How Murtala pillaged, salaried jurist Taslim Elias in 1975


A review of previous U.S. diplomatic cables by PREMIUM TIMES has shed recent lightweight on the circumstances beneath that Justice Taslim Elias was polemically pillaged as jurist of Federal Republic of Nigeria (CJN) in August 1975 and the way the military government created amends by promoting his election to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at 's Gravenhage 2 months later.

Until the suspension of music director Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari, adult male Elias was the sole CJN far from workplace.

Other former holders of the workplace left upon their attainment of the retirement age, that currently stands at seventy years.

Mr Elias was pillaged by General Murtala Muhammed, the Nigerian Army general officer World Health Organization became Head of State when the Gregorian calendar month twenty nine, 1975 coup. The coup d'etat complete the nine-year military government of General Yakubu Gowon.

Following the coup, the new military regime launched a savage purge of the general public service. The exercise was thus large that the yank embassy in its cable of August twenty two, 1975 to Washington delineate it as being of “avalanche proportion.”

Caught within the sweep were senior defense force officers, together with all military officers from the rank of general officer and higher than, and ninety four senior police officers; many senior federal and state civil servants, 9 career ambassadors and a few judicial officers.

But the name that shocked Nigerians and outdoors observers most on the list of these pillaged or forced to retire was that of adult male Elias.

One of Africa’s greatest jurists, he had been appointed CJN solely 3 years earlier in 1972.

Before the appointment, he was the Attorney-General and Federal Commissioner of Justice. He was 1st appointed Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in 1960 and served within the capability through the full of the primary Republic.

After the primary Nigerian coup d’├ętat in January 1966, the passing military government of Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi removed him from the position. However, he was reinstated in Gregorian calendar month of that year when adult male Gowon became Head of State.

Earlier in 1966 when his sack by adult male Aguiyi-Ironsi, the University of urban center appointed adult male Elias as a faculty member and dean of its school of Law. once adult male Gowon reinstated him as Attorney-General and Federal Commissioner for Justice, the jurist combined the position together with his chair at the University of urban center.

When the military government declared his removal on August twenty, 1975, it cited his health as reason for the action. to point out he retains its regards, the govt issued an announcement laudatory his contributions to the state and profession of jurisprudence.

However, once the yank Charge d’affaires referred to as on adult male Elias at his residence on August twenty seven “to apologize at his retirement”, the jurists told him that health had nothing to try to to together with his removal.



According to another yank cable of August twenty nine that year that has been revealed by Wikileaks, adult male Elias told the envoy the bulk of the members of the Supreme Military Council failed to support his removal which it absolutely was regretted by the country’s new leadership.

“Taslim Elias was grateful and confident Charge (d’affaires) that health had nothing to try to to together with his removal,” the embassy according within the cable.

“He aforementioned a ‘small caucus’ composed of persons (unidentified) in and outdoors the present government was job the shots within the FMG (Federal Military Government) and had enclosed his name among those to be pillaged.

“When different members of supreme military council learned of this, a majority of them, together with many key northerners, objected powerfully. Was determined to vacate the ouster, however at that time announcement of it appeared within the Daily Times; FMG was embarrassed to renounce publically, and so tried to justify it by alleging Elias’ health problem.”

But that account is markedly completely different from the one given by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his book, Not My can.

Mr Obasanjo, at that point a lieutenant-general, aforementioned those that selected the sack were himself, adult male Muhammed and also the then Attorney-General and Federal Commissioner for Justice, saint Nnamani.

Mr Obasanjo was the factual deputy to adult male Murtala because the Chief of workers leadership.

According to his own account, the camp determined to increase the purge of the general public service to the judiciary as a result of “The judiciary had lost credibleness and confidence in it had greatly scoured once we came to government.”



He continued: “A Nigerian eminent legal notability confirmed true by oral communication that he had created up his mind to prevent showing in courts. state of affairs|things|matters|true|the case} was that dangerous and a desperate situation needs a forceful action.”

Mr Obasanjo then explained why the axe fell on adult male Elias, in spite of the very fact that “his legal competency wasn't doubtful and that we conjointly acknowledged that he was a good academician.”

He wrote: “His management competency and integrity to administer the judiciary was referred to as to question particularly, as a results of the apparent muddle, confusion and awkwardness by the judiciary antecedently.

