AKEEM NAFIU and TUNDE OYESINA write on how the death of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, Monday last week, shook the nation’s judiciary to its foundation and the torrent of encomium which followed the former CJN’s passage
Although he ceased to be a judicial officer following his retirement as the nation’s 13th Chief Justice of Nigeria in July 2012, Justice Dahiru Musdapher’s death last week shook the judiciary to its foundation.
The late CJN died Monday, last week in a London Hospital after a protracted illness. He was 75.
The late Justice Musdapher was appointed as the 13th Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on August 27, 2011 and sworn in by former President Goodluck Jonathan, on August 29, 2011. He succeeded Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu.
Senior lawyers, who spoke with New Telegraph, described the late former CJN as a quintessential judicial icon whose wealth of experience brought rapid reforms to the judiciary notwithstanding his short tenure.
Already, the nation’s Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen has directed that the national flag on the Supreme Court premises be flown half-mast until seven day Fidda‘u prayer was held in honour of the late former CJN.
In a statement signed by the CJN’s spokesperson, Awassam Bassey, Justice Onnoghen directed the Nigerian flags at Supreme Court and other judiciary institutions to be flown at half-mast for seven days beginning from January 23.
It reads: “The Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, has directed all National Flags on the premises of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the CJN’s official residence in the Three Arms Zone of Abuja to be flown at half-mast.
“The Hon. CJN gave this directive at 9.00am this morning (Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018) after he was informed of the demise of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, the late Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, CFR, who passed away in a London Hospital on Monday (22nd January, 2018).
“In the same vein, flags at all judicial institutions, including the National Judicial Council (NJC), the National Judicial Institute (NJI) and the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), as well as all Courts of Records in the country are also to comply with this directive.
“The National Judicial Service Council was directed to send memos to all Heads of Courts to ensure compliance by all jurisdictions across the country.”
The late Justice Musdapher ‘s body arrived in Kano last Thursday, where a funeral prayer was held for the repose of his soul.
His body was however moved to his country home, Babura in Jigawa state shortly after the prayer was led by Chief Imam of Kano, Prof. Sani Zahradeen, at the Palace of the Emir of Kano.
At interment in Jigawa, a federal government’s delegation comprising the Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Suleiman Adamu; Minister of State for Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika; Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, attended the the funeral.
Others were: Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa and the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi.
The nation’s Accountant General, Alhaji Ahmed Idris and prominent traditional rulers also attended the funeral prayer.
However, prominent lawyers in the country in separate telephone interviews with New Telegraph Law eulogized the late jurist, describing his indelible marks as second to none. This, they said would live after him, saying the late Justice Musdapher did his best to move the judiciary forward while he held sway as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
For instance, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Niyi Akintola, described the deceased as a gentleman per excellence and a highly disciplined jurist.
He said: “Well, it’s so sad that he had to bid us farewell at this point in time of our national development. He was a gentleman per excellence and a highly disciplined jurist. May his active soul rest in peace.”
To another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Festus Keyamo, the late Justice Musdapher, who was an extremely calm and intelligent jurist did his best to turn the nation’s judiciary around while he was the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
“Dahiru Musdapher is one of the erudite Chief Justices that we have ever produced in this country. He was a Chief Justice that did his best at his time to move the judiciary forward.
“He was an extremely calm and intelligent jurist. He was one of those Justices that we all look forward to appear before. It is regretful that he will not stay around for so long for the country to benefit from his wealth of experience even after retirement,” Keyamo said.
Keyamo was echoed by another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Wale Adesokan, who described Justice Musdapher’s death as a great loss not only to the judiciary but also the entire country.
The deceased, according to Adesokan was a frank, fearless and practical jurist while on the Bench.
He said: “The death of Justice Dahiru Musdapher, retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), is a big loss to the legal profession in general and the Nigerian judiciary in particular. His Lordship was frank, fearless and very practical.
“His Lordship abhorred technicalities and would strive to let counsel appreciate His Lordship’s line of thought on any issue to enable counsel to try to convince His Lordship otherwise, if necessary.
“His Lordship was a completely detribalized Nigerian. His Lordship familiarized himself with every part of Nigeria where His Lordship served, especially during His Lordship’s postings to the various Judicial Divisions of the Court of Appeal, by trying to understand the meanings of the names and indeed, the cultures of
the people of all the Judicial Divisions where His Lordship served. May His Lordship’s soul rest in Peace.”
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo, said the demise of Justice Musdapher was a sad news for the legal community.
He said: “It is really sad for the legal community to have lost one of our revered Justices. He has paid his dues. He rose from the High Court to become the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
“The landmark that he left behind will surely speak for him in years to come. It’s sad that he died not quite long after his retirement and I just hope that the Bar and the Bench would device a way of taking care of their own.
