By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, is dead, aged 78.
Kutigi, who served as CJN between January 30, 2007 and December 30, 2009, reportedly died in a London hospital on Saturday after a brief illness.
Justice Kutigi was born on December 31, 1939, in Kutigi, North-Western State (which is now located in Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State).
He served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State until 1976, when he was appointed a High Court Judge. He was elevated to the apex court bench in 1992 and subsequently okayed by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to take over the reins of leadership in the judiciary in 2007.
Justice Kutigi succeeded Justice Alfa Belgore as the 10th CJN in the annals of the country.
He handed over to Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu in 2009, upon clocking the mandatory retirement age.
Judiciary declares 7 days mourning in his honour
Meanwhile, the Judiciary, yesterday, declared seven days mourning, to honour the late CJN, Kutigi.
Consequently, the incumbent CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, directed that the national flag in the premises of the Supreme Court, the CJN’s official residence in the Three Arms Zone of Abuja, all judiciary institutions, including National Judicial Council, NJC, National Judicial Institute, NJI, Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, as well as all courts of records in the country, should be flown at half-mast for a duration of seven days.
Similarly, the CJN instructed the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to open condolence registers at foyers of the court to enable Justices of the court and other well-wishers pay their last respects to the deceased jurist.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Awassam Bassey, Onnoghen said he received the news of the demise of the erstwhile CJN with sadness.
He said:“The CJN, on behalf of the Nigerian judiciary and, indeed, all Nigerians, commiserates with the family of the deceased former CJN and urges them to take solace in the fact that their patriarch lived to the fullness of age and served his country diligently, rising to become the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the highest office in the third arm of government.”
Reacting to Kutigi’s death, spokesman of President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina, said: “The President joins in mourning the elder statesman who will be long remembered and honoured for his visionary roles and contributions in the advances our country has made towards building a strong, independent and impartial judiciary, which is sine qua non for democracy to thrive.
“Throughout his career in the apex court, President Buhari believes that the former CJN’s bold and articulate judicial decisions, advocacies on access to justice for all and protection of judicial independence are extant signposts for the advancement of the noble profession in the country and beyond.”
On his part, former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd), has described Kutigi as an upright Nigerian and an exemplary leader in his chosen field.
In his condolence message to the families of the deceased, Babangid recalled with nostalgia the early tutelage he recieved under him at Government College Bida in the late 1950s, saying: “The great 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.”
IBB in a statement from his media office in Minna said the late justice left at a time his judicial and statemanly counsel was most needed and prayed that Allah SWT grant him Aljana Firdausi and the family the fortitude to bear the loss.
He was honourable jurist—Saraki
In his reaction, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, did not only express sadness over the demise but also described him as a honourable jurist who spent his life in the service of his country and humanity.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, stated that the death of the jurist was a colossal loss, particularly coming at a time his experience, dedication and knowledge were required in the service of the country.
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.
His death, a huge loss—PDP
Similarly, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, also expressed sadness over the demise of the former CJN, describing his death as a huge loss to the nation and the Judiciary.
In a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP described Justice Kutigi as “an outstanding administrator; a fearless, impartial and firm judicial officer, who upheld justice and the law in all his assignments at the bench.
Peter Obi mourns
In his reaction, former Governor of Anambra State and Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr. Peter Obi, who described late Justice Idiris Kutigi as a consummate jurist, appealed to the younger generation to emulate his courage, faithfulness and commitment to the cause of justice of the late jurist.