The Oasis Reporters
July 24, 2018
The story is often told of how the man who would be Nigeria’s military strongman and brutal dictator General Sani Abacha pulled up one day at the gate of the residence of Honorable Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina– Alu one weekend.
The Justice was in his study when an aide rushed in to announce the presence of the man who would be head of state at his gates.
In favor seeking Nigeria, what would have been expected of Justice Katsina-Alu would be a rush to the gates, fawning, smiling, looking sheepish, exchanging pleasantries, an invitation for a cup of coffee and a request for a call card.
Certainly not distinguished jurist, Katsina-Alu.
“Tell him to go next door”, said the Justice. He instinctively knew who General Abacha should be visiting. His next door neighbor was also a Justice of the Supreme Court who shares the same religion and part of the region with the Army General. It can’t be Justice Katsina-Alu who socialized very little and had no time for frivolities. Abacha got the message and drove off.
What many people may not know about the the legal icon, born on 28th August, 1941 at Ukan, in Ushongo Local Government Area of Benue State who had his secondary education at St. Michael’s Secondary School Aliade in 1961 is that Justice Katsina-Alu trained originally as a military personnel. He was at the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna, from where he proceeded to the Mons Military Training College, Aldershot, England where he trained from 1962 to 1963. His career that started in the Military was however short-lived.
On his return from Military training he enrolled at the Faculty of Law at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In 1964, he proceeded to the Inns of Court, School of Law; Gibson & Weldon College of Law, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. He was called to the English Bar in October, 1967. He subsequently attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Nigerian Bar in June, 1968.
Upon his call to the Nigerian Bar, he began his professional career in Lagos as a private Legal Practitioner. In 1978, he was appointed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Benue State. His judicial career started in 1979 when he was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Benue State. He was elevated to the Court of Appeal in June, 1985. In 1998, he became a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, a period which marked the enthronement of constitutionalism and rule of law in the country. His career on the bench spanned 32 years in all the Superior Courts of record out of which 13 years were spent as a Justice of the Supreme Court. He was appointed the 10th indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria on 30th December, 2009.
In a book, KATSINA-ALU: A DESTINY FULFILLED, HIS SUPREME COURT Years, the book contains excerpts of the decisions of Hon. Justice Katsina-Alu during his tenure as a Justice of the Supreme Court. During his 13 year stint as a Justice of the apex Court and later Chief Justice, he sat on a total of 406 cases. Out of that number, he delivered 56 leading, 346 concurring and 4 dissenting judgments. Therefore, the decision to put together in an immemorial form, the insightful thoughts and decisions of this judicial icon deserves commendation.
The book was edited by Mr. MOSES ADAGUUSU; an Abuja based legal practitioner which was presented at a better time when his Lordship had honorably bowed out, having attained the mandatory retirement age of 70.
It was Katsina-Alu who in the celebrated case of Amaechi Vs INEC decided on the power of the Supreme Court to give remedy where not specifically claimed. In that case, Justice Katsina-Alu in his Leading Judgment held that the Supreme Court has wide jurisdiction to make consequential orders and to grant reliefs which the circumstances and justice of the case dictate.
Most of the judgments delivered by Katsina-Alu have been reported in Law Reports. However, there is no single reference source for all his judgments. That is the gap the book is aimed at filling. Justice Katsina-Alu aside from his notable contributions from the Bench has participated in several important international conferences. His contribution to nation building has been acknowledged and celebrated beyond the legal circles.
He was conferred with the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2004. In appreciation of his invaluable contribution to nation building, he was awarded the prestigious honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) in 2010. It was not therefore surprising when the Benue State University, Makurdi honoured him with the Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) in June, 2010.
In mourning this great judicial colossus, this should be seen also as celebrating CJN KATSINA-ALU, a judicial icon of great repute. No doubt, his destiny which was certainly not in the Military has indeed been fulfilled in the legal profession.
He was aged 76, and would have been 77 next month. His demise is a great lost to our country Nigeria and sad news to the entire Tiv Nation, especially in this trying time of great tribulation, when they are facing an undeclared war of extermination by powerful forces and backers. .
Additional Source: FRCN Daily Commentary