“But we cannot query God over what had happened even though those younger than Justice Musdapher had died. I am saying this because we would have loved people like him to still be around. I urge those coming behind to see how they can surpass his legacy while he was alive.
“An event that will remain indelible in the minds of Nigerians was a landmark judgement delivered by Justice Musdapher in company of other Justices of the Supreme Court on January 27, 2012, removing five state governors from office.
“The apex court held that the tenures of Governors Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto state, Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa state, Ibrahim Idris of Kogi state and Liyel Imoke of Cross River state expired on May 29, 2011 and that their stay in office ever since was illegal.
“The court also ordered the Speakers of the Houses of Assembly of the affected states to take over as acting governors until new helmsmen were installed.”
Justice Musdapher was born on July 15, 1942, a member of the Bani Ya’muusa clan in Babura Town in Babura, a local government area in the north of Jigawa State. The progenitor of the clan (his lordship’s great-grandfather), Goni Ya’Musa, was a Fulani scholar, a renowned and respected Islamic jurist and teacher who migrated from the Kanem Bornu Empire in the mid-1800s and pursued a lifelong mission of teaching and Islamic missionary work. The great-grandfather settled in Babura Town, in Jigawa State. Musdapher’s father, Mallam Musdapher Musa – also a renowned Islamic scholar – served as a principal advisor to several District Heads across the Kano Native Authority during the colonial era for decades before he was eventually enthroned as the District Head of Babura L.G.A. Mallam Musdapher’s father was the first headmaster of the first primary school in Babura. He died in 1993 as the head of a large and respected family leaving behind over 300 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Justice Musdapher went to Babura Elementary School between 1950 and 1953; Birnin Kudu Middle School, 1954–1956; Rumfa College, Kano, 1957–1962 and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1963–1964. He also attended the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies between 1964 and 1967; Inns of Court School of Law (Middle Temple), 1964–1967 and the Nigerian Law School, 1967–1968. While in Rumfa College, Justice Musdapher was consistently one of the best students in the school.
He was a classmate to several other distinguished Nigerians including the late General Sani Abacha (Military Head of State from 1993-1998), late Alhaji Adamu Dankabo (Founder and Chairman of Nigeria’s first Indigenous private commercial airline), Justice R.D. Mohammed and many others.
After concluding his secondary education, he secured a job at the Northern Regional Ministry of Finance in Kaduna as a clerical officer in 1963. Shortly afterwards, he secured admission to study at the Institute of Administration, in Zaria (Now, Ahmadu Bello University). Some of his classmates were Justices
Katsina Alu and Umaru Abdullahi among many others. He later left for the United Kingdom to conclude his legal training in 1964 and was called to the British Bar in 1967 (Middle Temple).
He became quite famous as a regular outside contributor and discussant in the West African Service of the BBC as well as the Hausa service from 1964 to 1967. Notably, he was in the BBC studios as a discussant when the ugly events of January 1966 in which the Sardauna of Sokoto and Prime Minister Balewa were murdered in a bloody coup d’état.
On his return to Nigeria, he proceeded to the Law school where he was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1968. Unlike most of his colleagues and seniors who opted for a career in public service from the onset, he chose to pursue a career in private legal practice together with the late Kaloma Ali in Kano. During those early years, he was one of the most notable and sought after legal practitioners throughout the northern region. He made appearances before all the High Courts of the Northern region. Public service came to him when he was approached to serve as Attorney-General of the old Kaduna State, even though he was from Kano State. He accepted the appointment and served under three military administrators– Group Captain Usman Jibrin, Group Captain Mukhtar Mohammed and Commodore Ibrahim Alfa, from 1976 to 1979. During the period, he enjoyed the privilege of attending the joint meetings of the Supreme Military Council and Council of State as an advisor to the Government of Kaduna state.
In addition, he became a member of the Body of Benchers in 1976 by virtue of his position and has remained a member of the body till his death. He was one of the longest serving members of the body who became a “Life Bencher”.
In 1979, he was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Kano State by General Olusegun Obasanjo and was later confirmed as the first indigenous Chief Judge of the state as he took over from Justice R. Jones (a British expatriate). During his six-year tenure at the helm of the Kano State Judiciary, a new court complex was completed and still remains as the main court complex. The building has since been named after him as a testament to his contributions to the Kano State Judiciary.
Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON)- 2003; Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR)- 2008 and Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger(GCON)- 2011
The late Justice Dahiru Musdapher was married to Hajiya Fatimah Dahiru Musdapher (née Suleiman Galadima) with three children; Khadijah, Kaloma and Suleiman. He has nine grandchildren with Nabil being the oldest and Dahiru Jr (Muhammad) as the youngest.
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