By Awa Kalu, SAN
IN mythology, the Titan is thought to be one of the 12 children of Heaven and Earth, ancient gods of Greece, probably of the pre- Hellenic population according to the New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, International Edition, In conventional usage, a Titan is someone or something of very great strength, size, intellect or importance, also named after the Titans in Greek mythology who belonged to a family of giants. I have no doubt that the late judge and jurist, Hon. Justice K. O. Anyah (Rtd), belonged to a family of giants, at least having regard to his pedigree and the company of legal and judicial brethren that he kept in his active years in the service of the law. I have referred to him as the last of the Titans because two of his contemporaries departed this sinful world a little earlier. His friends for a long time, Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa who retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court and The Hon. Chike Ofodile SAN, one-time Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, were definitely in that family of giants. Go a little further back in time, several other names come to mind- Hon. Justice Mbanefo, erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Phil-Ebosie, Hon. Justice Aseme are some of his contemporaries, now deceased.
Hon. Justice Kalu Okpan Anyah is aptly regarded by many as a ‘man of many firsts’. He is the first son of Ohafia and the third from the old Bende Division of Abia State (after the late Barrister E.K Uku of Arochukwu who was called to the Bar on September 14, 1949 and late Barrister Echeme Emole of Abiriba who was called on September 2nd 1952), to become a lawyer. Late Dr. Jaja Anucha Wachuku (who was called to the Bar on the 1st October 1947) was the first person of Abia State extraction to become a lawyer.
Called to the English Bar on February 11th 1954, and enrolled as Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on March 27th 1954, Hon. Justice Anyah shared illustrious company in his set. Notable and eminent dignitaries such as Chief Kehinde Sofola, SAN, and Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, (both deceased) were of his class. Upon his return from England, he had a short stint in private practice as a legal practitioner. He found immense satisfaction in legal practice and this took him through the Southern Cameroons before his preferment to the lower Bench as the first Magistrate from the present Abia State.
After his appointment to the Magistracy, Justice Anyah rose steadily through the ranks and became the first lawyer of Abia State extraction to be appointed a Chief Magistrate. A short while later, he was entrusted with the office of Chief Registrar of the High Court of Eastern Nigeria. On the 15th of March 1966, he was elevated as judge of the High Court of Eastern Nigeria (vide Eastern Nigeria Gazette 1966 No. 36 Vol. 15 page 376, Eastern Nigeria Notice No. 525; Bench and Bar in Nigeria by Gani Fawehinmi, page 78). Upon the creation of the defunct East Central State, he became a judge of the High Court of that state and was subsequently inherited by the High Court of Imo state when that state was created in 1976.
Retirement from judicial service
Happily, other Bende sons were to join him on the bench much later. To name but a few of these gentlemen: Abai Ogbonaya Ikwechegh was appointed a Judge of the High Court of East Central State on 3rd February, 1972 (vide Nigeria Official Gazette 1972 No. 6 Vol. 59 page 201, Government Notice No. 379; Bench and Bar in Nigeria by Gani Fawehinmi, pages 136, 137 and 89 respectively). Several distinguished judges of Abia extraction have also joined the roll of honour. A goldfish has no hiding place. Consequently, Hon. Justice Kalu Anyah was later translated to the Court of Appeal in 1977 as a Justice of that Court. His distinguished career saw him catapulted later to far away Borno State as its first indigenous Chief Judge, on secondment from the Court of Appeal Bench. He later retired from his position as Chief Judge in 1985.
His retirement from judicial service did not afford him any respite from public service. Consequently, he served as Chairman of the Governing Councils and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Benin, Benin City, Imo State University, Okigwe and Abia State University, Uturu. While in judicial service, he acted as Chairman of several Tribunals of Inquiry. The most notable was the Investigative Tribunal into the late Fela Ransome-Kuti’s Kalakuta Republic. As the reader would clearly recall, the report of that Panel generated so much controversy that has not altogether abated.
Hon. Justice K. O Anyah recalled the sittings of the Panel with nostalgia and believed that the controversy was generated by those who never read or studied the report. At any rate, he believed that the life of most great men is dogged by controversies. Perhaps it was this belief that entangled him with politicians during his tenure as the Chief Judge of Borno State. An attempt to remove him unjustly from office by the Governor, acting in collusion with the House of Assembly was vigorously challenged through the courts culminating in an appeal to the Court of Appeal, Kaduna. The full court in a landmark decision held that the Chief Judge of a State could be removed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, by the Governor of the state on the address supported by two-thirds of the House of Assembly in respect of proved inability to discharge the functions of his appointment and established and proved misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct before the law courts and the Code of Conduct Tribunal respectively (see The Hon. Justice Kalu O. Anyah vs Hon. Attorney-General of Borno State & Anor 1984 5 NCLR 225). His tenure as a judge is clearly borne out by his lucid judgments in the Law Reports particularly East Central State Law Reports and the law reports containing judgments of the Court of Appeal during his tenure.
Up until he passed on, Hon. Justice Anyah was still actively involved in the affairs of his local community, Amaekpu, Ohafia, and was a member of the Abia State Council of Elders- a forum where elder statesmen analyse the policies of government and offer wise counsel. The Bende Forum and the Bende Consultative Assembly are organisations through which Justice Anyah was able to give service to the State and exercise his intellect. It is difficult to chronicle the track record of a man who returned to the country as a lawyer in 1954- just about sixty years ago.
In recognition of his immense and rich contributions to his community, the state and the entire nation, Hon. Justice Kalu Anyah has been rewarded with several honours.
For instance, he was the Okpezue of Ohafia and is recognised by the Abia State Government as ENYI ABIA- a title reserved for those eminent sons of Abia State who have dedicated their lives to unrelenting public service. Perhaps, it is fitting to note that Hon. Justice Anyah was the proud father of many successful children five of whom are lawyers in their own right- Mrs. Ngozi Afocha Ibe (nee Anyah) being on record as the first female lawyer from Ohafia, Abia State. The rest, in order of seniority are Mrs Egoro Awa-Kalu (nee Anyah), Anyah Kalu-Anyah Esq., Nnenna U. Kalu-Anyah and Mrs. Nwaobiara Ugenyi-Kalu. His first daughter, Mrs. Grace Iruoha majored in the physical sciences while Nnoke Anyah Esq is still holding his own in public service while his other daughter, Mrs. Odide Okoro, is a chartered accountant. His longevity, of course, rewarded him with the good fortune of seeing several grandchildren qualify in different fields including law, economics, politics, education and the sciences including architecture. The great grandchildren are multiplying by the day and are showing signs of dominance in the near future. Surely, the preservation of his legacy is assured.
To cut a long story short, prior to his sojourn abroad to study law, Kalu Okpan Anyah joined the Police Force as a Constable in August, 1940 and served until 1951 when he left the shores of this country for further studies. He passed out as best all-round recruit from a squad of 56 and won the Best Stick. He is one of eleven officers who opened the Police College, Ikeja in 1949 (which started as the Police Training School, Enugu). He lectured in Criminal law, Evidence and Police Duties and was a contemporary of a proud son of Nigeria, Chief Etim Inyang, who ended his distinguished career in the Police Force as the Inspector-General of Police.
Hon. Justice Kalu O. Anyah (Rtd) as would be expected, is survived by several children, grand children and great grand children. His widow, Elder Mrs. Margaret Eke Anyah is a well-respected octogenarian, a celebrated homemaker, church leader, community leader and a mentor of several generations of notable mothers. Hon. Justice K.O. Anyah’s departure is a huge loss to the Ohafia community, Abia State and the entire nation. May his soul rest in perfect peace.