This article covers the personalities who have held the position of the Chief Justice of Nigeria since colonial Nigeria till date. Read on below:
The Chief Justice of Nigeria is the head of the judicial arm of the government of Nigeria. S(he) presides over the country’s Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council. The office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is protected by the Nigerian constitution. The Chief Justice of Nigeria can only be removed from office by death or retirement age at 70 or impeachment by the Senate. This however requires a supermajority of the members of the Nigerian Senate.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria is the highest court in Nigeria and holds ultimate power and decision. The Chief Justice of Nigeria is nominated by the President of Nigeria after recommendation by the National Judicial Council. The nomination, however, is subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Chief Justice of Nigeria: Office Holders till Date
Sir Edwin Arney Speed
He was the Chief Justice of Nigeria from 1914 to 1918. He was highly regarded by Lord Lugard. He was given the responsibility of unifying the laws of the two colonies (Northern and Southern Protectorate) and to establish a single Supreme, Provincial and Native court system.
Sir Ralph Molyneux Combe
He was a British barrister and colonial judge. He was appointed Attorney-General of the Protectorate in 1912 and later the Attorney-General of Nigeria in 1914. He became Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1918 where he served till his retirement in 1929.
Sir Donald Kingdon
Sir Donal Kingdon was Chief Justice of Nigeria from 1929 to 1946. He is the longest-serving Chief Justice in Nigeria. He had previously served as the Attorney-General of Nigeria, from 1919 to 1925. As Chief Justice of Nigeria, he edited and composed several authoritative books about West African laws
Sir John Verity
He had served as Chief Justice of Zanzibar (1939-1941) and Chief Justice of British Guiana (1941-1945). He was appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1945
Sir Stafford William Powell Foster-Sutton
He served as Chief Justice of Nigeria from 1955 to 1958
Sir Adetokunbo Adegboyega Ademola
He replaced Sir Stafford Foster Sutton as Chief Justice in 1958. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria from 1958 to 1972.
Taslim Olawale Elias
He served in the position of Attorney-General and Chief Justice of Nigeria and President of the International Court of Justice. He contributed immensely to the laws of Nigeria.
Alexander served within the legal world in various capacities, such as:
- Legal Draftsman of Western Region, Nigeria (1957-1969)
- Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (1958)
- Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary of the regional Ministry of Justice
- Queen’s Counsel (1963).
- Judge in Lagos High Court (1964)
- Chief Justice of the South Eastern State (1969)
He was appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1975. Upon retirement, he became the chairman of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission.
Chief Atanda Fatai Williams
In 1979, Chief Atanda became a member of the Nigerian Body of Benchers and was appointed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Chief George Sodeinde Sowemimo
He served in the Nigerian Judiciary for many years and was later appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1983. He is mostly remembered as the judge who gave the verdict of the Treasonable felony trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his other associates.
Chief Ayo Gabriel Irikefe
He became a member of the Nigerian Body of Benchers in 1985 and was appointed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria in the same year. In 1975, he was the chairman of the panel on the creation of states. In 1980, he was later appointed chairman of a tribunal that looked into allegations of missing funds within the Nigerian petroleum corporation.
Mohammed Bello was the first Chief Justice of Nigeria from Northern Nigeria. He became Chief Justice in 1987. During his tenure, he ensured the tenets of the rule of law were followed. He also acted as a check to the military’s use of force. Some of his critics still regarded him as a military apologist because of his views on the supremacy of power.
Mohammed Lawal Uwais
He was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria where he served from 1995 until 2006.
Salihu Modibbo Alfa Belgore
He was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1986. He held several positions in the Nigerian judiciary before he was appointed as Chief Justice of Nigeria in 2006. He served there till 2007 when he retired.
Idris Legbo Kutigi
Kutigi joined the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1992. He had earlier served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State before becoming a high court judge. He served as Chief Justice of Nigeria from 2007 to 2009.
Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu
He became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2009
Dahiru Musdapher served in various capacity within the Nigerian judiciary
Chief Judge of the Kano State Judiciary (1979 – 1985)
A member of the Court of Appeal from (1985 – 2003)
In 2011, Dahiru Musdapher was appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Aloma Mariam Mukhtar
Aloma Mariam Mukhtar is the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria. She served from July 2012 to November 2014.
Justice Mahmud Mohammed
He was appointed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria to succeed Aloma Mariam Mukhtar. He is the current Chairman of the National Judicial Council
Walter Samuel Onnoghen
Walter Onnoghen was nominated as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo in 2017. He was later confirmed by the Senate on the 1st of March, 2017.
In April 2019, he was convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false assets declaration. He was accused of having over 5 accounts which he was unable to account for. He was banned from holding any public office for 10 years. He tendered a voluntary resignation letter which was effective from May 28, 2019.
He is the current Chief Justice of Nigeria who was appointed 22 March 2019. He took over in acting capacity when appointed by President Mohammadu Buhari upon recommendation by the National Judicial Council (NJC)