Fallen Legal Heroes: Justice Phillip Nnaemeka-Agu

Fallen Legal Heroes: Justice Phillip Nnaemeka-Agu
Late Justice Nnaemeka Agu JSC

Justice Nnaemeka-Agu (FEB 28, 1928 – JAN 24, 2011) was born at Obinagu, Udi in Enugu State, the late Nnaemeka-Agu had his early education at St. Dominic’s School, Obinagu (1935) and St. Thomas School, Udi (1936-1941).  He subsequently attended College of the Immaculate Conception, Enugu (1941-1945) and thereafter, Postal Tuition Wesley Hall, Oxford from 1946 to 1951. He had his tertiary education at the University College of Wales in the United Kingdom (1956-1958); and Council of Legal Education, London in 1959.  He was called to the English Bar in February 1959 after completing his professional training at the Middle Temple, London.

Prior to his tertiary education, he taught at various schools including College of the Immaculate Conception, Enugu (1946-1948), Zik’s Institute, Onitsha (1949-1950), and as Principal, Trinity High School, Oguta (1951-1956) for 10 years.

The late Nnaemeka-Agu went into private legal practice upon his return to Nigeria in 1959.  He was a member of the Enugu Federal Constituency in the Federal Parliament (1956-1966) and Legal Adviser, Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and Eastern Nigerian Information Services Corporation (1959-1970).He was appointed the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, East Central State for a brief spell from 1970 to 1972, after which he was appointed a judge of the High Court of East Central State from 1974 to 1977.

He became a judge of the Court of Appeal in 1977 and remained in that capacity till 1987, when he was elevated to the Supreme Court, where he spent the next six years as a justice of the court, retiring on February 28, 1993 at the age of 65. After retirement, the late jurist was far from being tired, as he went back into legal practice as an arbitrator, consultant and lecturer for much of the 17 years he lived thereafter.

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 He was also a family man and community leader. In recognition of his contributions to community development, he was honoured with the traditional titles of Agbawu II of Umuaneke and Ogbuibo of Obinagu.

He will be sorely missed for his courage as a judge, his scholarly rulings, his widely applauded public lectures, his books and the guiding principles – including the one on injunction- which he espoused in many of his incisive judgments.  His publications include African Indigenous Laws (which he co-authored in 1975), Commentary on the Problems of Interpretation and Application of the Nigerian Constitution, 1982; and Manual of Brief Writing in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, 1986.

He died on the 24th of January, 2011 at the age of 82.


Adenike Adesanya is a Brilliant young wig who is passionate about preserving the legacy of the legal profession. Nike wishes to bring back to our memories our heroes past. Email to Nike: nikey06@yahoo.com


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