Prince Bola Ajibola, a former Judge of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, passed away at the age of 89. Ajibola, who was also a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, died in Abeokuta following an age-related illness. The news of his death was announced by his eldest child, Segun Ajibola, SAN, in a statement on Sunday.
Prince Bola Ajibola was born on March 22, 1934, in Owu near Abeokuta, to the Owu royal family of Oba Abdul-Salam Ajibola Gbadela II. He attended Owu Baptist Day School and Baptist Boys’ High School in Abeokuta before obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Law at the Holborn College of Law, University of London between 1959 and 1962. He was called to the English Bar at the Lincoln’s Inn in 1962 and returned to Nigeria to practice law.
He specialised in Commercial Law and International Arbitration and was conferred with the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, in 1980. Ajibola’s efforts during that period led to the practice of Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, becoming integral parts of Nigerian legal practice.
In 1984, he became the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and was subsequently appointed as Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Nigeria by the then military President of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, from 1985 to 1991. During his six-year tenure as minister, Ajibola was known for not accepting a salary from the government.
Ajibola’s exceptional performance as NBA president caught the attention of Babangida, who appointed him as Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Nigeria. While serving as Attorney General, he appointed Professor Yemi Osinbajo, now Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as his Special Assistant. After leaving his ministerial post, he threw his wig into the highly competitive ring for a seat on the International Court of Justice and was appointed a judge of the court from 1991 to 1994.
As a judge, Ajibola was known for his way with words and his use of idioms and proverbs. He was also known to write not less than 80 pages of judgments per night as a world court judge. After exiting the international court, Ajibola took up a position in 1994 as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration concerning the land dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon. Out of 15 judges, only he and Justice Koroma of Sierra Leone ruled favourably for Nigeria when judgment was passed on October 22, 2002.