Jus­tice Ab­dulka­dir A. Jega: Good night

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Tunde Olofin­tila

In my ca­reer as a jour­nal­ist, I have had to in­ter­face with all man­ners of newsmakers, par­tic­u­larly in the ju­di­ciary, my pre­ferred area of in­ter­est. It was in pur­suit of this self-in­flicted pas­time of re­port­ing from the hal­lowed bow­els of the courts, where lawyers slug it out to re­solve the mys­tery of le­gal cases or at work­shops, sem­i­nars or other learned con­fer­ences where they dig deep into the foun­da­tion, prac­tice and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Law, that I met Hon. Jus­tice Ab­dulka­dir Abubakar Jega, the im­me­di­ate past pre­sid­ing Jus­tice of the Abuja Di­vi­sion of the Court of Ap­peal.

The eru­dite ju­rist was one of the nu­mer­ous vic­tims of the calami­tous and un­for­tu­nate stam­pede that claimed many lives dur­ing the re­cently con­cluded 2015 an­nual hajj pil­grim­age in Saudi Ara­bia.

To be pre­cise, I met Jega, who was dubbed NADECO judge, on ac­count of his nonon­sense pos­ture, dur­ing his stint as the Judge at the Fed­eral High Court, Fate Road, Ilorin, be­gin­ning from 1993.

Be­cause of the pop­u­lar­ity of The Guardian (on ac­count of its style of re­port­ing events) which I rep­re­sented in Kwara State be­tween 1991 and 1998, a cord of ac­quain­tance was soon struck be­tween Jus­tice Jega and my­self as with oth­ers like Kay­ode Ab­dul­wa­hab of Thisday news­pa­per, Bio­dun Awani of the Daily Times and Emma Okere of Ra­dio Nige­ria as well as Tunde Oyekola of the Nige­rian Tri­bune and many oth­ers.

At this point, let me re­call the case of Panat Nige­ria Ltd. Vs Kwara State Gov­ern­ment, its At­tor­neyGen­eral and oth­ers. Not a judge given to fri­vol­i­ties, there was this par­tic­u­lar sit­ting when the up­right, down­right and forth­right Judge gave a rul­ing against the state gov­ern­ment and some of its prin­ci­pal agents in very strong words on ac­count of the way the sale of then Kwara State Feed­mill (which was bought by Panat Nige­ria Ltd.) was han­dled and the case pros­e­cuted.

Of course, The Guardian re­ported it as con­tem­po­ra­ne­ously and as de­tailed as pos­si­ble the fol­low­ing morn­ing, a de­vel­op­ment which led to the in­vi­ta­tion of this writer by the Kwara State Com­mand of the Nige­ria Po­lice, for al­legedly re­port­ing what was not con­tained in the record books of the court presided over by Jega.

The for­mer NBA Pres­i­dent and At­tor­neyGen­eral of the big­ger Ondo State, Chief Wole Ola­nipekun, SAN, for­mer Osun State At­tor­ney-Gen­eral, Chief Adeg­boyega Awom­olo, SAN, and Ji­moh Lambo Akanbi, Esq., as he then was (Akanbi has since been in­vited to the Fed­eral High Court where he has been hold­ing sway in the last decade or so) as well as Tunde Olomu, Esq., then a State Coun­sel with the Kwara State Min­istry of Jus­tice, who par­tic­i­pated in this pros­e­cu­tion of this case, would re­mem­ber this very vividly.

Fol­low­ing this rul­ing which the state gov­ern­ment con­sid­ered harsh and un­be­com­ing of a ju­di­cial of­fi­cer, it found a way of hit­ting back at Jega: pronto, his po­lice or­derly was with­drawn. As early as 7.50 a.m. the fol­low­ing day, the largely un­ruf­fled Jega called me (may he never call me again) and asked about my where­abouts. I told him I was al­ready in my of­fice, some 10-minute drive to his court.

He im­me­di­ately “is­sued a sub­poena” for me to come to his court be­fore his 9 o’clock cus­tom­ary sit­ting time which he ob­served with­out fail. On get­ting there, the first thing I no­ticed was that his po­lice or­derly was not with him and I asked why to which he quipped: “Your peo­ple have with­drawn him, but I can as­sure you that will not pre­vent me from sit­ting.”

Be­cause of the ster­ling qual­ity in­her­ent in him, the dandy and sar­to­rial ju­rist was soon el­e­vated to the Court of Ap­peal Bench where he rose rapidly to be­come the pre­sid­ing Jus­tice of the Abuja Di­vi­sion of the Court of Ap­peal un­til his demise in far-away Saudi Ara­bia.

That was the stuff this Kebbi prince was made of. He was a quin­tes­sen­tial judge who adorned his Bench with proven in­tegrity, in­dus­try, char­ac­ter and learn­ing as well as hon­our. He ap­proached his job with hu­mil­ity and rev­er­ence, and if one may bor­row the lingo of the law, he did jus­tice to all who bow be­fore the throne, with­out fear or favour, af­fec­tion or ill-will.

Painful as his death is, one is per­suaded by the fact that the renowned ju­rist and de­fender of the lowly and the op­pressed lived a most ful­filled life fight­ing for the eman­ci­pa­tion of the down-trod­den, char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Jega dy­nasty, thereby leav­ing his gi­ant steps on the sand of ju­di­cial times.

His ster­ling and ro­bust con­tri­bu­tions to the ju­di­ciary and the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice in Nige­ria will re­main in the psy­che of many, as they will be writ­ten in in­deli­ble ink. While wish­ing the de­parted ju­rist a most-de­served rest, I pray that God will grant the ju­di­ciary, his pri­mary con­stituency, the peo­ple of Kebbi Sate and the en­tire Jega dy­nasty the grace and the equa­nim­ity to bear the ir­repara­ble loss. Good night brother. Olofin­tila wrote from La­gos

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.