By Kayode Adeoti
Apart from Arabic and Islamic studies which earned the city of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, an appellation of ‘Ilu Alfa’, the ancient home of Islamic scholars also boasts of indigenes who have excelled exceptionally in law practice.
The interest of Ilorin people in Law cannot be divorced from their background knowledge of Quran which emphasizes uncompromising adherence to rules and regulations at all times and on all issues.
Over the years, Ilorin has produced hundreds of jurists who have served at various levels in the judiciary and have today become icon of reference in the noble profession.
There are also law teachers of high repute who have not only struggled to protect this veritable heritage, but are working tirelessly towards ensuring that Ilorin maintains a frontline position in Law profession in Nigeria and beyond.
Today, the city has added another feather to its cap as an illustrious son, the incumbent State chairman of the Young Lawyers’ Forum, Barrister Dauda Olayinka Jimoh providently emerged pioneer chairman of Arewa Young lawyers Forum.
The young Jimoh who was born in Ilorin to the family of Alhaji Jimoh Giwa of Ojagboro compound was unanimously elected as the chairman of the forum at the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja last week.
He will henceforth oversee the affairs of 28 branches of the forum in the North Central.
To the Chairman of the NBA, Ilorin branch, Barrister Muhammed Idowu Akande, the appointment of his member, is elating and good tidings, especially to the Ilorin Bar.
Akande said, “I Know O. D. Jimoh very well, he’s a good lawyer with much vibrancy to saddle the responsibility, he’s to chair the forum in all the branches of Arewa in the North Central. Though I’m yet to receive any official letter as to that effect”
Among the Ilorin-born legal icons who have written their names in gold in the legal profession are Justice Mahmud Babatunde Belgore. According to history, the jurist was the first Northern Nigerian to sit on a Federal bench in 1973. He retired as the longest serving Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. During his time, he introduced many innovations in the judicial sector, which today are still living legacies.
His demise at the age of 76 was described by the then Kwara State Governor, now the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki as a monumental loss to the body of legal professions in Nigeria.
The jurist survived by many children among whom are four lawyers, including Mohammed Dele Belgore, SAN who is now a renowned politician. The young Dele attained the pinnacle of his career at the age of 40, it was said that he’s one of the few to be conferred with the coveted rank at that age in Nigeria
Another notable figure in the Belgore household is Justice Salihu Moddibo Alfa Belgore, CON, GCON, who is the eldest in the family. He was the 10th Chief Justice of Nigeria. According to the eminent jurist, his trajectory would have probably been truncated if he had followed his heart by studying medicine against the advice of his family.
Also, the presiding judge of the Court of Appeal, Ekiti State Division, Justice Ahmad O. Belgore, Justice Bolaji Belgore of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and several others are legal practitioners from the Belgore family.
Pilot Law reliably gathered that the family has produced no fewer than 50 legal practitioners of repute in the country.
Another highly placed Jurist produced by Ilorin was the late Justice Saidu Kawu CON. He became a Jurist in 1962 after many years of service as a teacher and public administrator. He was also a biological father to many Lawyers one of whom is the current Chief Judge of Kwara State. Justice Saidu Kawu
Worthy of note is the man that is always referenced as the pioneer legal practitioner of Ilorin, Alhaji AbdulGaniyu Folorunsho AbdulRazak OFR, SAN. He was the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria produced by Kwara State in 1985 and today remains one of the surviving most senior Lawyers in Nigeria. He is a well accomplished legal practitioner and a remarkable statesman; who is also a biological father to many Lawyers.
Justice Mohammad Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi CFR was the 4th Ilorin indigene to hold a degree in Law. He was called to Bar in 1963. Justice Akanbi, the pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) was the first Kwaran to be elevated to preside over an appellate court. He was the third President of the Court of Appeal and the first Nigerian Judge of such status to voluntarily retire from the bench. Baba Akanbi as fondly called by legal practitioners died few months ago. At least three of his children are now toeing his path among which are Professor Mustapha Akanbi who is currently the Senior Advocate of Nigeria designate and Justice Tanwa Akanbi, the youngest judge in Nigeria presently.
Another son of the soil and a pride of Ilorin, is Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salman, SAN. Today, Alarape has become the doyen of Ilorin Bar being the eldest and the most experienced SAN residing in the city of harmony.
He was a two-term National President of the influential Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union. He was born in 1942. He graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1967. He was subsequently called to the Bar in 1968. He was appointed SAN in 1987 along with Chief Afe Babalola; which made him the first Alumnus of A.B.U Zaria, to be so decorated. He is also the second Kwaran who will wear the silk. He was one-time Attorney-General and Honourable Commissioner of Justice in Kwara State. His chambers has equally produced many outstanding Lawyers while he, has also begotten many legal practitioners of note.
Other prominent indigenes of Ilorin who have been conferred with the coveted rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria are Adebayo Adelodun, Saka Abimbola Isau, Kehinde K. Eleja, Abiodun Amuda-Kannike and of course, Kamaldeen Adeyemi Ajibade who is the current AG of the state among many others.
The indomitable Raliatu Elelu-Habeeb, the first female Chief Judge of Kwara State origin.Though she had bowed out of active service since 2012; but she is being remembered for leading the state Judiciary honourably.
The impact of the people of Ilorin Emirate on the dispensation of Islamic jurisprudence is also astonishing. Several indigenes of Ilorin Emirate had served as Grand Khadis of Kwara State. These included the Honourable Justice Abdukadir Orire CON who served between 1974 and 1999 when he retired. He was succeeded by Justice AbdulMutalub Ahmad Ambali OFR who served between 1999 and 2008 and Justice Abdulkadir Oba Imam-Fulani OON as well as Justice Idris Abdullahi Haroon who retired in 2013. He was succeeded by Justice Salihu Olohuntoyin Mohammad who retired in 2016 as well as the late Justice Shehu AbdulBaki. The current Grand Khadi of the State is Justice Abdulkadir Ola Mohammad while the man next in ranking to him is the youthful Justice Abdulateef Kamaldeen.