Tuesday, 6 May 2014


Chukwudifu Oputa JSC (ret) CFR, was a foremost jurist of highest standing. As an eminent scholar in the field of the law, he tried his best to ensure that that our society has proper accomplishment that is beneficial to everyone.

 He stressed that law should not be static and that it should not stand still while the rest of the Nigerian nation moves on in a society crying for. He used his opportunity of sitting in the highest bench of the land to stress what JUSTICE is.

 This cannot be better expressed than as presented in his dictum (which I have cited several times as sine non qua), in the society in dire need of justice. It was his dictum in the case of GODWIN JOSIAH V THE STATE (1985) 1 NWLR (Part 11) page 125 at 141 where he stated that JUSTICE;
"is not a one way traffic. It is not for the appellant alone
Justice is not even 2-way traffic. It is really three-way traffic-
justice for the appellant, accused for heinous crime of murder,
justice for the victim, the murdered man , the deceased, 
'whose blood is crying to heaven, for vengeance', and finally
justice for the society at large . The society whose 
social norms and values have been desecrated and 
broken by the criminal act complained of"

Oputa JSC captured this more aptly again, stressing 'equality before the law' in the case of KALU V THE STATE (1987) NWLR (Part 90) 503, where he stated that;
"It should be one and the same 
even-handed justice , blind to all
social distinctions and disparities
in Wealth and Status , 
and no respecter of any person "

Oputa JSC tongue-lashed people in power and authority for their executive recklessness and lawlessness, thinking that they are above the law , when he was emphatic that everyone is under the 'Rule of Law' .

This was his dictum in the locus classicus case of THE MILITARY GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE V ODUMEGWU OJUKWU (same late Ikemba) (1986) 11 NWLR (Part 18) Page 621 where he said;
"the rule of law presupposes 
i) the State is subject to the law 
ii) that the judiciary is the agency of the rule of law
iii) Government should respect the right of individual citizens under the rule of law; and
iv) that to the Judiciary is assigned both by the rule of law and the Constitution, the determination of all actions and proceedings relating to matters in dispute between persons or between persons , or between Government or an authority and any person in Nigeria "

His last most notable assignment even after his retirement was the Chairmanship of the 8-man Truth and Reconciliation Commission to which he was appointed along with others people like Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah (Lord Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese). The proceeding was open, illuminating, educative and informative save the restraint of Government for issuance of White Paper on same pursuant to the order of Court at the instance of General Babangida who did not even appear before the Commission.

Oputa JSC was the father of a Lagos musician TV Producer and Presenter, Charlie Boy. The last I heard of Oputa JSC some 2 months ago was that he had stroke and was rushed to Owerri Fed Med Center . May his soul rest in perfect peace and may the Lord grant Charlie Boy and other siblings and relations left behind, fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.

Adieu Justice Oputa CFR

Tribute by: Joseph Fagbola

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