24 October, 2018.
1. The passage of Honourable Mr. Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, GCON, retired Chief Justice of Nigeria on 21 October, 2018 has robbed Nigeria of one of its icons. This is a loss not just to the Nigerian judiciary or even the legal profession but a loss to Nigeria, as a nation, and it comes at a crucial time when strong and respected voices need to be heard in defense of our national ethos such as the rule of law, democracy, Nigerian unity and oneness as a nation, respect for the fundamental rights of our people and much more.
2. The life and times of Kutigi CJN cannot be compartmentalized into the strait-jacket of justice administration or even the legal profession; His Lordship’s national assignments and impact on the Nigerian nation extended beyond the profession of law. Most will readily recall His Lordship’s tenure as the Chairman of Nigeria’s National Conference in 2014 – our unending attempt at mapping a harmonious course towards Nigerian nationhood. We must however proudly state that the legal profession was the platform on which His Lordship stood at all times and which showcased His Lordship’s talents and attributes and recommended him for other national assignments and services. It was on that podium of the legal profession that His Lordship was most comfortable with and indeed spent most of his adult life serving and defending the rule of law and justice.
3. Beyond His Lordship’s well-known judicial career, His Lordship served in other capacities as a lawyer. Most may not know that His Lordship served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State prior to his appointment as a High Court Judge in 1976. It was from the Niger State Judiciary that His Lordship was elevated to the Court of Appeal where he served until his appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court in 1992. He was subsequently appointed the Chief Justice of Nigeria in 2007 and retired from the Supreme Court Bench on 30 December, 2009.
4. His Lordship’s judicial pronouncements which are immortal and have been preserved for generations unborn in our Law Reports speak volumes of the late jurist’s profound intellectual fecundity, sense of justice, erudition, hard work and fearlessness. These qualities obviously recommended His Lordship for appointment as the Chairman of Nigeria’s National Conference in 2014. Reports of that Conference not only showcased His Lordship’s willingness to answer Nigeria’s call to service at any and all times but also epitomized his consistent and stout belief in the oneness of Nigeria and indeed his keen sense of impartiality and fairness. Virtually all the participants in that Conference came out with positive testimonies about His Lordship.
5. As His Lordship’s body gets interred in Abuja today, Wednesday, 24 October 2018, the Nigerian Bar Association deeply mourns his passage and condoles His Lordship’s immediate and extended family as well as Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Onnoghen, GCON, Chief Justice of Nigeria, the entire Nigerian Judiciary, the people of Niger State and indeed Nigerians as a whole. May Almighty Allah forgive His Lordship’s shortcomings and admit him into Aljanah Firdaus. Amin.
Paul Usoro, SAN, FCIArb
President Nigerian Bar Association