LAGOS--Foremost labour lawyer and rights activist, Bamidele Aturu, is dead.
Vanguard gathered that Aturu, who was billed to attend the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, delegate conference in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, was said to have taken ill, yesterday and was rushed to hospital where he died.
He was aged 49.
Reactions trail sudden death
Meanwhile, reactions poured in yesterday to his death, with lawyers and unionists describing his passing as a great loss to the legal profession and workers union movement in the country.
Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, said: "This is a terrible shock. It is a massive loss. I am shockingly stunned hearing it. He was a fantastic man. He was one of the guys I had pleasure working with. What I cherish about his attitude was that he was very dispositional on issue people were disagreeing with. If it is true that Bamidele Aturu is dead, it is a massive loss."
Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, said: "His death is a national loss. It was from my chamber that he set his own. He was a straight forward man of integrity. He was a man of the highest honour. He was a man of God."
Chief Morah Ekwunoh, said: "I am utterly astonished and dumbfounded over his death, which translates to mortal arrows in the hearts of the human rights community, the labour, the downtrodden and the voiceless, among countless beneficiaries of his activism and selfless services to humanity, who should all be submerged in ocean of tears.
"The country, as a whole, will also miss such a young and tireless talent, who in his lifetime, shone like millions of stars in the sky and who obviously was seen as an indispensable tool in future nation building."
Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo, said: "It is a very painful death. He was somebody who was concerned about the people's rights, though he was a human rights activist. He was a person who was concerned about the future of Nigeria.
He was on the side of late Gani Fawehinmi, who made sure that the people's rights were not violated. I will not say that he was a social crusader, but he was close to that.
"He used his legal machinery to ensure justice, particularly the fate of Nigeria. He had many cases where people's rights were violated and he brought same to the limelight and brought justice to it. It is a sad loss to his family, also to our country because we need people like that."
Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, said: "The announcement of his death is a rude shock to me. His death is a monumental loss to the legal profession, the human rights community and the country at large. May his gentle souls rest in peace."
Mr. Lai Babatunde, SAN, said: "Haa, Haa! I am short of words. I don't know what to say. It's very sad. May his soul rest in perfect peace."
Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, said: "Aturu was my brother, partner and lawyer. I just landed in Dakar, Senegal now to receive this sad new. I am working on rushing back to Nigeria over the sad loss."
Mr Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman of CLEEN Foundation, said: "It is a sad loss. Why are we losing our finest in this country? Last week, it was Kunle Fadipe and this week, it is Aturu. I am too shocked to speak further."
Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, said: "It is a big loss to Nigeria, a big loss to his beautiful wife and his children. One of the promising young lawyers and young Nigerians is gone. He was transparent to a fault. He would have been 50 years by October 15. We will miss him so well."
Immediate past chairman of Ikeja branch of the NBA, where he belonged, Mr Monday Ubani, said: "It is a traumatic and shocking news I have ever heard in my life. We were together in Abuja last week and also we were together when he went to address the newsmen over the de-registration of the Fresh Party. He never showed any signs of ailment.
"He is a genuine Nigerian who never fought because of political office. He was only out to protect the interest of the downtrodden. I can't understand what kind of death that is."
Ms Carol Ajie said: "I am stunned, so is everyone who heard the horrific news of Aturu's sudden death. May the good Lord comfort his dear widow, family and friends. It's a colossal loss to Nigeria."
Chairman of Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos Council, Mr Deji Elumoye, said: "Aturu was an activist and somebody who had the interest of the country at heart and it is unfortunate that he died at this particular time. He was somebody that was personate about the Nigerian project throughout his life time. As a lawyer and activist, he was very close to the people and offered free legal services to people who he believed had been wronged, particularly by the government or law enforcement agencies.
"You will recall that during his National Youth Service Corps, he rejected an award as the best corps member, because the award was being given to him by the Military.
In the last 15 years of our democracy, he was an advocate of true federalism and he believed that what we are practicing now is not democracy. We shall miss him."
National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, General Secretary, Mr Joe Ajaero, said: "We have lost one of the best friends of labour movement in the country. He was a fine gentleman, a straightforward lawyer and a defender of the oppressed. He was indeed the people's lawyer. I am very sad. It is tragic, a sad loss to the labour movement, the civil society community and indeed the down trodden in the country.
"He was our lawyer and we have many cases he was handling for us. I am just short of words."
On his part, the President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigerian, MWUN, Mr. Nted Emmanuel, said: "We are very shocked and sad to hear this tragic news of Aturu's demise. He was our lawyer, a very intelligent and straightforward lawyer. The whole labour movement in Nigeria will miss him, the Nigerian masses will miss him, and the Nigerian workers will really miss him. He was a defender and a fighter for the oppressed and suffering masses. It is a loss that we are not going to forget in a hurry. He has left a vacuum that will be difficult to fill."
Coordinator, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Zone D, Mr, Monsur Adeyemo, said: "Aturu was a great freedom fighter that will be greatly missed by Nigerian students both at home and in diaspora. He was a liberator of the masses and his passing on will be a great loss to Nigeria and Africa as a whole."
President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Dr. Chibuzor Asomugha, said: "It is a sad news, in fact, a big loss to tertiary institutions in Nigeria, to civil society and to the movement of democracy in Nigeria."
Student Union President, Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, Mr Nurudeen Yusuf, said: "Aturu will be missed mostly by the entire Nigerian students. He was a former student union leader, who fought even to the detriment of his life against military repressions. I, personally will never forget the hope he gave us during our struggle against the outrageous fees hike in our school. Mr. Aturu was willing to give us free legal services in court. In fact, his death is a great loss to human rights activism in Nigeria and Africa in general."