Godwin Tsa and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
A retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, is dead. He was 76. Katsina-Alu was CJN between 2009 and 2011.
He reportedly died at an Orthopaedic Hospital in Abuja; in the early hours of yesterday.
The late CJN who hailed from Ushongo local government area of Benue State, died a month to his 77th birthday.
He succeeded Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi as CJN in December 2009 and was succeeded in 2011 by the late Justice Dahiru Musdapher.
Although a family member refused to confirm his demise to Daily Sun, his death was confirmed by the sitting CJN, Walter Onnoghen, who is attending a conference with other justices of the Supreme Court and Chief Judges of some states in Montreal, Canada.
“I can confirm the death of the former CJN. I have just called the Chief Registrar, Hadizatu Mustapha, to confirm that this is, indeed, the situation. The Personal Assistant of the former CJN called her at 3.00pm to inform her of the demise.
Born on August 28, 1941, the late jurist was sworn in as CJN on December 30, 2009 by his predecessor, Justice Idris Kutigi. This was because then President Umaru Yar’Adua was unavailable to carry out that task on account of ill health.
This created controversy since the oath of office was not administered by the president; as was the tradition.
The late CJN was called to the English Bar in October 1967 and the Nigerian Bar on June 28, 1968. He also worked as a Legal Officer as the Nigerian Ports Authority, Lagos, between 1969 and 1977.
Barely a year he left NPA, Katsina-Alu became the Attorney-General of Benue State in 1978, a position he held until 1979 when he was appointed a judge of the Benue State High Court. From the High Court in Benue, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1985, where he served until November 1998, when he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court.
Katsina-Alu became the CJN in 2009 after he had spent 11 years on the Supreme Court Bench. A father to many children and grandchildren, fate played foul on him last May, when his wife of many years, Lady Mimidoo Katsina-Alu, was killed after a tree fell on her in their country-home in Ushongo, Benue, during a wind storm.
From Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari has condoled with Katsina-Alu’s family and friends.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari noted that the former CJN contributed immensely to the structuring of Nigeria’s jurisprudence.
The president affirmed that Katsina-Alu’s knowledge, experience and diligence impacted greatly on governance in Nigeria as he featured prominently in landmark cases.
He expressed belief that “the late CJN left behind a legacy of discipline, brilliance and diligence that younger jurists should emulate.”
Meanwhile, former Anambra governor, Peter Obi, in his tribute, described the late Katsina-Alu as a jurist who served his country faithfully.
He said just as retired workers everywhere, noted for their advice issuing forth from rich experiential background, “the country, especially the judiciary will miss Katsina-Alu’s fatherly advice dearly.”
Obi urged the judiciary to keep his legacies afloat by sustaining some of the reforms started during his time.
In addition, a constitutional lawyer and close associate of the late CJN, Sabastine Hon (SAN) described him as a quintessential judge who left indelible marks in the nation’s legal jurisprudence.
Hon said: “The sudden demise our eminent jurist and former CJN has sent deep shock into all of us who know his enormous contributions to justice administration in Nigeria.
“Trained in the British legal tradition of brevity, laced with deepness, his lordship’ s judgments on the Bench were brief, incisive and straight to the point, thereby rendering justice without much stress. He played a major role in the ‘resource control’ suits, the Atiku survivalist litigations, the Rotimi Amaechi ‘k-leg’ survivalist litigation that enamoured the National Assembly to reshape the Electoral Act, 2010; and, in several other public-interest suits.
“I can also say without blinking an eye that his brief stay as the CJN saw to the peaking of welfare packages for staff of the Judiciary, especially his colleagues on the Supreme Court Bench. Above all, he was God-fearing and one who opened his doors to the poor and needy.”