The Sun set on the Nigerian judiciary July 18, with the sudden demise an eminent Jurist and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice A.I. Katsina-Alu who held sway at the Apex Court from December 30, 2009 – August 28, 2011. Justice Katsina-Alu passed on after a brief illness.
Born August 28, 1941 in Ushongo LGA, Benue state, the young Aloysius Iyorgyer received his primary school education at St Anne’s Primary School Tarungwa and St. Patrick’s Primary School Taraku, before he went to Mount St. Michaels Secondary School Aliade, all in Benue State.
After his secondary education, Katsina-Alu’s personal discipline, gait and unrivalled brilliance endeared him to the Military as he was enrolled into the Army at the same time as President Muhammadu Buhari.
Rather than get a commission in the Army after the requisite training abroad, Katsina-Alu returned to the Ahmadu Bello University(ABU) where he took a degree in Law. He later trained at various institutions in the UK to deepen his knowledge of the law.
Justice Katsina- Alu made a total success of his career in his chosen legal profession. At various times he held positions of responsibility, rising to the very zenith of his profession.
At various times, he was Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Benue State(1978-79) before he joined the State Judiciary as a High Court Judge in 1980.
He was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal in 1985 from where he was elevated to the Supreme Court on November 26, 1998.
It was at the Supreme Court that Justice Katsina-Alu stamped his legal authority on the judiciary as he wrote well researched and landmark judgments that helped deepen the nation’s jurisprudence democracy.
Among the many cases he decided, he led in the famous cases on Resource Control; Mr Rotimi Amaechi’s legal bid for Governor of Rivers State; the political cases of Vice President Atiku Abubakar against the Federal Government as a serving Vice President in 2003, etc.
His appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria came with a bit of controversy. Against tradition, Katsina -Alu was sworn – in by his predecessor, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi since President Umar Musa Yar’Adua who should have done that was ill and travelled to Saudi Arabia for treatment without a formal hand over to his Vice, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
As it turned out, Katsina-Alu was to play a significant role by swearing-in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President to give constitutional and judicial validity to the resolution of “Doctrine of Necessity” passed by the Senate.
Justice Katsina Alu was a man of few words, humble, kind, neat and handsome. His physical calmness hidden in a huge frame fully complimented his robust intellectual endowment.
He was not only a lover of democracy, he defended the nation’s democracy at all times through his various judgments and judicial pronoucements.
An appreciative Nigerian nation recognized Katsina-Alu’s contributions to nation building and honoured him with the national honours of Commander of the Order of the Niger(CON) and Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger(GCON).
Beyond the Bench, Katsina-Alu was a humanist whose love for the downtrodden was buoyed by his strong Christian faith, nurtured by the childhood upbringing in the Catholic Church.
He was a community leader, whose love for his community inspired him to attract several government projects and in many other instances personally provided social amenities for the rural folks around him.
Justice Katsina-Alu was a role model, a peace builder, mentor and exemplary family man.
He will be greatly missed not only by the judiciary or his kinsmen in Benue but many Nigerians and beyond especially those who subscribed to his core values of fairness, justice and honesty.
Although he left the stage of life, Justice Katsina-Alu has bequeathed on the sands of time, his indelible legacies of selfless service, generousity, uncommon patriotism, love for humanity especially the less privileged and above all the fear of God. For these he will be remembered for a long time by his family, friends, associates, Nigerians and beyond.
Adieu, great legal luminary!