Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Legbo Kutigi, is dead.
He died at 78, in a London hospital, yesterday, after a brief illness. His eldest son, Sani, confirmed his father’s death, in Minna.
“We are making arrangements to transport our father back for burial,” he said.
Kutigi was born on December 31, 1939 and left behind 18 children and over 40 grandchildren.
Late Kutigi was the chief justice of Nigeria from January 30, 2007 until December 30, 2009.
He served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State until 1976, when he was appointed an High Court judge. He served in that position for more than a decade and later, joined the Supreme Court, in 1992.
After 10 years at the Supreme Court, based on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, former President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him to the position of chief justice to succeed Justice Salihu Alfa Belgore, who retired on January 17, 2007.
Meanwhile, in his condolence message, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that Kutigi’s visionary roles and contributions helped towards building a strong, independent and impartial judiciary, “which is sine qua non for democracy to thrive.”
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement, yesterday, said Buhari also commiserated with the Judiciary, the government and people of Niger State, on the death of the eminent jurist.
Buhari further noted that throughout his career at the apex court, “the former CJN’s bold and articulate judicial decisions, advocacies on access to justice for all, and protection of judicial independence, were extant signposts for the advancement of the noble profession in the country and beyond.”
The president urged “all who mourn the late jurist to honour his memory by working for a better and just society, in addition to upholding the virtues associated with him, during his lifetime of long and dedicated service to the nation.”
Similarly, Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, expressed sadness over Kutigi’s death and remembered how he came out of retirement to chair the Sovereign National Conference in 2014.
Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, described Kutigi as an “honourable jurist who spent his life in the service of his country and humanity.”
He stated that the late justice Kutigi would be remembered for his high sense of integrity, incisive judgements, reform-mindedness and immense contributions to national development.
“It saddens me that we have lost a vivacious, humane and tireless jurist who, even in retirement, was called upon by former President Goodluck Jonathan, to chair the Sovereign National Conference in 2014.
“We shall all miss him,” Saraki stated.
In his reaction, the 2019 presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, said Kutigi’s death has robbed the country and the judiciary of one of the best legal minds whose contribution to democracy cannot be easily forgotten.
In a statement by Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, the former vice president described the late jurist “as a great Justice who avoided controversy throughout his judicial career,” and that “his commitment to law and justice and democracy would be remembered for years to come after his death.”
The Waziri Adamawa prayed to Allah to bless and forgive his soul and wished “his family the strength to overcome this moment of great loss.”
Also, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani-Bello, described Kutigi’s death as shocking.
In a statement in Minna, by his Chief Press Secretary, Mallam Jibrin Ndache, the governor said the demise of the legal luminary was a great loss to the state in particular and the country in general.
He described the late Kutigi as “a uniquely endowed Nigerian, a man of integrity who had, indeed, paid his dues in the service of his country in particular and humanity in general.”
Former military president General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, also paid tribute to Kutigi when he described Kutigi’s death as shocking.
General Babangida, in a condolence letter to the Kutigi family and people of Niger state, said the death of the late chief justice of Nigeria was a great loss not only to the family but the entire country.
He recalled with nostalgia, the early tutelage he received under the late former chief judge at Government College Bida, in the late 1950s.
Babangida said Kutigi will be remembered for his professional discipline and straightforwardness.
“The late Justice was consistently upright and it was no surprise that he rose to become a very respected judicial officer and ultimately, to the highest judicial office in Nigeria.”
In a related development, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) affirmed that the late Kutigi upheld justice at all times.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said the late CJN also described Kutigi as an outstanding administrator and a fearless, impartial and firm judicial officer.
“As the chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Kutigi ensured the independence of the judiciary as an arm of government, and contributed in no little way in providing direction to our nation at very critical moments in our national development.
“Besides his incisive judgments, Nigerians will always remember justice Kutigi’s forthrightness as the chairman of the 2014 Constitutional Conference, which made far-reaching recommendations for the development and stability of our nation.”
The late Justice Kutigi schooled at Barewa College in Zaria, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and Gibson and Weldon, before he returned to attend the Nigerian Law School in Lagos.