Where are they Now?

AMBROSE ALLAGOA: THE FEARLESS JUDGE

AMBROSE ALLAGOA: THE FEARLESS JUDGE

By SAMUEL ODAMO

JUSTICE Ambrose Allagoa who dared to pass the guilty judgment on a state governor while in office in 1975 is still very witty. Though he has re­tired from the Bench, he is not yet tired. Giving that all proto­col must be observed, the for­mer Chief Judge of Rivers State radiates much of the frankness  that made him the darling of many people while dispensing justice many years ago.

Time has done little harm to his handsomeness.  His light complexion still burnishes in spite of wrinkles which are fast invading his once smooth skin.  Though his agility may have dwindled, he is still smart for his age.

image012                                        image011                                   Justice Allagoa is a retiree with a difference. On a daily basis, individuals, corporate bodies and government agencies seek to sip from his wealth of experience. Again, as His Royal Highness, Mingi II, Amanyanabo of Brass, his people consult him from time to time. Hence, he is a very busy man.

As a judge, Justice Allagoa pre­sided over many cases too numer­ous to mention. Out of all these, no case, he admits, made much ripples as that of Amakiri, Rivers State Edi­tor of the Bendel State-owned Ni­gerian Observer. It was a case of conflict between the military gov­ernment and the press in Port Har­court in 1975.

The editor had filed a suit for damages against the military gov­ernor, Diette-Spiff, alleging that he (the journalist) was flogged and his head shaved on the order of the governor. It was not easy for the judge to sit over the case and arrive at a decision. At that moment, he was between the devil and the deep blue sea.

His legal boss, the then Chief Judge of the state, a European, ap­peared to have avoided touching the case as he deftly proceeded on annual leave before it was men­tioned. Since His Highness does not believe in shirking responsibility, that was one of the cases he heard in his capacity then as the Acting Chief Judge of the state.

Confronted  with this epoch-making case, he reveals that:  “I made up my mind that all I wanted was to get at the truth.” The case was decid­ed in record time. Its hearing began on a Monday and judgment was passed on Friday. Mr. Gani Fawehinmi (now Chief) represented the ap­plicant at the hearing. While reading the judgment, the judge ordered the state governor to pay N20,000 as damages to the aggrieved editor, Amakiri. The case made waves across and beyond the country.

The 78-year-old retired judge was a member of the Boys Scout as a kid. He spent his childhood in Owerri, Onitsha and Port-Harcourt as the son of a civil servant always on transfer from one town to another. “Being a scout,” he recollects, “is a good start in life”.

Justice Ambrose Allagoa attended Saint Mary School, Port Harcourt for his primary education. He was one of the pioneering students of Christ the King College (CKC) Onitsha from October 1933 to 1936. He worked for 10 years in the judicial department before go­ing overseas to study law.

His first public appointment was as the Mayor of Port Harcourt in 1958. He left the-Municipal Authorities Ser­vice to join the Bench in October 1962. He left for the Rivers State Judicial Bench in 1970, where he rose to the post of the Chief Judge before retiring in 1979.

Among the special attributes of Justice Allagoa while in service was the dispatch with which he handled suits before his courts. He recalls a chance encounter in 1982 with some­body who once had a land case before his court. Besides being satisfied with how the case was decided, the man told Justice Allagoa that another per­son with a similar case filed in another court at the same time was as at 1982, still attending court in respect of the case.

The former chairman of the Council of Traditional Rulers in Rivers State be­lieves that the traditional rulers have more important roles to play in the na­tion’s polity than they are currently playing. He advocates the inclusion of specific roles for traditional rulers in the constitution.

As a first step towards giving the tra­ditional rulers the opportunity of mak­ing meaningful contributions to the gen­eral well-being of the nation, he suggests the resuscitation of House of Chiefs. This legislative arm, he says, would help to cool down tempers and  take a second look at bills brought be­fore it by various chambers.

The retired Chief Judge who is a farmer, divides his time between his palace in Nembe and his residence at the GRA Diobu area of Port Harcourt.

First Published Saturday, 14 November, 1992.


 

About the author

Uthman Shodipe

Uthman Ademilade Shodipe, a descendant of King Ado, the first King of Lagos, is from the Dosunmu Royal House. A student of Classical Antiquity and History of Political Thought, he studied Comparative Literature and Intellectual History of Europe 18th Century at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).