Ninety-one garlands for golden boy of criminal law

Pa AdeniranHe is one of the oldest lawyers alive in Nigeria today. Beamish, brilliant and friendly, Pa Adedapo Adeniran who recently celebrated his 91st birthday is still ebullient.

Who will not be? Out of sheer hardwork and determination, he carved an indelible niche for himself in the law profession and retired in good health that age has only tried to slow down.

With shuffling feets, he still retain his infectious smiles and candour that tells much about his younger years. He must have been the women’s men. Though celebrated in a very low key, Pa Adeniran will never cease appreciating the almighty for his blessings in his life and family. For him, each year is a plus. The nonagenarian had an outstanding practice in crimimal law.

He defended and freed murder suspects so well that his name almost become synonymous with murder-defence. He recalled few of those landmark cases: “There was this particular case where I defended some accused persons, who were charged with killing Lawyer Banjoko in 1968.

And I got all of them discharged and acquitted in spite of the very strong case put up by the government prosecutor. “Also, a Belgian ship captain was arrested somewhere along the coast of West Africa and they wanted to take him to some other country in West Africa but they had to land here. Having landed here, he was taken to prison. I had to defend the man because it was obvious that if he went to that West African country, he would have been sentenced to death. “So, I defended him and he was discharged and acquitted.

And he was allowed to go back to his country or any other friendly country. Liberia was involved and Liberia accused Nigeria over Capt. Savege Sabbe’s release. So, I followed him to no-man’s-land with the Belgian Ambassador to a place between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin;  from there, he went to Belgium. “The other was the case of a certain lady, Agnes Momodu who won Miss Lagos Pageant.

She wanted to divorce her husband; I went to court and won the case for her in the 1960’s”. Interestingly, Pa Adeniran had wanted to be a medical practitioner. But providentially, he could not get the needed finance to pursue that dream. Therefore, the loss of Medicine became the gain of law.

His words: “My initial intention was to study Medicine at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. I did not go because I did not have the financial support and the moment I left School at Kings College in 1943, there was an Igbo man named George Okafor, a labour officer. I got the admission to study Medicine in 1945. Since I didnt have the finance to take the offer, I decided to study law. You cannot do Medicine without money to back you up because it is a full time programme. Okafor was my senior in my earlier school, Baptist Academy.

He was far ahead of me. He gave me job that I should go and work at the Medical Department. “I have to go to the UK on my own and take the Bar Examination in London. After that, I was called to the Bar in inns of Courts in Britian. “If my mother had been alive, there is no question, I would have gone to study medicine.

She was a Princess from Ijebu Ode and she has the wherewithal. I lost my mother in April 21, 1936. That put some break in my admission. My father was a senior officer in General Post Office headquarters.

The only legacy that I got from my father was sending me to Kings College, Lagos.” Born in March 23, 1924, he started his primary school education at the Baptist Academy in 1938 and proceeded to Kings College, Lagos where he passed the Cambridge examination with Grade one and with exemptions from London Matriculation, Cambridge Previous and Oxford Responsions. On graduation, he went into the civil service and worked as assistant warden at Igbobi Hospital.

He was later transferred to African Hospital, Broad Street, Lagos where he became an assistant warden in charge of administration. He was later transferred to the pathology department of the African Hospital. Thereafter, he moved to Massey Street Dispensary where he was the warden in charge.

Not long afterwards, he left the shores of Nigeria for higher academic pursuit in the United Kingdom in 1949. Once he arrived London, he enrolled at the Inns Court Law School and was called to the English Bar on February 7, 1956.

He later returned to Nigeria and began to practice law. “When I returned to Nigeria, I joined D. O Coker chambers in 40 Apapa Road. From there, I started my own chambers in Bamboye Street in Lagos”, he recalled.

His contemporaries were late Justice Maidoh Omoh Eboh, Suru Subero who changed his name to Ogunsanya, Candide-Johnson, who later become a judge and Roland Okagbue. “I was a specialist in criminal cases, especially murder cases. As a new wig, I was not jittery when I first appeared before a judge without a senior because people like us used to visit the court in those days even though we are not qualified. “There is no murder case that I handled that the accused was not set free.

I was a specialist in criminal trials. When there is a murder case, the ministry of justice takes over and assign it to anybody they like. They always assign them to me in those days”, he relished. He was the one that moved a motion that facilitated the disengagement of foreign lawyers from legal practice in Nigeria.

Adeniran achieved this feat through a motion he moved on August 14, 1966 at the closing session of the two-day annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Kaduna. Unlike every other lawyer or observer of the legal system in Nigeria at the time, he refused to be gagged. He had by the motion, called on the Federal Government to revoke the permit granted to non-Nigerians under the Immigration Act to engage in private law practice in Nigeria.


The secret of my success is my knowledge of Biology through my tutor in Kings College. The day we had Latin and Biology during my Cambridge examination, as soon as I appeared, everybody started shouting ‘today is your day, today is your day’. When I am handling criminal cases, people used to come and watch. I have not seen any of my clients sentenced to death.

According to him, he never slowed down in his quest that Nigerian lawyers should take charge of proceeding in the practice of their profession but remained resolute. The groundbreaking resolution was carried, passed and by implication, paved the way for Nigerian lawyers to determine the future of the legal profession in their motherland.

He also used his writing skills to publish articles in a bid to get the deed done. In fact, an article which he published at the West African Pilot of August 25, 1965 was titled: “Expatriate lawyers should stop practising in Nigeria”.

He wrote quite a number of articles in some national dailies pushing for the idea. On the secret of his success, he said: “The secret of my success is my knowledge of Biology through my tutor in Kings College. The day we had Latin and Biology during my Cambridge examination, as soon as I appeared, everybody started shouting ‘today is your day, today is your day’. When I am handling criminal cases, people used to come and watch. I have not seen any of my clients sentenced to death. “I am an African and I take what Africans take when it comes to food. It is God that has helped me to keep fit at this age, though I dont drink alcohol.

My father can drink alcohol 24 hours a day, I don’t drink, even the natural one, palm wine. My father can drink anything alcohol 24 hours of the day, maybe that is why I detest anything alcohol. My father died about 85 years of age.” On the issue of SAN, the octogenerian said he is indifferent about the argument on whether to scrap the award of SAN or to let it be.

He stated: “If you have the money, they would give you SAN”. He believes that the system is corrupt. He is also an author. He authored: “Nigeria: Case for peaceful and friendly disolution” as well as “The futility of the Land Use Decree 1978”. “My hobby is football. I was in first eleven football team in Kings College. The other is cricket. Those are the two”, he stated. He is married and blessed with two children.

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