The renowned jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius lyorgyer Katsina-Alu, has passed on. The eminent Nigerian died on Wednesday at the Orthopedic Hospital, Abuja at the age of 76. In his death, Nigeria has, no doubt, lost a very brilliant and diligent jurist.
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The deceased knew the law very well and featured in many landmark cases. His scholarly judgments have enriched the nation’s jurisprudence. As a judge, he was sober. The late jurist was born on August 28, 1941 in Ushongo, Benue State. Katsina-Alu enrolled in the army but later changed his mind and switched to a career in law.
He read law at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He also attended the Inns of Court School of Law, Gibson and Weldon College of Law, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The deceased was called to the English and Nigerian Bars in 1967 and 1968 respectively.
He was appointed a judge of the Benue State high Court in 1979 and was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1985. In November 1998, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was sworn-in as the CJN on December 30, 2009.
He remained there till August 28, 2011. The deceased was the first CJN to be sworn-in by his predecessor, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, due to the illness of the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Many Nigerians have mourned his death. In his tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari said that “Justice Katsina-Alu’s knowledge, experience and diligence impacted greatly on governance in Nigeria as he featured in many landmark cases.” According to Buhari, “the late Chief Justice left behind a legacy of discipline, brilliance and diligence that younger jurists should emulate.”
Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, described the deceased as a sound legal mind who left indelible contributions to the nation’s jurisprudence. To the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, the late jurist was a patriotic and diligent public servant, whose many well-considered judgments enriched the nation’s jurisprudence and contributed immensely to national development.
Also, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, said that Katsina-Alu’s death had thrown the state into sadness and mourning. He described the late jurist as a peace-loving man, patriot and father, who built bridges for many others to cross. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has also mourned him and said: “As a jurist, his contributions to the development of the Nigerian legal system cannot be quantified.”
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According to the party, he delivered numerous landmark judgments, wrote many legal papers and mentored several young lawyers.” In his tribute to the late jurist, a prominent Nigerian lawyer, Afe Babalola, stated thus: “A professional to the core, the departed legal colossus was a fervent believer in the rule of law as against the rule of man. His acclaimed brilliance and the very professional ways he conducted himself both at the Bar, the Bench and even outside the Bar and Bench will remain indelible in our psyche. The Bar and the Bench will certainly miss him.”
There is no doubt that the late jurist had a distinguished career in the legal profession which made him to become the CJN. For his contributions to the nation, he was conferred with the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). We acknowledge his numerous contributions to the development of the nation’s legal system.
Although his tenure as the CJN was trailed by some scandals, especially his alleged meddlesomeness in an appeal in Sokoto governorship election case in which he clashed with the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, he was an upright judge. We join other Nigerians and his friends to mourn the demise of the great jurist. The government should immortalise him for his contributions to the nation.
We commiserate with his family, the legal profession, the judiciary, the government and people of Benue State and the Federal Government for the irreparable loss. We pray to God to grant the deceased eternal repose.