After the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates, the first colonial Governor-General of the amalgamated colony, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard unified the laws of the two colonies.
In effect, a single Supreme, Provincial and Native court system was established and the first Chief Justice of Nigeria Sir Edwin Speed was brought from Britain, Nigeria’s colonial master.
So, Nigeria had five colonial Chief Justices of the Federation before Independence on October 1, 1960: They were: Edwin Speed, Ralph Combe, Donald Kingdon, Sir John Verity, and Stafford Foster-Sutton
From 1960 to date, Nigeria has produced 16 indigenous Chief Justices of Nigeria. The first Nigerian head of the apex court was Adetokunbo Ademola. Justice Ademola succeeded a foreigner Stafford Foster Sutton.
According to Nigeria’s Constitution, the National Judicial Council (NJC) makes recommendations to Nigeria’s president for persons for the appointment to the Offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court and other nominations for other federal courts.
Below is a list of Head of Nigeria’s Supreme Court from 1914 to date:
|Name||Years in Office||Notes|
|Sir Edwin Speed||1914 – 1918||First Chief of the Federation|
|Sir Ralph Combe||1918 – 1929||He was a British barrister before his appointment|
|Sir Donald Kingdon||1929 – 1946||Kingdon served with four colonial governors|
|Sir John Verity||1946 – 1954||He was a former Chief Justice of Zanzibar and British Guiana before his deployment to Nigeria|
|Sir Stafford Foster-Sutton||1955 – 1958||Stafford was the last colonial Chief of Justice of the Federation|
|Justice Adetokunbo Ademola||April 1, 1958 – 1972||He was an Egba Prince|
|Justice Taslim Olawale Elias||1972–1975||Taslim was the first Nigerian and African to become President of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He was also the First Minister of Justice in Nigeria immediately after independence|
|Justice Darnley Arthur Alexander||1975–1979|
|Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams||1979–1983||Williams presided over the Awolowo v. Shagari case after the August 11, 1979, presidential election.|
|Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo||1983–1985||He presided over the Treasonable Felony trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and twenty-six of his associates|
|Justice Ayo Gabriel lrikefe||1985–1987||Ayo was the former Attorney General of the Mid-Western State|
|Justice Muhammed Bello||1987–1995|
|Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais||1995–2006||He was the Chief justice of the federation during the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha (late). He served under three governments: Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and President Olusegun Obasanjo|
|Justice Salisu Modibo Alfa Belgore||2006–January 2007|
|Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi||January 30, 2007 – December 30, 2009||Kutigi was the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary, North-Western State in 1976. He later became the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State|
|Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu||2009–2011||Aloysius was the Legal Officer at the Nigeria Ports Authority NPA|
|Justice Dahiru Musdapher||August 29, 2011 – July 16, 2012||Dahiru was the former Chief Judge of the Kano State|
|Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar||July 16, 2012 – November 20, 2014||First Nigerian female to become Chief Justice of the Federation of Nigeria|
|Justice Mahmud Mohammed||November 2014 – November 10, 2016||Mahmud was the former Chief judge of Taraba State|
|Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen||March 6, 2017 – January 25, 2019||Onnoghen was the first head of the Supreme Court to be ‘removed’ in Nigeria on allegations of false declaration of assets|
|Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad||January 25, 2019 – June 26, 2022||He was forced to resign because of allegations of financial mismanagement against him by 14 supreme court justices|
|Justice Olukayode Ariwoola||June 27, 2022||He assumed office on Monday, June 27, 2022|
Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad was said to have been forced to sign a resignation letter by the cabals at the Presidency following allegations of financial impropriety jointly signed against him by 14 Supreme Court justices, according to a follow-up story by Daily Trust Publications.
His arranged resignation was made public on Monday, June 22, 2022. He was not seen in public on the same day.
By the allegation against him, Justice Tanko Muhammad became the first Chief Justice of Nigeria who resigned because of financial mismanagement allegations against him by his fellow justices.
Technically, he became the second CJN to be ‘removed’ by the Presidency.
Who is the incumbent CJN?
Justice Olukayode Ariwoola is the present Chief Justice of Nigeria. He succeeded Justice Tanko Muhammed.
Who was the last colonial Chief Justice of Nigeria?
A British Judge Stafford William Powell Foster-Sutton was the last colonial Chief Justice of the Federation of Nigeria. He was in office from 1955 to 1958
Who is the longest-serving Chief Justice of Nigeria?
Donald Kingdon is Nigeria’s longest-serving Chief Justice. He was Nigeria’s Chief Justice for 17 years. Donald served under four colonial Governors: Graeme Thomson, Donald Cameron, Bernard Bourdillon and Arthur Richards.
Before his appointment as the Chief Justice, he served as the Attorney-General of Nigeria from 1919 to 1925.
Who is the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria?
Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar was the first female Chief of Nigeria and the federation. He was sworn into office as the 13th indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan on July 16 2012.
Who is the first female lawyer from Northern Nigeria?
Justice Mariam Mukhtar holds the record as the first female from Northern Nigeria. And also the first female judge of the High Court in Kano State. She was also the first female justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria.
Who is the first Chief Justice of the federation to be suspended by the President?
Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen was the first Chief Justice of Nigeria to be suspended by Nigeria’s President. No Head of the Supreme Court witnessed such an embarrassing moment even during the dark days of the military regime in Nigeria.
Buhari suspended Justice Onnoghen on January 25, 2019, on false declaration of assets after the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) made its recommendation for his suspension on January 23, 2019.
- Featured image by @LeadwayPensure on Twitter
- National Judicial Council. “Past Chief Justices of Nigeria”. njc.gov.ng. Retrieved April 14, 2022
- Opeoluwani Ogunjimi (July 13, 2012). “Justice Aloma Mukhtar: Will a woman make a difference?”. Vanguardngr.com. Retrieved April 16, 2022
- TheCable (January 25, 2019). “Buhari suspends Onnoghen, swears in Muhammad as new CJN”. thecable.ng. Retrieved April 16, 2022