Former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Chukwudifu Oputa, 96 is dead.
A son of the departed jurist and a musician, Mr. Charles Oputa (aka Charlie Boy), confirmed the death of his father in a statement.
“The Family of Justice Chukwudifu Oputa wishes to announce the passing to glory of the eminent jurist and a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria at the age of 96 years. He passed on peacefully on Sunday afternoon, May 4, 2014, after recovering from a brief illness. Funeral announcements will soon be released by the family,” Charles’ statement read.
Oputa, before his death, had been absent from public functions in recent years due to critical health condition.
A source said the body of the deceased had been deposited at the morgue of the National Hospital in Abuja.
Oputa, was appointed to head a panel constituted to investigate rights abuses during 15 years of military rule between 1976 and 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo took office as elected president on 29 May, 1999.
Prominent legal practitioners in the country expressed shock and sadness over the death of the late jurist on Sunday.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, described the deceased as one of the nation’s finest legal minds.
“It’s very sad that the great jurist has passed on. Having actively appeared before him, I can confirm that he was one of our finest legal minds. My prayers are with my friend Charly Boy (the deceased’s son) and his family,” Agbakoba said.
Mr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who described the deceased as “a quintessential oracle of law” described his death was “a monumental loss to the legal profession, the judiciary and the entire nation.”
“He was a legal prodigy, an iconic phenomenon, the quintessential oracle of the law and an unparalleled jurist of inestimable value.
“He shone on the legal firmament like zillion stars, bestriding the Nigerian judicial space like the colossus that he was. His judgments were lucid and provocative. His thoughts fecund, his writing skillful, literary and philosophical. Oputa came, saw and conquered.”
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, who expressed shock over Oputa’s death, described the late jurist as “Socrates of the Supreme Court”.
“He did not only understand the law as a Justice of the Supreme Court, he understood and applied the philosophy of law. His reasons for his judgments were often illuminating. He made law look like a mathematics,” Oyetibo said.
Yusuf Alli (SAN) said, “Like the death of every person, the death is painful. But we thank God that he left at a very old age. His death is a loss not only to Nigeria’s jurisprudence but to the jurisprudence of the whole world. He contributed immensely to our jurisprudence from the High Court to the Supreme Court. He was a gifted orator and an engaging writer. He has left an indelible mark.”