Today Wednesday February 2, 2022 marks the end of an era as Lagos State government begins pulling down what remains of the symbol of Nigeria’s legal history, the Igbosere High Court.
The court, an inherited legal monument from the colonial days, was burnt down on October 25, 2020, in the aftermath of the #Endsars protests that rocked Lagos in that fateful year.
A caterpillar was sighted demolishing the ancient Court on Wednesday signifying that the government has started the process of rebuilding.
It will be recalled that miscreants hijacked the protest in October 2020 when scores of youths were said to have been shot in Lekki Tollgate by the Nigerian army and unleash mayhem on the city of Lagos.
After the destruction, Lagos State Records and Archives Bureau (LASRA) promised to preserve the Court as historical heritage. The Director-General, Mrs. Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, spoke during a two-day conference organized by the Agency to discuss the heritage of the Igbosere High Court.
According to her, “LASRAB, being an Agency of the Lagos State Government responsible for heritage preservation, felt it was important to document the history of the building, what is currently going on and to ensure that our voice is lent to preserving the heritage of the building once it is rebuilt. We are in talks with the Lagos State Chief Judge and the Nigerian Bar Association. We want to bring together the best minds to achieve this and ensure that history is captured and preserved. This will be a joint project because we believe in partnership”, the Director-General informed.
She stated that the history of the Igbosere Court would be documented in a book, which will be available online and offline, with relevant pictures and stories that speak about the court.
The Lagos High Court was known as the Lagos Supreme Court with its existence dating back to the period of the cession of Lagos to the British Government as a colony, it became Lagos High Court at the creation of the Federal Supreme Court. It is one of the Judicial bodies of the Lagos Judiciary. The highest ranking Court in the State Judiciary, it has under it the Magistrate Courts, the Customary Courts, and the Customary Court of Appeal. It is headed by the Honorable Chief Judge and a team of Judges.
The Lagos State Judiciary has a rich heritage. The Lagos State Judiciary is the oldest Judiciary in Nigeria. Its existence dates back to the period of the cession of Lagos to the British Government when it was established and known as the Colony Province Judiciary. The First Court to be established was the Magistrates’ Court. When the High Court was established later, it was called the Supreme Court and its jurisdiction was limited to Lagos. At self-government, the Federal Territory of Lagos inherited the two systems of Courts – the Magistrates’ Courts and the Supreme Court.
At the creation of the Federal Supreme Court, the Lagos Supreme Court became High Court of the Federal Territory Lagos. Hon. Justice Conrad Idowu Taylor became Chief Justice of the Court on the 22nd day of July 1964. The High Court building in Lagos (at Race Course) was the headquarters of the Court and is the oldest and most recognizable Judicial Building in Nigeria.
Many great lawyers both in the bar and bench practiced their trade in this building. Several legal decisions were taken there. Justices like Joseph Adefarasin, Yahaya Jinadu, Ligali Ayorinde, Rosaline Omotosho, Olusola Thomas, Ishola Oluwa, Abiodun Kensington, Samuel Ilori, Dolapo Akinsanya; and even those who are still alive like George Oguntade, Bode Rhodes-Vivour also once sat in different courts in the building.
Great lawyers such as Rotimi Williams SAN, GOK Ajayi, Gani Fawehinmi, Kehinde Sofola, Taslim Elias and others too numerous to mention practiced their advocacy in the court.
It has now become history