Justice Eso died in England. He was 87.
The Osun State Government on Friday declared three days of mourning in honour of the late eminent jurist and former Supreme Court Justice, Kayode Eso.
The State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, made the announcement at a special sitting in honour of the legal icon at the state House of Assembly. He said the state government would fly the National flag at half mast.
The governor described Mr. Eso’s death as very painful and shocking, adding that he was an incorruptible judge known for judicial activism in the legal profession.
“The exit of the legal icon is sad and we pray against such unfortunate incident. His life was dedicated to both the rich and the poor and he was a patriot par excellence,” the governor said.
Mr. Aregbesola said the deceased served humanity and God and he was a great ambassador whose death would be a huge loss to the anti-corruption crusade and the legal profession.
Mr. Eso, who was born in Ilesa, died at 87. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated with a Bachelor and Master of Law degrees in 1953 and 1956 respectively.
He displayed courage in notable cases, including the celebrated trial of Wole Soyinka, in which he declared the Nobel Laureate not guilty in an alleged offensive role in a broadcast.
The deceased also played a prominent role in the post-election litigation involving the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and former President Shehu Shagari in 1979, among many others.
Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam, said he was pained b the demise of Mr. Eso, whom he described as “a world class jurist, eminent scholar and a honest judge.”
The Speaker said, the “legal legend” was not just any jurist or legal mind but of a special breed.
The daughter of the deceased, Funmilayo Eso-Williams, who is also the Special Adviser to the Governor on Women Affairs, said her father’s death left a huge vacuum.
Ms. Eso Williams, who spoke on phone from the UK, said her father was a loving, kind and generous person.
President Goodluck Jonathan said members of the legal profession in Nigeria would always owe a debt of gratitude to the late Justice Eso for his great legacy of erudite judgments, prodigious writings, and major interventions in national debates.
He also urged members of the bar and bench to emulate the dedication, discipline, integrity and activism Mr. Eso exemplified.
A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, described the deceased as a judicial activist, saying “the late Justice Kayode Eso was always on the side of justice regardless of whose ox was gored.”
A former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, said, “his (Mr. Eso’s) courage was intoxicating; he was one of the very few who could dare to tread where so many shied away and had the courage to pass a damning verdict even on his own constituency when the legal profession was losing its bite.”
Former Minister of Transport, Ebenezer Babatope, said Mr. Eso’s death had thrown the whole country into mourning.
Mr. Babatope, described the late jurist as a forthright, brilliant and honest man who made flawless judicial decisions.
The Minister of State for Defence, Olusola Obada, said, “Eso was my first and foremost uncle in whom I am well pleased. He was my father figure whose immense contribution to my life ever remains indelible”.
She said the deceased was a distinguished jurist who served the nation meritoriously without any blemish.
Prominent Lawyers say Eso is a legend
Prominent lawyers, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, said the late justice Kayode Eso was a legal colossus.
The lawyers said Mr. Eso was without doubt a man of integrity who was committed to the development of Nigeria.
A professor of Law, Itse Sagay, described Mr. Eso as a giant of unlimited proportions.
“Words cannot measure the quality of the work he has done, the judgment and the level with which he tackled very difficult problems requiring great courage,” he said.
Mr. Sagay said the late jurist raised the standard of justice in the Supreme Court.
Human Rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, described the late Mr. Eso as one with “unparalleled commitment to the rule of law, principles of constitutionalism and democracy.”
Mr. Aturu said the deceased was very respectful “relating with both the young and old (lawyers) on the basis of equality with respect and decorum.”
“He was the first to raise an alarm that some judges were collecting billions of naira to decide on election matters; he really should be celebrated so that all the judges who have desecrated the hallowed temple of justice will learn from his kind of commitment.” Mr. Aturu said.
Lagos based lawyer, Charles Musa, said Mr. Eso was an icon in the legal practice and a voice of integrity.
“Justice Kayode Eso is a dynamic character and protagonist of judicial activism; the Lord Denning of Nigerian bench, a staunch defender of justice and the rule of law, an incorruptible arbiter in the temple of justice and most importantly, one who refuses to be tied to the apron string of obnoxious statutes, bad decisions or a syndrome of miscarriage of justice,” said Mr. Musa.
He urged members of the bar and bench to emulate the dedication, discipline, integrity and activism that Mr. Eso exemplified as well as his commendable patriotism which manifested in his constant readiness to take on national assignments whenever he was called upon to do so.