Mohammed Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi (1932 – 2018): Exit of an incorruptible judge

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KEHINDE OSASONA looks at the life and times of former President, Court of Appeal, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, who passed on yesterday

The pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Off ences Commission, and former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Mohammed Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi CFR, (rtd) is dead. He died in the early hours of yesterday at a private hospital in Ilorin at the age of 85. Until his demise, he was the Wakili of Ilorin. Born September 11, 1932, in Accra, Ghana, Akanbi was educated in Nigeria and London. He was called to the English Bar in 1963 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in January 1964. Upon completion, he joined the Ministry of Justice in 1964 and rose to the position of a Senior State Counsel in 1968. One of Akanbi’s children, Mohammed (a professor law at the University of Ilorin), who confirmed the demise of the Ghanaian- born jurist and foremost anti-graft crusader to newsmen. He simply said: “Yes, my father has gone to be with God.” The octogenarian had since been buried yesterday, (Sunday) at his GRA residence in Ilorin around 2pm after the janazat prayer offi ciated by the Chief Imam of Ilorin, Alhaji Mohammed Bashir. The deceased would have turned 86- year-old on 11th September 2018. His life and times Akanbi, was until his death an elder statesman, respected opinion moulder, pious and forthright personality, incorruptible jurist, wellrespected nationalist, an intelligent man and epitome of integrity all rolled into one. Born on 11th September, 1932 in Accra, Ghana between 1939 and 1949, the lawyer attended African College (Primary) and Accra Royal Senior Primary School, Accra, before proceeding to the Odorgonno Secondary School, Accra in 1950/53 where he obtained the Senior Cambridge School Certificate in 1953. After his secondary school eduaction, he worked as an Executive Officer in the Ghana Civil Service, and was active as a trade unionist before moving to Nigeria. In Nigeria, he had a brief stint at the Ministry of Education, where he held sway in the School of Broadcasting Department. Before proceeding to read Law in the UK, Akanbi started his working career as a teacher and was later appointed as Government Clerk. He was an Assistant Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, Northern Nigeria. In 1964, he was posted to the Northern Nigeria Civil Service as a Pupil State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice on 13th January, 1964. He rose through the ranks and in 1968; he became a Senior State Counsel. He served in Kaduna, Kano, Makurdi and Ilorin. He obtained a scholarship to study law at the Institute of Administration, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, followed by legal studies in the United Kingdom from 1960 to 1961; School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and Gibson Weldon College of Law, London from 1961 to 1962. He was called to the English Bar at the Middle Temple, London on 9th July 1963. He did a post-final course at the Council of Legal Education, United Kingdom in 1963. He is a holder of certificate for Commonwealth Law officer between 1967 –1968. At the creation of states, he was deployed from Ilorin to the former Benue/Plateau State as a Senior State Counsel. In 1969, he resigned from the service. Between 1969 and 1974, he went into private legal practice in Kano and later established branches of the fi rm of Akanbi, Ibrahim & Co in Kaduna and Ilorin. In 1974, he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Revenue Court (now Federal High Court). He was the pioneer resident judge of the court in the entire Eastern states with headquarters in Port Harcourt. He held sessions in Calabar and Enugu. In 1977, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench. He was posted to Enugu Judicial Division of the Court and later transferred to Ibadan. In 1983, the jurist was appointed Presiding Justice of the Court in the Jos Judicial Division. In 1988, he became the presiding judge in Ibadan Judicial Division, and in September 1992, was acclaimed a forthright judicial officer; an attribute which earned him the position of the President of the Nigerian Court of Appeal in 1992, a position he held until retiring in 1998. Akanbi became the President Court of Appeal, the post he held until he voluntarily retired in January 1999. Although, the new rule puts retirement age of judges at that level of court at 70, he nevertheless chose to leave at 65, saying no going back on his plan to quit at that age. He was, for several years, part of the National Judicial Commissions and headed several probe panels. It was in recognition of his distinguished career, that he was also appointed as ICPC chair, a body vested with the statutory responsibility of combating the malaise of corruption within the Nigerian polity in the year 2000, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In exhibiting his principle stance, Akanbi, on completion of the first term of office in year 2005, politely declined the opportunity offered him to serve another term of five years. He was eventually succeeded by Justice Emmanuel Ayoola. He thereafter joined the Board of the Justice and Law Enforcement Reformation Organization, a non-profit organization that aims to eradicate corruption and poverty from the perspective of the Judiciary and Law Enforcement agencies. Reminiscence on his principles The late Mustapha exemplifi ed his principle stance years back when he was about to retire from the Court of Appeal as the President. The federal government had pegged the retiring age of justice to 65 years, only for it to extend the age limit to 70 years of again. As a demonstration of his uncompromising stance, the jurist still went into retirement without minding whose ox is gored. As he bequeaths legacy… In ensuring that there is enthronement of justice, equity, fair play, and the promotion of the quintessential virtues of honesty, integrity, transparency, and accountability in all human activities, the late jurist in 2006, fl oated the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation, a nonprofit, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation dedicated to the upliftment of mankind in the country. Honourable Justice Akanbi was the founder of Mustapha Akanbi Foundation, Maasalam Islamic Foundation, Mustapha Akanbi Library and Resource Center, Nana Aishat Academy and several others. Torrent of tributes Meanwhile, in his condolence message, President Muhammadu Buhari, has commiserated with the Akanbis, the government, people of Kwara State and the entire Ilorin Emirate, describing their departed matriarch as a man whose greatest asset in life was his enviable integrity and incorruptibility. In a statement, issued through the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari was quoted as saying that Akanbi will long be remembered for his enormous contributions in bringing credibility and respectability to the country’s judiciary. The President described the death of the pioneer ICPC chair as colossal, not only to the Nigerian judiciary, but the country as a whole. “Being respected by the people for your honesty and patriotism is the best legacy a man can leave behind. “In a country where corruption is perceived as fashionable, Akanbi stood out as a remarkable man who put personal integrity and selflessness before the desire for money outside his legitimate income,” Buhari said. The President affi rmed that the late justice’s greatest achievement was leaving the public service with his integrity intact and untainted, noting that, throughout his distinguished career in the judiciary and public service, he resisted the defeatist mindset of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” “Great men like Akanbi didn’t believe in joining evil because it was popular or supported by the majority,” Buhari further extolled. Following suit, a socialcultural group of professionals, Th ird-Estate Ilorin Emirate, also in a condolence message signed by the President of the group, Malam Bolaji Nagode, described Mustapha as an incorruptible jurist, a great scholar, philanthropist and fi nest anti-corruption advocate. And at the community level, he was there for his people. For Akanbi, it will not be out of place to say he came, he saw and conquered. Adieu Mr. Incorruptibility


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