Adetokunbo Ademola

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Adetokunbo Adegboyega Ademola KBE was a Nigerian judge and former Chief Justice of Nigeria (1958-1972). Prior to becoming the Chief Justice, he was Chief Justice of the Western Region of Nigeria and was the first Nigerian to serve as a provincial magistrate.

Though, Justice Ademola is known for his judicial duties, he was a key player in the Nigerian crisis of 1966. Then a counter coup had challenged the unity of Nigeria. A few Northern Military officers had successfully executed a coup with a plan to secede from Nigeria. But the British High Commission, which incidentally gets intelligence briefings on Nigeria and Chief Justice Ademola persuaded the Northern leaders not to quit but to assume power.


Early life and education

Adetokunbo Ademola was born on February 1, 1906 to the family of a titled traditional ruler of Abeokuta, Oba Ladapo Ademola. He is the first son of Ladapo Ademola, his ancestry can be traced to the Jibodu royal House and the Alakija family; his mother was a sister of Adeyemo Alakija. He later married Kofo Moore the daughter of a prominent Lagos lawyer, Eric Moore. Born in Abeokuta, he spent considerable time of his child hood in Lagos living with his mother until he returned to Abeokuta at the age of four to live with his maternal grandfather, a liberated African from Brazil. His grandfather died in 1914, the year the Egbas lost their independence.

He attended St Gregory's Grammar School and King's College, Lagos before proceeding to Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was then called to the bar in 1934 and started work as a crown counsel.

Private practice and judicial career

After returning from Cambridge, he spent six months at the attorney general's office and later worked for the Judicial department and the Unified Nigerian Administrative Service. In his first case at the A.G's office, he was in court against his uncle, Adeyemo Alakija. Ademola left the civil service in 1936 and went into private law practice.

In 1939, he was appointed a magistrate and was posted to the Warri province where he worked and traveled to various districts within the province. In 1946, he was asked to come to Lagos and serve as a magistrate at St Anna Court and later became acting puisne or junior high court judge in 1949. During this period, he heard cases on the infamous man leopard murders and was a member of the Fitzgerald Commission established after the Enugu coal killings. In 1955, he was made the Chief Judge of Western Nigeria, though he had earlier written a memorandum decrying the fragmentation of the judiciary and seeking a centralized judicial service. As Chief Justice of the Western region, he oversaw the deployment of magistrates across various districts, the organization of the administrative service with the creation of a solicitor general and attorney general for the region and the appointment of crown counsels. However, he had to contend with the various pressures from the political camps of period especially in cases involving partisan politicians such as an appeal case brought before him and in which he ruled in favor of the famed Adegoke Adelabu to the consternation of his opponents.

He became the Chief Justice of the country in 1958.

Chief Justice

As the Chief Justice, he was instrumental to the establishment of the Nigerian Law School, the first located in the country. He was also involved in a case: Lakanmi vs the Attorney General of Nigeria, where he ruled that a Nigerian court could review military decrees. [1]

His period saw an increase in the number of judges on the Supreme Court, the establishment of a judicial service committee and also an interest in trying to introduce a policy that seeks to view Supreme Court justices as the ultimate career aspiration of a judge other than becoming the chief justice of a region.

Personal life

Ademola was a member and chairman of the Nigerian branch of Cheshire Homes and served on both the executive boards of the Nigerian and international Olympic Committees. In 1966, he was on an I.O.C. Mission to South Africa whose report led to the expulsion of South Africa from Olympics. He is also a member of the Red Cross Society, the first chairman of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, and chairman of the 1973 Nigerian National Census Board


↑ KAYODE SOYINKA. "Obituary: Sir Adetokunbo Ademola", The Independent (London) February 12, 1993.