He is famously known as the ‘Socrates of the Supreme Court’, and indeed, he demonstrated this as the head of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, popular called Oputa Panel. Below are 20 things you may not know about the late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa.
1. He was born to Chief Oputa Nzukwu and Mrs. Nwametu Oputa on September 22, 1924.
2. His father died when he was about three months old while his mother died just about the time he turned six months.
3. He was brought up by his grandmother, Ogonim Enesha, a trader with the Royal Niger Company.
4. Growing up, he was fondly referred to as Sylvester, and attended the Sacred Heart School, Oguta, from 1930 to 1936, and Christ the King’s College, Onitsha, from 1937 to 1940.
5. Though he got admission to the Higher College, Lagos, he had to move to the famous Achimota College, in the then Gold Coast (now Ghana), where he obtained a Bachelors degree in Economics in 1945.
6. During the Second World War, Oputa, while a student at Achimota, was drafted into the army, during which he joined others to establish the Achimota Home Generals.
7. He studied at home to obtain his Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of London.
8. On return from Ghana, he became a teacher at the African College (now in Rivers State), where the likes of Prof. Chike Obi, famous mathematician, and Dr. Pius Okigbo also taught.
9. He was once a principal at the Kalabari National College, Buguma, and one of his students was Prof. Tam David West, a former petroleum minister.
10. Oputa read Law in England and by June 1953 he received his LL.B (Hons) degree.
11. He was called to the English Bar-Grays Inn, London, on November 26, 1953.
12. He returned to Nigeria in 1954 and appeared in virtually all the magistrate and high courts of the then Eastern Region of Nigeria, the West African Court of Appeal, the Federal Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, and the court in the Region of Cameroon.
13. Oputa was the lead counsel in the Harcourt Commission of inquiry into the Oguta Chieftaincy dispute between 1958 and 1959. He was also the leading counsel in the Ukelonu Inquiry into the Nembe Amayangbo Dispute (1959/1960), as well as the leading counsel in the Harding Commission of Inquiry into the Onitsha Obaship dispute between 1960 and 1961.
14. In 1976, he was appointed the first Chief Judge of Imo State, a position he held till July 2, 1984.
15. He was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria after his tenure as the CJ of Imo State.
16. He established his Justice Oputa Foundation on October 2, 2010. The foundation according to him was an initiative, which “operates with deep understanding that it is virtually impossible to address the malaise bedeviling the continent without sound, people-oriented governance constructed on sustainable developmental modem.”
17. He was a staunch Catholic and social crusader for justice, a prominent member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Oguta. He’s a Knight of St. Sylvester.
18. Oputa owned a Limousine-1950 model, which afterwards was used for ceremonial events.
19. His wife, Margaret, 92, was a nurse.
20. Oputa lost two of his children- his first child, Michael, sometimes in 2003; and his only daughter same year. She died during childbirth.