Charly Boy's Dad, Justice Oputa Dies At 90

Eminent jurist and a former  Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC), Justice Chukwudifu Oputa is dead. The legal icon was said to have  died yesterday afternoon at the National Hospital in Abuja at the age of 90.

Justice Oputa, who would have been 90 in August, according to one of his sons, Geoffrey Oputa, suffered a relapse of the stroke he had in February this year and was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The late Justice Oputa was born on August 22, 1924 in Oguta, Imo State. He had his early education at the Sacred Heart School, Oguta and Christ the King College, Onitsha.

After  his secondary education, he attended the then Yaba Higher College.  But due to the exigencies of the Second World War, he was sent along with others to the famous Achimota College, Ghana, then Gold Coast, where he graduated with B.Sc (Hons) Economics in 1945.

After this, he came back to Nigeria and took up a teaching appointment with Calabari National College. He later came to Lagos where he worked as an Assistant District Officer (ADO). It was here that Justice Oputa achieved a remarkable feat as he studied at home and obtained his BA (Hons) History.

Justice Oputa then proceeded to London where he bagged his LLB (Hons) and was called to the Bar in Gray’s Inn, London.

Upon his return to Nigeria,  Oputa went into private practice, handling such celebrated cases and special inquiries as the Oguta Chieftaincy dispute 1958/ 59, the Amanyanabo Dispute 1956/ 60 and many more.

In 1966, Justice Oputa was appointed Judge of the High Court of the then Eastern Nigeria and moved on to become the first Chief Judge of Imo State 10 years later.

In 1984, he was elevated to the Supreme Court, from where he retired in 1989.

Justice Oputa would be remembered for chairing the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC) otherwise known as the Oputa Panel. The late legal icon, was often referred to as the “Socrates of the Supreme Court” during an era that was regarded as the golden era.

But legal practitioners have been reacting to the passage of the legal icon, saying that he would be remembered for his laudable contributions to the course of law and the judiciary in the country.

Three lawyers, former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), Chief Funke Adekoya (SAN) and a human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) have eulogised the late legal icon, saying that he would be remembered for his landmark judgements.

Ojo said, “He was an iconoclast of humanity, the Socrates of our time and one of the finest breed of jurisprudence and a commitment to justice. His death is indeed the drawing of the curtain on an era in the justice sector that generations after would forever long for. He belonged to the ages, his memories are naturally bound to be immortal. We shall all surely miss him”.

For Falana,  “Owing to his prodigious grounding in philosophy, he was referred to by his learned brethren as the Socrates of the Supreme Court. His commitment to social justice was unparalleled.  At a time in the 1980s the jurist allied with Justice Kayode Eso and Justice Andrew Obaseki to  form a trinity of judicial activists who mobilised the Supreme Court to grant justice to all classes of people even if the heaven would fall.

“The greatest tribute that can be paid to Justice Oputa is for the Federal Government to release the report of the Oputa Panel and proceed to implement the recommendations of the panel. For the legal profession, Justice Oputa should be celebrated for his incorruptibility and consistent defence of human rights, rule of law and democracy.”

Adekoya said, “the Bar has lost another of its icons, our own Lord Denning. He was one of the greatest philosopher judges Nigeria has produced, and his judgments always displayed an interplay between law and morality.  He has gone to rest, but remains with us through his judgments and legal writings.”

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