RETIRED Justice Mamman Nasir’s death on April 13 further highlighted the current crisis of integrity in the Nigerian judicial system. His legacy of juristic integrity attracted praise. Nasir, a former President of the Court of Appeal, the country’s second highest court, was aged 89.
In a tribute, President Muhammadu Buhari drew attention to Nasir’s exemplary positives as a jurist and patriot: “Nasir and judges of their golden age were more interested in leaving untainted record of integrity than accumulation of wealth overnight.”
Buhari added: “When you look at Nasir’s modest lifestyle and his incredibly humble possessions, you would be disarmed at once by his honesty and patriotism. While some Nigerians perceive public office as an opportunity to line their pockets, men of Nasir’s character put a higher premium on honest labour than on greedy accumulation of questionable wealth overnight.’’
It is noteworthy that Nasir was nearly abducted about three months before his death. The incident called attention to the country’s security crisis. According to a report, Nasir was on Dayi-Malumfashi road, in Malumfashi Local Government Area of Katsina State, when some unidentified gunmen “blocked the road, searching vehicles to see whom to kidnap.” He was said to have “quickly switched vehicles to escape the kidnappers, but his aide was not quick enough to escape and was taken away along with other travellers into nearby bushes.”
Nasir was concerned about the turmoil in the country’s northern region, and argued that it was the responsibility of the leaders to bring back peace. He also advised that traditional rulers should be involved, and not be sidelined, in the fight against insurgency. It is said that in the 27 years he reigned as district head of Malumfashi, there was never a period the town witnessed any trouble, which is testimony to his pursuit of peace. Nasir was also Galadima Katsina, a chieftaincy title that reflected the respect he enjoyed in the traditional society in Katsina State. Indeed, until his death, Nasir was the chairman of the Katsina State Development Fund known as Gidauniyar Jihar Katsina.
He was born in present-day Katsina State in 1929. He completed his studies at Kaduna College in 1947, and earned a certificate in Latin from University of Ibadan. He got a bachelor’s degree in Law in 1956 after studies at the Council of Legal Education in London, and was called to the bar in the same year. He was appointed a Crown Counsel after he returned to Nigeria. Nasir became Minister of Justice, Northern Nigeria, in 1961. From that position, he became the Director of Public Prosecution, Northern Region, in 1967, the same year he was appointed Solicitor-General, North Central State. In 1975, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He became President of the Court of Appeal in 1978. Nasir headed the court for 14 years, and retired in 1992.
Nasir remained relevant after he left the bench. His role as Chairman, Committee on Transition to Civil Rule, during the General Sani Abacha regime, signalled his recognition as an elder statesman. The position also showed his interest in the country’s political development and socio-economic progress.
In a tribute, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), which speaks for Northern Nigeria, said: ”The North and indeed Nigeria has lost one of its finest elder statesmen, a bridge builder and a leader who lived a simple and humble life. He needs no tombstone to remind us of his legacies.” Nasir’s Nigerian national honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), underlined his stature.
Not only the judiciary, but the country as a whole, should be enlightened by Nasir’s integrity and patriotism. These are important values Nigeria needs for progress.