Thursday, 23 May 2013
Deceased Jurist Babakayode Eso Left A Distinguished Record Of Service
Justice Babakayode Eso died at his home in London today according to a family source. He was 87.
Justice Eso’s service in the legal field spanned four decades.
He was called to the English Bar, Lincoln's Inn in 1954 and to the Nigerian Bar in December of the same year. As a legal practitioner, Eso defended black miners in Jos who were protesting against the discriminatory practices of the British colonial authorities. He served as a judge of the Western Region Court of Appeal becoming the acting President of the Court in 1976; and was also the first Chief Judge of Oyo State.
In 1989, he headed an anticorruption panel, whose report led to the establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC). In 1993 he chaired a panel on the reform of the judiciary, which resulted in the establishment of the National Judicial Council.
Among his many landmark judgments was the “Mystery Gunman case” involving Professor Wole Soyinka and his role in a broadcast which the government of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria considered offensive. While returning a verdict of 'not guilty' on Wole Soyinka who had been charged with treasonable felony, he demonstrated the independence of the judiciary. Not long after, he was transferred to Akure which then was seen as retaliation.
Another instance in which Justice Eso stood up for justice was the case of Chief Obafemi Awolowo v Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Candidate Awolowo contested his loss in the national election of August 1979, claiming that his opponent won fewer states than the number legally required. Whereas the constitution called for wins in 13 states, Alhaji Shehu Shagari had won majorities in only 12. Judges on the panel ruled 6 to 1 against Awolowo. The one lone voice against the majority was that of Justice Eso, for which he won great respect from the public.
In the case of Ojukwu V Military Governor of Lagos State reported in 1986, Justice Eso condemned the forced eviction of Ojukwu from his residence by the Lagos State government as "executive lawlessness." In the case, he declared: "the essence of the rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear. To use force to effect and act and while under the marshall of that force to seek the court's equity is an attempt to infuse timidity into court and operate a sabotage of the cherished rule of law. It must never be."
Justice Eso was born in Ilesa in Osun State on Sept. 18, 1925. He was the proprietor of the Bodija International College, Ibadan, and was the author of several books, articles and papers delivered at national and international Seminars.
He was married to Helen Aina Eso and was blessed with 2 children and five grandchildren.
A memorial is not scheduled at this time.