Karibi-Whyte, Former Chairman, 1994/95 Constitutional Conference Dies at 88


By Bennett Oghifo in Lagos and Ernest Chinwo

The erudite Justice Adolphus G. Karibi-Whyte, who was the Chairman of the 1994/95 Nigerian Constitutional Conference died last night at the age of 88 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The scholarly retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria died at about 6.30 PM in Port Harcourt from heart-related complications, according to Gogo Karibi-Whyte, his eldest son and Lagos based lawyer, who spoke with THISDAY on the passing last night. He was from Abonnema, in Akukutoru Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The late Justice was survived by his wife, Faith Karibi-Whyte and seven children: Asikiya Karibi-Whyte, Tonye Edosanwan, Gogo Karibi-Whyte, Abiye Karibi-Whyte, Tokini Karibi-Whyte, Sodigi Karibi-Whyte, and Nengi Brai.

A Whatsapp message sent to THISDAY last night said, “The great Justice Adolphus G. Karibi-Whyte, JSC, one of the most Erudite and scholarly Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria has passed on. He went to be with the Lord today, May 22nd 2020. He was 88 years old. As we pray for the repose of his Soul, let us also remember his children: Asikiya, Tonye, Gogo, Abiye, Tokini, Sodigi, and Nengi as they mourn the loss of their great and illustrious father. May his Soul Rest in Peace, Amen.
“God has been kind to our father. He served the nation meritoriously and God blessed him. He lived a memorable life,” Gogo said.

Karibi-Whyte was a legal icon, author and Professor of Law, whose professional career took him through the Nigerian and international judicial systems.

He was born on 29th January 1932, attended Kalabari National College Buguma, Rivers State, 1946-1950 and worked as a clerk of court from 1951-1957.

Karibi-Whyte was admitted to the University of Hull, England in 1957 where he obtained LL.B Degree, Upper Division in 1960. He was called to the Bar in the Middle Temple a year afterwards, and in September, 1962, obtained LL.M Degree of the University of London, and also Ph.D of University of Lagos in 1970.

In 1973, he was appointed Legal Draftsman in the Rivers State Ministry of Justice, after which this legal luminary attained the ranks of Solicitor-General, in that Ministry and became an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Lagos.

In 1976, he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Revenue Court and thus began an illustrious judicial career, which took him through the Court of Appeal from 1980, and the Supreme Court of Nigeria from 1984, thus making him the second Nigerian after Dr. T.O. Elias, to move directly from academia to the judiciary.

During this time, he also served as Chairman of several Commissions of Inquiry including the Counterfeit Tribunal and the Inquiry into the Nigerian Agricultural and Co-operative Bank. He was also appointed as Judge, International Criminal Tribunal on November 7, 1993, and Chairman Nigerian Constitutional Conference between 1994/95.

His ad-hoc appointments include: Chairman, Counterfeit Currency Tribunal, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-Owned Universities, Law Report Committee of the Federal High Court, Civil Disturbances Tribunal, Committee for the Unification & Reform of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act & Criminal Procedure Code, Nigerian Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995.

Karibi-Whyte was also Judge and Vice-President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, sitting at The Hague.

He is an author of thirteen books and 55 academic publications in local and international learned journals, and is very much in demand for speaking engagements in his field.

A recent citation on the webpage of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, noted: “Several years after, His Lordship’s judicial pronouncements on the bench continue to resonate in Nigeria and beyond.

According to Professor Paul Idornigie of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, “Justice Karibi-Whyte’s dissenting opinions in obvious opposition to the decision of the majority justices are not only legendary and seminal but unparalleled in Nigeria.

“In fact, his dissenting opinions have become illuminating judicial guides for the Supreme Court in subsequent similar cases and the basis of legislative interventions, notably – Savannah Bank of Nigeria Limited v Pan Atlantic Shipping & Transport Agencies Limited (1987), Government of Gongola State v Tukur (1989), Attorney General of the Federation v Attorney General of Abia State (2001) [The Resource Control Suit], Grace Jack v University of Agriculture, Makurdi (2004) and Patkun Industries Ltd v Niger Shoes Manufacturing Company Limited (1988).”

Karibi-Whyte was described by those who crossed his path as “a quintessential jurist, a scholar par excellence, an intellectual colossus and consummate judicial officer, he is a man driven by his passion for justice according to law, firmly undergirded by his resolute and reputed integrity.”

A gentleman of indisputably stellar accomplishments, Hon Justice Karibi-Whyte is a Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) (1998), and also Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) (2008). He was married to Mrs. Faith Asareme Karibi-Whyte.