Justice Onalaja is Dead

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BY Tobi Soniyi

A former Chairman of the Council of Legal Education and a retired justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Morenikeji Omotayo Onalaja is dead.

According to a family source, he died yesterday at the age of 84 after a protracted illness.

He was born on July 24, 1933

He was called to the English Bar in Inner Temple on June 16, 1959, and enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on June 14, 1960.

Before he was appointed a judge, Onalaja had  a successful legal practice.  He was also part of the legal team that successfully defended Prof. Wole Soyinka in the mystery gunman case in 1965

He was also the founding editor of the Nigerian Monthly Law Reports, Nigeria’s first privately sponsored law reports from 1964 to 1980.

He was appointed a judge of the Lagos High Court in September 1980 and was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1993 where he served in the Port Harcourt, Lagos and Ibadan divisions.

He retired from the bench  on July 29, 2003 at age 70 after a successful career.

He was the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education 2003-2011. In 2004, he was conferred with the national honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic.

Reacting to Onalaja’ death, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja described the late jurist as an embodiment of knowledge who made great contributions to the development of the jurisprudence in Nigeria.