“One issue of integrity that was raised and also the accusation against him was the empanelling of a Supreme Court body to listen to the charm of a land case brought by the jurist’s brother on that the Chief Justice was presupposed to have Sabbatum, and he chaired that panel that determined in favour of his brother. If it absolutely was right wrongfully, we tend to thought of it improper and offensive to public morality.

“We thought of his capability to administer the judiciary thereby impaired. He wouldn't be ready to move together with the new order and new dispensation. He had to be alleviated of his assignment.

“It was created known  to American state by a colleague of Justice Taslim Elias abundant later when my amount in government that Dr. Elias might lose his sense of demeanor on problems involving his brother World Health Organization was his nice mentor. this might probably justify his behavior during this respect.”

The government’s embarrassment over the sack grew as “hundreds of friends and well-wishers (200 to three hundred a day) descended on Elias’ residence to specific shock, disapproval and concern.”

Mr Elias was at once replaced with associate outsider from the Supreme Court, Darnley Alexander, a long-time Caribbean resident in Federal Republic of Nigeria World Health Organization at that point was the Chief choose of Cross stream State.

Two months later, all the same, the military government wrote the secretariat of the International Court of Justice, proposing adult male Elias because the Nigerian candidate for the election for African seat on the court.

Mr Obasanjo explained why the clique determined to assist a person it simply unemployed from his role reception to induce another distinguished one on the worldwide stage.

“It was in thought of Justice Taslim Elias’ distinguished standing as a Jurist, if not as associate administrator and a decent manager of judicial institution and to point that our intentions we tend tore primarily based strictly on the very fact as we tend to saw them that we suggested him for appointment into the International Court of Justice at 's Gravenhage.

“Not solely did we tend to suggest him, we tend to conjointly fought to induce him elective  against different African candidates World Health Organization were nominative well prior to him.”

Ironically, adult male Gowon had “offered” him the ICJ seat earlier within the year, adult male Elias told the yank envoy. He aforementioned he declined the supply, “believing he might serve Federal Republic of Nigeria higher reception.”

“Now, however, with modified circumstances, he's significantly curious about ICJ cause,” the yank embassy expressed within the cable.

“Embassy believes Taslim Elias are a decent alternative.

“Embassy acknowledges it's not in position to guage relative deserves of varied candidates (Kenyan High Commission has circulated note requesting support for Justice Waiyaki) for seat on ICJ presently command by Federal Republic of Nigeria however would merely note:

“(a) Justice Taslim Elias could be a man of stature, extremely revered in international circles, recently named a member of the elite International Commission of Jurists;

“(b) Trained within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Elias was at first cool to the U.S. however has established intensive contacts with U.S. jurists and has become keenly curious about U.S. system, that he believes has abundant to supply Federal Republic of Nigeria. Elias has inspired use of U.S. law texts in Federal Republic of Nigeria and has sponsored coaching of Nigerian law librarians within the U.S. he's curious about ideology and has been trying to the U.S. Constitution for ideas that may be incorporated in a very new constitution for Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“(c) U.S. support for Elias’ nomination to ICJ would facilitate FMG salvage its handling of Elias “retirement” and will thus be appreciated by new leadership.”

Even though he recognised that it had been already late for his cause to be proposed; as nominations were purported to be created in June for the election, adult male Elias told the envoy “he would be most grateful if U.S.G. (United States Government) may categorical associate interest in his drive or lend its support in any approach.”

Apparently, the Americans and their allies did simply that, as adult male Elias was in Gregorian calendar month 1975 elective  by the general Assembly and also the council of the United Nations to the International Court of Justice at 's Gravenhage.

In 1979, he was elective  Vice-President by his colleagues thereon Court. In 1981, when the death of Sir Humphrey Waldock, the President of the Court, mr Elias took over as Acting President.

In 1982, the members of the Court elected him President of the Court. He therefore became the first African jurist to carry that honor. 5 years later, adult male Elias was conjointly appointed to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at 's Gravenhage.

He died on fourteen August 1991 in lagos, his home state, at the age of seventy seven years.
Source: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/309780-how-murtala-sacked-compensated-chief-justice-taslim-elias-in-1975.html

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