The Nigerian legal community on Wednesday extolled the virtues of the ninth Chief Judge of Lagos Statet, the late Justice Samuel Omotunde Ilori, calling him a judicial reformer, and a mentor to many judges.
At a valedictory session held in his honour by the Lagos State Judiciary at the premises of the Ikeja High Court, many people, including retired judges and senior lawyers were full of good remarks for the late jurist.
The late Justice Ilori passed away on Oct. 12, 2021. He was the fourth Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions and the fifth Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice.
He became the ninth Chief Judge of Lagos in 1997 and retired from the Bench on Jan. 5, 1999. He was the first Chief Judge to introduce the electronic recording of court proceedings in Nigeria.
Honouring Ilori, the former Governor of Lagos, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on May 12, 2015 named the Magistrate Court in Ogba, Lagos after him. He was the first former Chief Judge to be honoured by the Lagos State while still alive.
Lagos State Chief Judge Kazeem Alogba said that the late Ilori will be sorely missed by the legal community especially past and present judges of Lagos. Alogba who was represented by Justice Toyin Oyekan-Abdullahi, the Admin Judge of the Lagos Division of the Lagos State High Court described the deceased as a reformer and a very good mentor to the judiciary.
The Attorney-General (A-G) of Lagos, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) said Ilori had a stellar career at the Ministry of Justice where he served for 11-years. Onigbanjo who was represented by Ms Titilayo Shitta-Bey, the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, also described Ilori’s meritorious service as a judge.
“In his 16-years of service as a judge, no one left his court with any doubt that they received substantial justice according to the law. Under his leadership as the ninth Chief Judge of Lagos, the Lagos Judiciary remained a pacesetter with the introduction of verbatim court recording machines to enhance efficient justice delivery,” the A-G said.
A retired justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour representing the Body of Benchers at the occasion said that the late jurist was an accomplished jurist. “I learnt a lot from him. I joined him at the Lagos High Court as a judge and he became the last Chief Judge of Lagos State of the last century. While his lordship was the Chief Judge, he was a respected jurist and administrator. One outstanding feature of his lordship when presiding was his calmness, patience, attention to detail of evidence and cases before him;
“The Lagos State Law Reports are replete with his judgments. Today we celebrate a life well spent,” Rhodes-Vivour said.
A representative of the Body of Senior of Nigeria, Mrs Abimbola Williams-Akinjide (SAN) described herself as former classmate of the deceased at the Nigerian Law School class of 1964.
She noted that Ilori had a distinguished 30-year career in public and private service and was very active in legal practice after his retirement as a judge. “He must have had law in his DNA, he fathered 11 children, five of whom read law and two became judges; Justice Olusola Williams and Justice Yemisi Adelaja,” she said.
Responding to the tributes, a daughter of the deceased Ms Oluwakemi Ilori expressed gratitude on behalf of the family. “He lived a life that he thoroughly enjoyed. His life was an inspiration to us his children. My father would have succeeded in any profession that he chose. He was very thorough, meticulous and brilliant. “We missed him dearly, he instilled values in us that made us appreciate what it is to live a worthy life. We are mourning but we are so blessed to have such a fantastic man as our father,” she said.
Justice Ilori will be buried on Friday at his family grave site in his hometown, Ilesha, Osun State.