Justice Anthony Nnaemezie Aniagolu OFR, CON was a retired Supreme Court Judge and one of the nation’s eminent and celebrated jurists. His death brought to an end a distinguished and exciting legal career that spanned over four decades.
Born in Eke, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State on October 22, 1922, Aniagolu began his early education at St Paul’s Elementary School in Eke, 1939. Later, he was at Government College, Umuahia and Christ the King College, Onitsha, from 1940-1944.
Justice Aniagolu enrolled as an External Student of London University in 1947 and obtained his Intermediate LL.B in 1948. He was at the University of Bristol from 1948-1952 for his LL.B degree. Called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, London, July 1952, Aniagolu also enrolled as Barrister and Solicitor of Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1952.
He taught for a while at Christ the King College, Onitsha before embarking on private legal practice from 1952-1965. Aniagolu became a judge in the High Court of Eastern Nigeria in 1965 and was appointed Acting Chief Judge, East Central State of Nigeria in 1973; Chief Judge, Anambra State, 1976 and Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1978.
He was the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Enugu branch, 1962-1965; member, Disciplinary Committee, Bar Council of Nigeria, 1962-1965. Member, Federal Electoral Commission of Nigeria from 1958-1965.
Apart from serving as a member of the Federal Nigerian Delimitation Commission, 1963-1964, Aniagolu was the chairman of Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts Committee as well as member, Magistrates Court Rules Committee.
He was the chairman of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation Commission of Enquiry, 1966-1969 and chairman, Tribunal of Enquiry into Kano Religious Disturbances, 1981. Aniagolu headed the National Constituent Assembly that produced the 1989 Constitution from 1988-1989.
His numerous illuminating publications include Judgements Delivered in Court since 1965; Eastern Nigeria Law Reports; East Central State Law Reports; All Nigeria Constitutional Reports; Customary Marriage and Divorce and their incidents upon Family Life; Judicial Independence as a Foundation of the Rule of Law; and The Making of the 1989 Constitution.
A Knight of the Catholic Church, Aniagolu held the traditional titles Ochudu Udi and Eze-Udo Eke. He was conferred with two national honours: Officer, Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1964 and the Commander of the Order of the Niger in 1981.
Late Justice Aniagolu is remembered for his brilliance and integrity. His outstanding career both at the Bar and the Bench put him in the rank of titans such as the English legal icon, Lord Denning. He made immense contributions to the development of the nation’s judicial system through many landmark judgements and publications that now serve as reference points. His death robbed the Nigerian judiciary one of its leading lights.
The erudite legal luminary and fearless judge died in Enugu on June 28, just four months to his 89th birthday.
Culled: The Nigerian Voice