Omololu Ogunmade and Michael Olugbode in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has described the late Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Sylvanus Nsofor, as a man of rare courage.
Nsofor, 85, who died in an hospital in the United States, last Thursday evening, was a retired justice of the Court of Appeal, and assumed office as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States on November 13, 2017.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement titled “President Buhari mourns Ambassador Nsofor,” said Buhari had spoken with the deceased’s widow, Jane on telephone to commiserate with her and the family.
According to the statement, Buhari, during the telephone conversation described the late envoy as “an outstanding judge of rare courage and truth who is not afraid to give justice to whom justice is due.”
The president was apparently referring to the 2003 presidential election petitions on which Nsofor delivered a minority judgment as a member of the election appeal tribunal in his favour, as the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Buhari said the country would miss people with such exemplary pedigree.
Shehu added that the President had directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work with the deceased’s family on his burial arrangement.
A press statement, yesterday, by the spokesperson of the ministry, Ferdinand Nwonye said Nwafor, was survived by Mrs. Jane Nsofor, three children and grandchildren.
Nwonye added: “The Ministry, on behalf of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, extends to Mrs. Nsofor and her family deepest condolences and sympathy and prays for the peaceful repose of an outstanding and patriotic Nigerian public servant.”
The envoy succeeded Prof Adebowale Adefuye, who also died towards the end of his tenure as Nigeria’s Ambassador to U.S.
Born on March 17, 1935, in Oguta, Imo State, Nigeria, Nsofor graduated from London’s, now-defunct, Holborn College of Law in 1962. He also bagged an LL.M from the London School of Economics in 1964.
The late envoy began teaching at Holborn College of Law in 1964 and later went into private practice the following year.
He was appointed to the bench in Nigeria in 1977, and served as a judge of the Imo state High Court. Nsofor was a justice on the Court of Appeal of Nigeria for 13 years until his mandatory retirement in 2005.
Nsofor cast the dissenting vote in a three-justice panel in a contested 2003 presidential race between Muhammadu Buhari, who was presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
When President Buhari was elected President 12 years later, he appointed Nsofor as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S, a top and strategic foreign post. Nsofor was then 82.
His ambassadorial screening at the senate did not go without some drama as he refused to recite the national anthem when asked to do so by Senator Gbenga Ashafa, who was concerned about Nsofor’s age and fitness to serve.
“Go and ask Mugabe who is still working,” Nsofor replied senators when his age and fitness became an issue during the screening session.
Nsofor’s nomination was denied but President Buhari re-nominated him at the end of March of 2017.
After another appearance before the senate, he was confirmed as ambassador on June 7.