Popularly known as Justice Oputa, Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa was regarded as one of Nigeria’s most distinguished legal personalities. A man who was justifiably considered a man with a coat of many colors; a typical biblical Joseph in Nigerian terms; a renowned legal colossus, Economist, Historian, Public Servant, Administrator extraordinaire, visionary statesman and the Socrates of the Nigerian Legal history (due to his logical and philosophical approaches to issues), a man considered and referred to in some cycles with the moniker, ‘the incorruptible judge’, expressing remarkable levels of honesty, wit and wisdom as well as uncommon probity in the discharge of his duties, as a legal officer both in his private practice and public service.
Early Life and Education
Chukwudifu Oputa was born on the 22nd of September, 1924 (though some accounts state an earlier year of 1918) in Oguta, Imo state. Though orphaned within the first year of his birth, Justice Oputa was consequently raised by his Grandmother, who trained him in school. He started his early education at Sacred Hearts School, Oguta from 1930-1936 and later on at the famous Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha from 1937-1940. Oputa proceeded to Yaba Higher College but could not continue because of the second world war, which resulted to him (alongside others) being sent to the then Achimota College, Ghana. Where he bagged a degree in Economics in 1945. He further proceeded to the University of London where he would later graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in History. His thirst and quest for knowledge led to his furtherance in the studying of Law in England and was conferred with an LL.B Hons. Degree in June 1953. On 26th November 1953, He was called to the English Barr- Gays Inn London.
Landmark Cases and Appointments
Justice Oputa had a sterling legal career, and because of his equally sterling performances in many cases, he was handed to handle some high profile cases. Some of these cases include:
- The Controversial Oguta Chieftancy Title Dispute in 1958/1959.
- The Amayenabo Dispute of 1960
- Appointed as Judge of the then High Court of Eastern Nigeria in 1966.
- Appointed the first Chief Judge of the Imo state High Court in 1976.
- Elevated to the exalted position of the Honorable Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
- In 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo made him the Head of the Human Rights Violations Panel that probed the violations of the human rights by the 15 years rule of the military era. This panel was popularized by the media with the name ‘the Oputa Panel”.
The Final Days and Death
In his time, Justice Oputa published well over 40 papers in lectures, conferences and seminars. Justice Oputa took ill and had a stroke on 14th February 2014, of which it was said, he was recovering from, but eventually had a relapse. Reports stated that He died peacefully, at the afternoon hours of 4th May, 2014 in the Home of His Son, Charles ‘Charlyboy’ Oputa.
A man who is regarded as a true legal colossus, an icon of the bar and bench, Nigeria’s own Lord Denning, a great Philosopher within the cycles of Nigerian judges, and a displayer of the perfect blend between law and morality. Justice Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa is not only sorely missed but worth remembering in the Nigerian sands of time.
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