he reigned as a High Court Judge of Cross Rivers State Judiciary. During his reign as the High Court Judge of Cross Rivers State Judiciary he was made the Chairman of Cross Rivers State Armed Robbery and Firm Arms Tribunal and he held the post for 3 years between 1990 – 1993. Sometime in 1996 while still holding the post of High Court Judge of Cross Rivers State Judiciary, he was appointed the Chairman, Judicial Enquiry into the Crisis between Students of the University of Calabar and Obufa Esuk Orok Community, Calabar. In 1998, he was the Chairman, Failed Bank Tribunal, Ibadan Zone. Between the period of 1992 to 2004, he served as the Judge, High Court of Rivers State while from 1998 to 2005 he served as the Justice of the Court of Appeal.

In February 2016, Justice Onnoghen led a seven-man panel of Justices of the apex court who reviewed and upheld the death sentence of Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (aka Rev. King) of the Christain Praying Assembly. In 2007, Justice Onnoghen played a huge rile in 2007 election which saw the Late Umaru Yar’adua  as President of the federal republic of Nigeria. He had a dissenting judgment that indeed annulled the presidential election. His position was however a minority judgment.

Following the retirement of Justice Mahmud Mohammed, the 66 year-old Justice Onnoghen has been the acting CJN since November 10, 2016. The acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo had earlier sent his name to the Senate for confirmation.  Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen thus became the first southerner to become CJN in 30 years when the Senate on the 1st of March confirmed him the new Chief Justice of the Federation after scaling through the screening process.


Posted by Juliet Ekwebelam

You might also like