LATE HON. CHUKWUDIFU AKUNNE OPUTA

(CFR, KSM, KT.CSS, KT SGG)
Rtd. Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Late Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa attended the Sacred Heart School, Oguta from 1930-1936, and (C.K.C) Christ the King’s College, Onitsha 1937-1940. Higher College, Yaba, Lagos. Achimota College, in the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) where he obtained the B.Sc degree in Economics in 1945. Through his quest for knowledge, he studied at home and obtained B.A.Hons. History, from the University of London. He thought at the Africa College, which also had on its staff prominent Nigerians like Late Mathematician, Chike Obi, and late Dr. Pius Okigbo. Later on he transferred to the K.N.C. (Kalahari National College), Buguma where he was made the principal. Some of his pupils included Professor Tamunotonye David West, a former Petroleum Minister, and Honourable Justice Adolphus Godwin Karibi-Whyte – a retired Justice of the Supreme Court.

He received his LL.B (Hons.) degree, and was called to the English Bar- Grays Inn, London on 26  November 1953. His background in the humanities, outstanding legal practice. As a legal practitioner, he appeared in virtually all the magistrate and high courts of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria, as well as the court in the Region of the Cameroons. He also made regular appearances before the West African Court of Appeal, the Federal Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was the leading counsel in the Harcourt Commission of Inquiry into the Oguta Chieftaincy Dispute (1958/59). From 1958 to 1965, Justice Oputa was a member of both the Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board and Governing Council of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

The year 1966 marked the beginning of Justice 1 Oputa s career on the Bench with his appointment as a judge of the High Court of Eastern Nigeria. During the next ten years he discharged his duties honourably and creditably, serving on several divisions of the High Courts of the Region and later, East Central State. In 1976, he was appointed the first Chief Judge of Imo State. He held this position for about eight years – until July 4, 1984, during which period he helped set up a solid judicial structure for the fledgling state. He was elevated to the equally exalted position of Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria – the highest court in the land. Late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa

continued to manifest his profound intellect for equity and justice in his balanced judgements. Indeed, he was a principal participant in the Golden Age of the Court, when that institution established a reputation as a veritable citadel of adjudicatory excellence and integrity.

As a result of his untainted reputation in the legal profession and the enormous respect he commands throughout Nigeria, Justice Oputa was given another daunting national assignment under the new democratic dispensation. On 4 June 1999, he was named Chairman of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission inaugurated by President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Commission’s main focus was to establish the causes and nature of gross human rights violations or abuses. Considerable success was made, especially the understanding reached between the Ogoni people and the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation of Nigeria. The Human Rights Violations Investigation Committee, or the Oputa Panel as it was popularly called, wound up its sittings in October 2001. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa was married to Margaret Ntianu Oputa and blessed with four children.

Among the various honours bestowed on him was the award of the ‘Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa” by the Imo State University, Owerri. The citation referred to his many legal publications, adding that ‘He is certainly a blessing to all law students, law scholars and practitioners throughout the West Africa subregion’. On the question: ‘Why D. Litt. to an eminent lawyer and not L.LD’? The citation contends that ‘He is an erudite scholar across disciplines’. His publications and presentations constitute a great tribute to human intellect.

A selection of the published works of Late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa are shown below:

  • Modern Bar Advocacy (1973 reprinted 1982)
  • Conduct at the Bar and the Unwritten Laws of the Legal profession (1976 reprint1982)
  • The Law and the Twin Pillars of Justice (1981) Homicide through the Cases
  • In a Search of a Disciplined Society through Law (1987)
  • Missions: Dreams and Illusions [In the Perspective of Justice, International Peace and Security] (1988) • Human Rights in the Political and Legal Culture of Nigeria (1988)
  • In the Eyes of the Law (1992)
  • Our Temple of Justice (1993)
  • The Nigerian Lawyer and the New Challenges Posed by the 3 Republic, the 1999 Biennial Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Kwara State Branch, February 3, 1998.
  • ’Equal Rights under the Law’, (The First Owolabi Afiiye Memorial Lecture) Under the auspices of the Ibadan Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, June 3, 1988.
  • What have Lectures got to do with Law’? (The First J.I.C. Taylor Memorial Lecture) under the auspices of the Faculty of Law, Lagos State University (LASU), 5 May 1989.
  • ‘Law, Justice and Peace’, LASU Law Peace Day 1988, under the auspices of the Faculty of Law.
  • Access to Justice in 1989′, University of Ife, and in 1988 to Bendel State University, kpoma
  • Towards a Judiciary without Shackles’, 19 Annual National Convention of the Association of Law Students of Nigeria, 24 May 1989.
  • ‘The Crisis in the Rule of Law’, 1989 Annual Bar Conference at the Nigeria Law School, Lagos.