Justice Muhammad also said that the president did required any approval from the National Judicial Council, before electing acting Chief Justice of the country.
Justice Muhammad said these, in respond to a summon granted to him by the National Judicial Council (NJC), however, he can only consult CJN when he is appointing new Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) or retaining CJN when his tenure has expired.
According to him, “In my respectful view, the National Judicial Council has no role to play in the appointment of an acting Chief Justice of Nigeria in the first instance, that is to say on first appointment.
“The council comes in where the appointment as the acting CJN is to be renewed or extended. I humbly refer to Section 231(4) of the 1999 Constitution.
“It was for the larger interest of the judiciary and the constitutionality that I accepted to be sworn in as acting CJN with the conviction that if the order of January 23, 2019 is eventually set aside, the status quo would be restored.
“But before it is set aside, there should be no vacuum in the office of the CJN and the chairman of the NJC.
“On January 25, 2019, I was summoned to the Aso Villa at the instance of the President. Prior to the summons, I was not aware of the fact that the Code of Conduct Tribunal made any order on January 23, 2019.
“Furthermore, beyond what I read in the newspapers and watched on the television just like any other Nigerian, I was not privileged to see any of the processes filed by the parties before the tribunal. Hence, I could not really appreciate the merit or demerit of divergent positions.
“On the 25th day of January, the President swore me in as the acting CJN and not as the substantive CJN. Justice Walter Onnoghen remains the CJN until he is removed from office in accordance with the provision of the constitution. He is only suspended.”
Justice Muhammad said he was part of the NJC panel that removed Justice Obisike Orji of the Abia State High Court for accepting to be sworn in as chief judge by the Abia State Government without a recommendation from NJC but say that his own case was different because he was only appointed as an acting CJN.
He them plead with the NJC to put aside the petition written against him by a group, Centre for Justice and Peace Initiative, (CJPI).
CJPI had written a petition to the NJC, request the council to remove Justice Muhammad as a justice of the Apex Court.
The group said that Muhammad get it wrong by allowing himself to be sworn in by President Muhammad Buhari without approval from the NJC.