Fallen Legal Heroes: Honourable Justice Karibi-Whyte JSC (Rtd.) – 1932 – 2020


Karibi-Whyte, a legal icon, author and Professor of Law, whose professional career took through the Nigerian and international judicial systems, was born on 29th January 1932. A native of Abonnema, in Akukutoru Local Government Area of Rivers State, he attended Kalabari National College Buguma, Rivers State, 1946-1950 and worked as a clerk of court from 1951-1957.

Karibi-Whyte was admitted to the University of Hull, England in 1957 where he obtained LL.B Degree, Upper Division in 1960. He was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple a year afterwards, and in September, 1962, obtained LL.M Degree of the University of London, and also Ph.D of University of Lagos in 1970.

In 1973, he was appointed Legal Draftsman in the Rivers State Ministry of Justice, after which this legal luminary attained the ranks of Solicitor-General, in that Ministry and became an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Lagos.

In 1976, he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Revenue Court and thus began an illustrious judicial career, which took him through the Court of Appeal from 1980, and the Supreme Court of Nigeria from 1984, thus making him the second Nigerian after Dr. T.O. Elias, to move directly from academia to the judiciary.

During this time, he also served as Chairman of several Commissions of Inquiry including the Counterfeit Tribunal and the Inquiry into the Nigerian Agricultural and Co-operative Bank. He was also appointed as Judge, International Criminal Tribunal on November 7, 1993, and Chairman Nigerian Constitutional Conference between 1994/95.

His ad-hoc appointments include: Chairman, Counterfeit Currency Tribunal, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-Owned Universities, Law Report Committee of the Federal High Court, Civil Disturbances Tribunal, Committee for the Unification & Reform of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act & Criminal Procedure Code, Nigerian Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995.

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Karibi-Whyte was also Judge and Vice-President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, sitting at The Hague.

He is an author of thirteen books and 55 academic publications in local and international learned journals, and is very much in demand for speaking engagements in his field.

A recent citation on the webpage of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, noted: “Several years after, His Lordship’s judicial pronouncements on the bench continue to resonate in Nigeria and beyond.

According to Professor Paul Idornigie of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, “Justice Karibi-Whyte’s dissenting opinions in obvious opposition to the decision of the majority justices are not only legendary and seminal but unparalleled in Nigeria.

“In fact, his dissenting opinions have become illuminating judicial guides for the Supreme Court in subsequent similar cases and the basis of legislative interventions, notably – Savannah Bank of Nigeria Limited v Pan Atlantic Shipping & Transport Agencies Limited (1987), Government of Gongola State v Tukur (1989), Attorney General of the Federation v Attorney General of Abia State (2001) [The Resource Control Suit], Grace Jack v University of Agriculture, Makurdi (2004) and Patkun Industries Ltd v Niger Shoes Manufacturing Company Limited (1988).”

Karibi-Whyte was described by those who crossed his path as “a quintessential jurist, a scholar par excellence, an intellectual colossus and consummate judicial officer, he is a man driven by his passion for justice according to law, firmly undergirded by his resolute and reputed integrity.”

A gentleman of indisputably stellar accomplishments, Hon Justice Karibi-Whyte is a Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) (1998), and also Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) (2008). He was married to Mrs. Faith Asareme Karibi-Whyte and there marriage was blessed with seven children: Asikiya Karibi-Whyte, Tonye Edosanwan, Gogo Karibi-Whyte, Abiye Karibi-Whyte, Tokini Karibi-Whyte, Sodigi Karibi-Whyte, and Nengi Brai.

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The erudite Justice Adolphus G. Karibi-Whyte, died at about 6:30pm on May 22nd 2020 at the age of 88 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State from heart-related complications.


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