One of the foremost justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Kayode Eso, is dead .Eso, who was highly respected for his integrity and courageous views on national issues, died on Friday in London while on holiday at the age of 87 years.
In a statement signed on behalf of the family by his son, Arc. Olumide Eso, the family said the late justice of the Supreme Court (JSC) passed on yesterday at Hammersmith Hospital in London, United Kingdom (UK).
The statement reads in part: "With glory to Almighty God, we announce the peaceful passing on of our husband, father, grandfather and brother, the Justice Kayode Eso CON, CFRon Friday, November 16, 2012, at Hammersmith Hospital in London, United Kingdom.
"He is survived by his wife, Mrs Helen Aina Eso, his children Fumilayo Eso Williams and Arc Olumide Eso, as well as his grandchldren".
Born on September 18, 1925, in Ilesa, Osun State, the late jurist had a Bachelor's and Master's degree in law from the Trinity College in London.
President Goodluck Jonathan has lamented over the death of Eso, saying it was a loss of a great legal mind to the country.
In a statement made available to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND by presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan said he received the news of Eso's death with sadness and a feeling of great national loss.
The statement reads in part: "On behalf of himself and the Federal Government, President Jonathan extends heartfelt condolences to the Eso family, their friends, associates and the government and people of Osun State as they mourn the eminent jurist, courageous judge and consistent advocate for an independent judiciary, whose long and exemplary life was dedicated to the service of law and order, and the dispensation true justice, equity and fairness to all.
"He urges them to take solace in the incontestable fact that Justice Eso will forever be remembered as a very bold, fearless and courageous judge who contributed enormously to establishing the independence of the Nigerian judiciary, and the national effort to entrench the highest levels of professionalism, discipline and integrity in the country's legal system."
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president, Chief Okey Wali (SAN), and some prominent lawyers, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), Mrs. Folake Solanke (SAN), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) Mr Olu Daramola (SAN), Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) and Mr Bamidele Aturu have paid tributes to the late legal icon.
The lawyers, who spoke in separate interviews with LEADERSHIPWEEKEND, stated that with the death of Eso, Nigeria had lost the father of the judiciary.
The late Justice Eso received the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in October 2012 and was also decorated in December 2011 by civil society groups in Lagos, with the honour of the Defender of Anti-corruption.
Okey Wali (SAN)-NBA president: " A great loss, to the legal profession and the country, but we must thank God for his gift and worthy life. The challenge is for us to sustain his legacy. May his great soul rest in the Lord's bossom. Amen."
Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), former NBA president: "The news of the demise of yet another national icon, Justice Eso, is sad indeed. We express shock and sadness on the passage of this quintessential jurist not because of his age. He enjoyed the gift of longevity and remained active till the end. His outstanding pronouncements on the Bench and lately his courage in alerting the nation to the incursion of the virulent virus of corruption in the judiciary marked him out amongst the great jurists and men of his time and age. May he rest in perfect peace.
Mrs Folake Solanke (SAN) - the first Nigerian female SAN: "I find it extremely difficult to be using the past tense to talk about him. The late justice was a man who represented the golden age of the Supreme Court in Nigeria. His legal knowledge was awesome; his knowledge of literature was superb and his knowledge of the English language was extraordinary. He was a family man and he loved human beings; all members of the bench and bar gained from his knowledge."
Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN): "For me, it is a major tragedy because he was not only a legal colossus in the bigger world but also an epitome of honour. He was the 'Mr Integrity' of Nigeria. He was a landmark for honesty, integrity and principle. So, it is devastating to Nigeria because of men of integrity that are highly lacking at present.
What we lost in Nigerian politics with the death of Chief Obafemi Awolowo is what we are likely to witness with the passing away of Justice Eso in the judiciary. He was an uncle to me. It is an exceptional loss, it is enormous and incalculable. In fact, that is the person by whom I judge things, the standard that I follow. Apart from his brilliance and his great contributions, his integrity and uprightness has been a beacon for the rest of us".