Sir Adetokunbo Adegboyega Ademola, KBE, GCON, PC, SAN (1 February 1906 – 29 January 1993) was a Nigerian jurist and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was appointed as Chief Justice on April 1, 1958, replacing Sir Stafford Foster Sutton who was retiring. Ademola was a son of Oba Ladapo Ademola II, the Alake of the Egba clan of Nigeria. He was the first chancellor of the University of Benin.
EARLY LIFE & EDUCATION
Sir Adetokunbo was born on February 1, 1906 into royalty as the son of Prince Ladapo and Tejumade Ademola. His father was then the regent of the Egba United Government in Lagos and later reigned as Ademola II, the Alake of Egbaland in Abeokuta, a historic walled city of the Egbas in south-western Nigeria. His mother was a senior sister to Adeyemo Alakija. At the age of four, he lived briefly with his maternal grandfather, Pa Alakija, in Abeokuta and a year later he started his primary education at the Roman Catholic School in Itesi, Abeokuta. He moved back to Lagos when he was eight to live with his mother in the family compound on Broad St and subsequently continued his education at Holy Cross School, Lagos. He attended St Gregory’s Grammar School Obalende and King’s College Lagos for his secondary school education. He finished his secondary education in 1925 and passed the Senior Clerical Examination for admission into the colonial Civil Service. He gained appointment as a clerk in the Chief Secretary’s office of the National Secretariat, Lagos. From 1928 to 1931, Ademola studied law at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. From 1958 to 1972, he served as Chief Justice.
Sir Adetokunbo was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in London in 1934. After returning to Nigeria and at the insistence of his father, he joined the Civil Service and from 1934-35, he worked as crown counsel at the then Attorney- General’s Office. He then joined the unified Nigeria administrative service and for a year, he was posted to Enugu as assistant secretary at the southern secretariat, Eastern Nigeria. He left the service and started a private practice from 1936 until 1939, when he was appointed Magistrate of the Protectorate Court. In 1938, he joined the Nigerian Youth Movement. As a magistrate, he was posted to various Nigerian towns; Ademola worked in Warri from 1939-1946, and then returned to Lagos in 1946 to preside at St Anna Court. In 1947, he was posted to Opobo. In 1949 he became the third Nigerian to be appointed a puisne judge. In 1948 he served as a member of the commission for the revision of court legislation.
In 1955, a year before Western Nigeria became internally self-governing, Sir Adetokunbo was appointed Chief Justice for Western Nigeria, thus becoming the first Nigerian head of the judiciary anywhere in Nigeria. His string of ‘firsts’ continued when, three years later, he became the first Nigerian Chief Justice of the entire Federation of Nigeria. As Chief Justice, he played the role of peacemaker in two political events in the country. In 1964, after the stalemate of national elections, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the president refused to call any party to form a government until the intervention of Louis Mbanefo, the Chief Justice of the Eastern region and Ademola. He later went on to play a calming role in the aftermath of the 1966 coup when some northern officers wanted to secede from the country.
As Chief Justice, Ademola was involved in some notable judgements during his tenure, in both Regina vs Ilorin Native Authority and Ayinke vs Ibidunni, he delved into the issue of customary law. He was also involved in various constitutionality cases during the period. Some of the cases are Doherty v Abubakar Balewa, Adesoji Aderemi v Samuel Akintola and Olawoyin vs the Commissioner of Police. Sir Adetokunbo, along with Dr. Teslim Olawale Elias (who succeeded him as Chief Justice of Nigeria) was instrumental in the establishment of the Nigerian Law School. Prior to its establishment, legal practitioners had had to qualify at the English Bar.
Knighthood, Honours & Memberships
Adetokunbo Ademola was a prince of the Yoruba people, and thus often made use of the pre-nominal honorific Omoba. He was first knighted in January, 1957, and in 1963 was appointed a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Later that year, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him a K.B.E.. By serving as Chief Justice of Nigeria, Sir Adetokunbo was conferred with the title Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by the federal government of the Republic of Nigeria.
Sir Adetokunbo was also a member of the United Nations International Public Service Advisory Board, member of the International commission of Jurists, executive member of World peace through Law, vice president of the World Association of Jurists, president of the Nigerian Red Cross Association, chairman of Nigeria Cheshire homes, member of the International Olympic committee, member of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and president of the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity.
In addition to all of this, he was both one of the founders and eventual chairman of the Metropolitan Club, a founding member of the Island Club and vice patron of the Yoruba Club.
He married the former Miss Kofo Moore, who obtained a BA at Oxford and was daughter of the late Eric Moore, first Lagos member of the United nations committee of experts advising on labor conventions and regulations.