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Foremost African constitutional law scholar Ben Nwabueze dies

Foremost African constitutional law scholar Ben Nwabueze dies

A foremost African lawyer of Nigerian descent, Professor Ben Obi Nwabueze, is dead.

The family, in a statement by Eni Nwabueze, said the Senior Advocate of Nigeria passed on Sunday at the age of 94.

He said burial arrangements would be announced in due course.

“With great sadness, we announce the passing on of our patriarch, Professor Ben .O. Nwabueze SAN, NNOM, CON, pioneer Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Oduah Afo-na-Isagba of Atani, Anambra State, on Sunday October 29th, 2023 age 94. He lived an exemplary life of consequence,” the statement read.

The Anambra State Commissioner for Information, Mr Paul Nwosu, also confirmed the news.

Who’s Prof Ben Obi Nwabueze?

Fondly called Professor of Professors by his numerous admirers, Prof Nwabueze was Nigeria’s first academic Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

A teacher, administrator, businessman and former Minister of Education and Youth Development in Nigeria, he was born on December 22nd, 1932 in Atani, Ogbaru local government area of Anambra State.

His academic pursuit started at the CMS Central School Atani, from 1938 to 1945; C.M.S Central School, Onitsha (formerly African College), 1947to 1950.

He later went to London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, 1956 to 1961 and School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1961 to 1962. From 1962 to 1965, he was Senior Lecturer at Holborn College of Law, London, and Senior Lecturer, University of Nigeria Nsukka, between 1967 and 1970. In 1971, he was Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Zambia and Director, Law practice Institute, Zambia, 1973 to 1975

Although, well supported by both father and uncle initially, the greater parts of his academic pursuits abroad were made possible by scholarship awarded to him for his academic excellence.

Prof. Nwabueze earned his Doctor of Laws (LL.D) at the University of London in 1978, based on his three outstanding books – Constitutionalism, Presidentialism, and Judicialism, thus entering the record books as the second (since the death of Dr. T.O. Elias), the only Nigerian and African holder of a higher doctorate degree in Law by published works.

He is also the first academic lawyer to be made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1978 strictly on the basis of his published works.

A seasoned Academician, he was member of Senate of the Universities of Lagos, Dar-es-salaam, Nairobi, Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland between 1971 and 1978.

He was appointed the University Assessor for Academic Appointments, Universities of Ghana, Lagos, Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Jos between 1978 and 1979.

A firm believer in publishing, Prof. Nwabueze is the proud author of over thirty books and treatises with an average extent of 400 pages.

They include; The Machinery of Justice in Nigeria; Constitutional Law of the Nigerian Republic; Nigerian Land Law and Constitutionalism in the Emergent States. Others are Presidentialism in Commonwealth Africa, Judicialism in Commonwealth Africa; The Presidential Constitution of Nigeria; A Constitutional History of Nigeria; Federalism in Nigeria under the Presidential Constitution; and Nigeria’s Second Experiment in constitutional Democracy in Africa in Five Volumes.

He has written over 200 articles in academic journals and more than 100 keynotes at local and international conferences.

He is a household name in the legal profession and perhaps the most frequently quoted author in court judgements in Nigeria.

Although, well known for his teaching, research and writing, Nwabueze continued to participate in university administration.

He was appointed to Professorial Chairs in the following Universities; Zambia, 1970 – 75; Ahmadu Bello university, Zaria, 1974; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1975 – 76; Anambra State University of Technology; Nnamdi Azikiwe university, Awka 1989 – 1983 (visiting)

Prof Nwabueze was also a strong advocate for the Igbo cause. He, alonside alongside other prominent Igbo sons like Akanu Ibiam, M.I. Okpara, K.O. Mbadiwe, Chief Ugochukwu, P.N. Okigbo and Udoji, co-founded Ohaneze Ndigbo in 1976.

He served as Secretary General between 1978 and 2004, in which capacity he transformed the body into a formidable, highly regarded non-partisan Pan Igbo pressure group.

Prof. Ben Nwabueze was truly an academic giant in every sense of the term. Probably more than any other Nigerian, his numerous books and articles contributed towards the application of constitutional law and the broader process of governance in Nigeria.

Indeed, the Nigerian constitutional evolution and the evolution of the entire legal system of Nigeria would not be complete without his invaluable contribution.


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