Fallen Legal Heroes: Justice Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu

Justice Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu

Justice Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu (August 26, 1899 – June 1, 1959) was a Nigerian jurist who was the first African to serve on the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The first African police magistrate, the first Nigerian High court judge, a pioneer of the Nigerian Judiciary and late Chief Justice of Western Region, Nigeria. Jibowu was also a judge at the West African Court of Appeal.

Samuel Olumuyiwa Jibowu was the first surviving male child of Samuel Alexander Adebowale and Mary Jibowu [nee Pearce]. He was also a nephew-in-law to Adeyemo Alakija. He was born on August 26, 1899, a time in Nigeria when the British government had slowly started to take over the administration of the country. He attended Abeokuta Grammar School and taught at the school prior to attending college. In 1919, at the age of 18, he was taken to England to study law at Oxford University on the ship of German traders who traded with his father who owned a cocoa farm called Jibowu Estate, now in the present day Agege, Lagos. He earned a degree in Civil Law. He was called to the bar in 1923 at Middle Temple, London. By 1931, he was a police magistrate, the first African to hold such a position during the time colonial authorities doubted the integrity of Africans. In 1942, he was appointed as a Judge of the High Court. He later became a puinse Judge at the High Court in Benin city and in 1957, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Lagos High Courts and the Southern Cameroons.

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In recognition of his contributions he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also honoured as an officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Olumuyiwa Jibowu was a tall, robust and resplendent figure. He was the only black magistrate in Nigeria before 1934 and was highly respected for his sterling principles. His elevation to the Higher Bench was therefore a thing of joy to all Nigerians. He was perhaps the strictest of all the judges of his time but behind the rigid exterior was a thesaurus of untainted goodness. In March 1958, he succeeded Adetokunbo Ademola as the Chief Justice of the Western region.

In 1956, Justice Jibowu was appointed to head an enquiry into the management of the Cocoa Purchasing Company, a semi-governmental company formed to compete against expatriate firms and to act as an agency for loan disbursement. The report of the commission detailed instances of corrupt practices by officials of the company. The company was used a conduit of patronage benefiting allies of company officials and for the furtherance of the political activities of its leaders. The critical report led partly to the abolishment of a loan scheme that was open to cocoa farmers.

He died on June 1, 1959. Jibowu was highly regarded and among those present at his funeral service included: James Wilson Robertson Kofo Abayomi, John Rankine, Akintola and Supreme Court Justices.


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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