Pilot Law



The trailblazer

After he had fought war and achieved victory against Pharnaces II of Pontus, Julius Caesar, the Roman general declared; I came, I saw and I conquered. This could also has been the tale of the former Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Onaolapo Elelu-Habeeb, who against all odds, quelled all uprising to print her impacts in gold on the sand of time.

Before she bowed out of active service, she held record of being the first substantive female Chief Judge and chairman Judiciary Service Commission for the state. She also became the first female judge in the North-central geopolitical zone of Nigeria and amazingly, till date, her records still speak volume.

While she was in service, Justice Elelu proved to be an inventor of paradigm that aided the progress of the Bar in the state. This was why she made persistent call for the establishment of Customary Court of Appeal in the state. She had premised her reason on the need to reduce workload on the area courts.

No wonder, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Abeni Muhammed, in a recent chat with PILOT LAW referenced her as a trail blazer whose records of thoroughness, hard work and doggedness to exhume truth in any matter still remain outstanding. ‘Though she had served many years ago, but, she remains a school of study for many legal practitioners both at the bench and at the bar’.

“One thing you cannot associate her with is corruption, she was very upright while in active service; that was what helped her to attain the pinnacle of her career,” he stated.

Some prominent magistrates and judges in the state judiciary, who doesn’t want their names in print testified that the jurist served in the state with all diligence and with the fear of God.

A High Court Judge said, “I was a member of the Bar when she became Chief Judge, If for no other thing, I will live to appreciate My Lord for ‘his’ courage and wisdom in managing crisis, what she faced during her tenure has made it clear that she is more than a mere judge.

The former NBA chairman, Ilorin branch as well as the current National Legal Adviser of the association, Barrister Rafiu Balogun also doff his hat for the former CJ. According to Balogun, at the tail end of my tenure in 2013, Justice Elelu endorsed the construction of NBA building in front of the High court. This was what brought the ardent dream of having a befitting structure for the lawyers to reality after many years.

“For the short time she acted as the CJ, Mama gave me that singular honour, I’m forever indebted to her, and she endorsed the construction of the NBA building. When we were having issues then at the Bar, I spoke with her and she approved the construction. That building is now the cynosure of the public today. There won’t have been NBA centre if not for her. She is quite simple, with an unassuming personality.

“One thing you cannot take away from her; is prompt approach to issues, and that was exemplified in the way she assigned cases without delay. She did well in that regards. Once you file a case, you can be rest assured that it will be attended to. I have never ceased praying for her, she is a woman of repute and honour.” Balogun remarked.

Unarguably, 28th March, 2008 will remain etched in her memory. Reason, it was the day she was sworn-in as the substantive CJ of Kwara State following the recommendation by the National Judiciary Commission (NJC) and subsequently confirmed by the state House of Assembly. Her appointment was necessitated by the retirement of the then CJ, Justice Saka Yusuf. She retired in after she had clocked her statutory age. Elelu hails from Ilorin West Local Government Area of the state.



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