President Muhammedu Buhari, Friday, joined Benue State government and people, Nigerian Bar Association and National Judicial Council in mourning Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu, the erudite jurist for his contributions to the structuring of Nigeria’s jurisprudence.
Katsina-Alu, who headed the Nigerian judiciary between 2009 and 2011, reportedly died at an Orthopaedic Hospital in Abuja in the early hours of Wednesday.
The President affirmed that Justice Katsina-Alu’s knowledge, experience and diligence impacted greatly on governance in Nigeria as he featured prominently in landmark cases.
He believed the late Chief Justice left behind a legacy of discipline, brilliance and diligence that younger jurists should emulate.
Buhari prayed that the almighty God will grant the soul of the departed a good rest and comfort his family.
This is even as Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Thursday directed that the national flag in all court premises and institutions of the Judiciary in the country be flown at half-mast for the next seven days.
According to him, the flags should be lowered as a mark of honour to the late Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu.
The former CJN who hailed from Ushongo local government area of Benue State, died at the age of 76. He would have clocked 77 years on August 28.
Katsina-Alu succeeded Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi as CJN in December 2009.
He took over the mantle of leadership of the judiciary within the period that late President Umaru Yar’Adua who was critically ill, failed to hand over to the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, a situation that made the then CJN, Kutigi, to perform the swearing-in ceremony on behalf of the absentee President.
Katsina-Alu served as CJN till August 2011 when he was succeeded by the late Justice Dahiru Musdapher.
While confirming his death, media aide to the incumbent CJN, Mr. Awassam Bassey, said the news was relayed to the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court by Katsina-Alu’s aide.
Bassey said his principal, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is currently attending a conference in Canada, had yet to hear about the ex-CJN’s demise.
“I can confirm that Mrs. Hadizatu Mustapha, the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, sent me a WhatsApp message to that effect about an hour ago, confirming the death of the former CJN.
“I have just called the Chief Registrar to confirm that this is, indeed, the situation. That the Personal Assistant of the former CJN called her at 3.00pm Nigerian time to inform her of the demise.
“However, it’s 3:30 a.m. here in Montreal, Canada, where His Lordship the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, and other Justices of the Supreme Court and Chief Judges of some states, are attending a conference organized by the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law, and I haven’t yet contacted the Hon. CJN for his reaction.
Meanwhile, the news of the demise of the legal luminary has thrown his community, Tse Alu, into deep mourning as the people were said to have stormed his home in their numbers wailing and crying.
Recall that the deceased had in May 2011, lost his wife, Mimi Katsina-Alu, in a mysterious circumstance when a tree fell on her at the family’s residence at Ushongo.
In his reaction, former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, describing the late Katsina-Ala as an illustrious jurist.
In a statement issued by Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former President’s media adviser, Jonathan also described him as a sound legal mind who left indelible contributions to the nation’s jurisprudence.
He said further, “Late Katsina-Alu was an illustrious jurist whose dedication to duty took him to the peak of his career. As the chief justice of Nigeria, late Katsina-Alu believed in the principle of separation of powers and stood firmly for the independence of the judiciary.
“He was a devout man of faith who placed God first in his service to humanity. The late justice Katsina-Alu would be remembered for his invaluable and indelible contributions to the nation’s jurisprudence.”
Reacting to the former CJN’s demise, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, expressed deep sorrow over the death.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, described the late Justice as a patriotic and diligent public servant whose many well considered judgements enriched the nation’s jurisprudence and contributed immensely to national development.
He commiserated with the immediate family of the deceased, the Tiv Nation, the Judiciary, the government and people of Benue State on the sad incident.
Saraki said, “We have lost a worthy and exemplary Nigerian. We have lost a legal luminary whose numerous contributions to the development of the nation’s judiciary cannot be quantified.
“It is regrettable that he left us at a time his experience and wise counsel would have been invaluable in tackling critical national challenges confronting the country.”
Saraki prayed God to grant the soul of late CJN peaceful rest and his family and loved ones the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
In his reaction, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, said the death of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu has thrown the state into sadness and mourning.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, Governor Ortom described the late jurist as a peace-loving man, patriot and father who built bridges for many others to cross.
Governor Ortom was quoted as describing the demise of the former Chief Justice Justice as a huge blow to Benue State in particular and a loss to the entire country.
He said, “Justice Katsina-Alu was among selfless Nigerians who upheld the truth, equity and fairness in service to the country.
“I pray for the soul of the eminent jurist, commiserates with the bereaved family and pray God to grants them the strength to bear the irreparable loss.”
Also reacting, Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, described him as a jurist that served his country faithfully.
He said it was sad to lose two former Chief Justices in one year, stressing that the country, especially the judiciary, will miss Katsina Alu’s fatherly advice dearly.
While praying for the repose of his soul, Obi beckoned on the judiciary to keep his legacies afloat by sustaining some of the reforms started during his time.