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Retired CJN, Katsina-Alu dies at 77

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Godwin Tsa, Abuja

– Nigeria will miss his legal prowess – SAN

A retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, is dead.

Katsina-Alu who headed the Nigerian judiciary between 2009 and 2011, reportedly died at an Orthopaedic Hospital in Abuja in the early hours of Wednesday.

The late CJN who hailed from Ushongo local government area of Benue state, died at the age of 76, a month to his 77 birthday.

He succeeded Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi as CJN in December 2009 and served in that capacity  till August 2011 when he was succeeded by the late Justice Dahiru Musdapher.

Although a family member refused to confirm his demise to Daily Sun, his death was confirmed by the sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, who is  attending a conference with other justices of the Supreme Court and Chief Judges of some states in Montreal Canada.

Media aide to the CJN, Mr. Awassam Bassey, who confirmed the death to Daily Sun on behalf of his principal, said the news was relayed to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court by Katsina-Alu’s aide.

Bassey said his principal, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is currently attending a conference in Canada, had yet to hear about the ex-CJN’s demise.

 “I can confirm that the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mrs. Hadizatu Mustapha, sent me a WhatsApp message to that effect about an hour ago confirming the death of the former CJN. “I have just called the Chief Registrar to confirm that this is indeed the situation.

That the Personal Assistant of the former CJN called her at 3.00pm Nigerian time to inform her of the demise.

“However, it’s 3:30am here in Montreal, Canada, where His Lordship the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, and other Justices of the Supreme Court and Chief Judges of some states, are attending a conference organized by the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law, and I haven’t yet contacted the Hon. CJN for his reaction.

“I hope to do that as soon as he wakes up and get his reaction”

Born on August 28, 1941, the late jurist was sworn in as the CJN on Dec. 30, 2009 by his predecessor Justice Idris Kutigi.

This was because the then President, Umaru Yar’Adua was unavailable to carry out that task on account of ill health.

This gave room for some controversy since the oath of office was not administered by the President as was the case with his predecessors in office.

Meanwhile, a Constitutional lawyer and a close associate to the late CJN, Sabastine Hon (SAN) has described him as a quintessential judge who has left indelible marks in the nations legal jurisprudence.

The Man Justice Katsina-Alu prior to his legal studies and subsequent rise to the apogee of his legal career, Katsina-Alu had military training  in Nigeria and in England.

His training at the military training college in Nigeria and at Aldershot in England spanned from 1962 to 1963. After his elementary education at  RCM Primary School, Aduku, Benue State, from January- June 1951, St. Ann’s Primary School, Adikpo, Benue State, from July 1951-December 1952, St.

Patrick’s Primary School, Taraku, Benue State from 1953- 1955, he eventually obtained his First School Leaving Certificate.

From there, he proceeded to Mount St. Michael’s Secondary School, Benue State, where he had his Secondary School education between 1956 and 1961 and secured the Cambridge School Certificate. After his secondary education, Katsina-Alu pursued his legal training at the Law Faculty of the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, from 1963-1964, after which he travelled to London.

He attended Inns of Court School of Law, Gibson and Weldon College of Law, School of Oriental African Studies, University of London, from 1964-1967, where he obtained the Degree of Utter Barrister.

The late CJN who was called to the English Bar in October 1967 and the Nigerian Bar on June 28, 1968, also worked as a Legal Officer as the Nigerian Ports Authority, Lagos, between 1969 and 1977.

Barely a year he left  NPA, Katsina-Alu became the Attorney-General of Benue State in 1978, a position he held until 1979 when he was appointed a Judge of the Benue State High Court. From the High Court of Benue State, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1985, where he served until November 1998, when he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Katsina-Alu became the Chief Justice of Nigeria on December 31, 2009 after he had spent 11 years on the Supreme Court Bench.  Born on August, 28, 1941 in Ushongo, Benue State,  he is the 10th indigenous CJN since independence and one of the more than 80 Justices that have sat on the bench of the Supreme Court since its inception in 1956.

A father to many children and grandchildren, fate played foul on him last May, when his wife of many years, Lady Mimidoo Katsina-Alu, was killed after a tree fell on her in their country-home in Ushongo, Benue State, during a wind storm.

Meanwhile, a Constitutional lawyer and a close associate to the late CJN, Sabastine Hon (SAN) has described him as a quintessential judge who has left indelible marks in the nations legal jurisprudence.

Hon who spoke with Daily Sun on the death said “The sudden demise our eminent Jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice A.I. Katsina-Alu, GCON, has sent deep shock into all of us who know his enormous contributions to justice administration in Nigeria.

A very upright man, his lordship was the first Tiv-speaking Attorney-General of Benue State, the first Tiv-speaking Judge of the Benue State High Court, the first Tiv-speaking Justice of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and the first Tiv-speaking Chief Justice of Nigeria. In all of these, his lordship left indelible landmarks.

Trained in the  British legal tradition of brevity, laced with deepness, his lordship’ s judgments on the Bench were brief, incisive and straight to the point, thereby rendering justice without much stress.

He played a major role in the ‘resource control’ suits, the Atiku survivalist litigations, the Rotimi Amaechi ‘k-leg’ survivalist litigation that enamoured the National Assembly to reshape the Electoral Act, 2010; and in several other public-interest suits.

I can also say without blinking an eye that his brief stay as the CJN saw to the peaking of welfare packages for staff of the Judiciary, especially his colleagues on the Supreme Court Bench. Above all, he was God fearing and one who opened his doors to the poor and needy.

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