Remembering Omotola, 10 years after

Prof. Omotola (SAN)

Prof. Omotola (SAN)

In a preface to a book ‘Critical Issues in Nigerian Property Law,’ he edited, a professor of property Law, and the immediate past Deputy Governor of Delta State, Prof. Amos Agbe Utuama (SAN) wrote: “The book is of critical issues in Nigeria property Law and written in Honour of Professor Jelili Adebisi Omotola (SAN) who died on the 29th of March 2016. The book is to testify that even, after death his exceptional outstanding contribution to the development of property Law through research and teaching continue to resonate strongly’’.

The quality of the guests at the 10th Memorial lecture in honour of Omotola, the 7th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) bore testimony to the enduring legacy of Omotola as an academic mentor to these students in Land law, Conveyancing Law, Planning Law and Secure Credit Transactions.’’

The 1,000 capacity Shell Hall of the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos was full to the brim, from the students of the faculties of Law of Unilag, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) Ago–Iwoye, Ogun State to judicial community, captains of industry and immediate and extended family of Omotola.

The lecture was also garnished with presentations of two publications: A 254 page book entitled: Critical Issues in Nigerian property Law Edited by Utuama with contributors from former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).

Chief Judge, Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike OFR, former Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN) and former Dean, Faculty of Law, UNILAG, Prof. Imran Oluwole Smith (SAN) among many others.

The Second Publication is titled: A Visionary University Administrator:
Professor Omotola Jelili Adebisi SAN.

While Prof. Itsey Sagay (SAN) who represented Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) presented the first book to the guests, former Vice-Chancellor, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Prof. Akin Oyebode presented the second one with Lagos State Commissioner for Police, Fatai Owoseni who represented Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arise in attendance.

The climax of the impressive ceremony was the memorial lecture delivered in grand style by the distinguished scholarship awardee, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California, a professor of law and a Supreme Court Justice, Chima Centus Nweze.

The 46-page lecture is titled: ‘Professor Jelili Omotola and the Polemicisation of Real Property Jurisprudence in Nigeria.’

Justice Nweze, in his introduction remarked that ‘It is with humility that I approach this podium this morning to share my humble reflection on the above subject with the august and distinguished audience assembled here. I understand that the events of today were designed to mark the tenth anniversary of Prof J.A Omotola’s translation to other regimes of creations… I was somewhat perplexed that an event marking, as it were, his contributions to real property jurisprudence could be initiated by an organization other than his primary constituency, namely the academia.’’

Eulogizing the legacy of Omotola, Nweze noted: “I would venture the view that Professor Jelili Omotola’s worthiest legacy was his capacity to mentor numerous scholars who have considerably, succeeded in sustaining the critical tradition of scholarship which he championed and exemplified. It is common knowledge that there were, and still are, many scholars who bestrode (and are still bestriding) their areas of specialization like the legendary colossus but whose memories have, suddenly vaporized either with their retirement or with their demise (or will soon vaporize) on account of their failure, neglect or share resolve to groom acolytes or other scholars to propagate their tradition of academic enquiry.

“My research reveals that many of Omotola’s supervisees are excelling in their various endeavours in life. Only some instances will be cited here. While one of his former students is now a Chief Judge with an engaging passion for scholastic disputations; at least, three others are now Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Indeed, four of his protégées are now eminent Professors of Law. These achievements go to vindicate the aphorism that a candle loses nothing by lighting other candles!”

Justice Nweze continued: “Against this background, therefore, this distinguished assemblage of personages here should oblige me as I intend to round off this lecture with a challenge I have continued to throw at Nigerian scholars. On this occasion, I present the same challenge to real property scholars in Nigeria.

“The events of today, clearly, demonstrate that Jelili Omotola, now belongs to that intellectual pantheon where avatars, whose effervescent ideas catalyzed the current trends in legal axiology and the epistemology of law, in general, are venerated’’.

The jurist concluded by submitting that, “May it then, be so with Professor Jelili Adebisi Omotola, SAN, for his unforgettable role in the polemicisation of real property jurisprudence in Nigeria! One sure way of achieving this is by the collation and publication of the controversies in the LUA into a single volume, preferably, dedicated to the memory of the irrepressible Professor Jelili Adebisi Omotola, SAN, who even at the time of his death ten years ago did not leave this world without provoking yet a mystical controversy.

Omotola was born on April 20, 1941. He attended St. Augustine Primary School, Ijebu-Ode, and the Ahmadiyya Secondary School, Ibadan from 1956 to 1961. The young Jelili Omotola bagged his West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961, and left for London, in the United Kingdom, in 1962. By private study, which was the predominant mode of study in those days, he had become an Associate Member, Chartered Institute of Secretaries, London and in 1956 he achieved the University of London Merit Award in English Land Law and Criminal Law on his way to taking the LLB degree in Law in 1967.

In 1968, he not only earned the LLM at Queen Mary College, a University of London College, he was also called to the English Bar (Gray’s Inn). He was thereafter awarded a Western State Government scholarship for his doctorate studies, and in barely three years, Omotola deservedly earned a PhD in 1971 from the University of London. His PhD thesis was titled: Possessory Title To Land Under English Law.”

Armed with all necessary certificates, he came back to his fatherland to commence a teaching career at the University of Lagos in 1971, prior to the Call to the Nigerian Bar as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1973.

He was conferred with the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1999.

In a vote of thanks, a private legal practitioner, Adekunle Omotola who is the Executive Vice-President, Real Estate Lawyers Association (RELAN) who spoke on behalf of the family noted that since the demise of their father, the family had enjoyed so much goodwill from friends and well-wishers.

Gbadamosi, practices law in Lagos.

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