ANTHONY NNAEMEZIE ANIAGOLU (1922-2011)
The demise of Justice Anthony Nnaemezie Aniagolu, a retired Supreme Court Judge and one of the nation's eminent and celebrated jurists, has brought to an end a distinguished and exciting legal career that spanned over four decades. The erudite legal luminary and fearless judge died in Enugu on June 28, just four months to his 89th birthday.
Born in Eke, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State on October 22, 1922, Aniagolu began his early education at St Paul's Elementary School in Eke, 1939. Later, he was at Government College, Umuahia and Christ the King College, Onitsha, from 1940-1944.
The deceased enrolled as an External Student of London University in 1947 and obtained his Intermediate LL.B in 1948. He was at the University of Bristol from 1948-1952 for his LL.B degree. Called to the Bar at Gray's Inn, London, July 1952, Aniagolu enrolled as Barrister and Solicitor of Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1952.
He taught for a while at Christ the King College, Onitsha before embarking on private legal practice from 1952-1965. Aniagolu became a judge in the High Court of Eastern Nigeria in 1965 and was appointed Acting Chief Judge, East Central State of Nigeria in 1973; Chief Judge, Anambra State, 1976 and Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1978.
He was the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Enugu, 1962-1965; member, Disciplinary Committee, Bar Council of Nigeria, 1962-1965 as well as member, Federal Electoral Commission of Nigeria from 1958-1965.
Apart from serving as a member of the Federal Nigerian Delimitation Commission, 1963-1964, Aniagolu was the chairman of Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts Committee as well as member, Magistrates Court Rules Committee.
He was the chairman of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation Commission of Enquiry, 1966-1969 and chairman, Tribunal of Enquiry into Kano Religious Disturbances, 1981. Aniagolu headed the National Constituent Assembly that produced the 1989 Constitution from 1988-1989.
His numerous illuminating publications include Judgements Delivered in Court since 1965; Eastern Nigeria Law Reports; East Central State Law Reports; All Nigeria Constitutional Reports; Customary Marriage and Divorce and their incidents upon Family Life; Judicial Independence as a Foundation of the Rule of Law; and The Making of the 1989 Constitution.
A Knight of the Catholic Church, Aniagolu held the traditional titles Ochudu Udi and Eze-Udo Eke. He was conferred with two national honours: Officer, Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1964 and the Commander of the Order of the Niger in 1981. Aniagolu will be remembered for his brilliance and integrity. His outstanding career both at the Bar and the Bench put him in the rank of titans such as the English legal icon, Lord Denning. He made immense contributions to the development of the nation's judicial system through many landmark judgements and publications that now serve as reference points. His death robbed the Nigerian judiciary one of its leading lights.
Aniagolu's life is a big challenge to all judges, especially now that the judiciary is inundated with mounting charges of corruption and flagrant abuse of due process and the rule of law. Those at the helm of affairs in the nation's judicial system should emulate the worthy example he set. All lawyers aspiring to careers on the Bench should also borrow a leaf from his sterling qualities.
We commiserate with the family of the deceased, the judiciary and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on this great loss. May the good Lord grant his soul eternal repose.