Born in Kutigi, North-Western State (now located in the Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State), Justice Kutigi attended elementary school in that town and middle and secondary school in Bida.He then moved on to Government College (now known as Barewa College), and then to Ahmadu Bello University (both in Zaria, Kaduna State). He left the country for England, where he studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and Gibson and Weldon, before returning to attend the Nigerian Law School in Lagos, Lagos State.He was called to the bar in approximately 1964.
Kutigi served as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State before becoming a high court judge in 1976.He joined the Supreme Court in 1992 and President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him to the position of Chief Justice to succeed the outgoing Salihu Alfa Belgore. Belgore retired on 17 January and Kutigi succeeded him on 30 January, after being confirmed by the Senate.
Kutigi retired on 30 December 2009, having reached the mandatory 70-year retirement age.He swore in his successor, Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu. The President of Nigeria usually swears in the Chief Justice, but President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was not available on this occasion due to ill health. Kutigi also continued to attend Council of State meetings held at the decision of the president.
In 2014 he was appointed chairman of the National Conference on constitutional matters by President Goodluck Jonathan.His appointment was widely welcomed by those on all sides of the Nigerian political spectrum with praise coming for his impartiality and fair handedness.On 12 June 2014 he stepped in to separate northern and southern politicians who almost came to blows during a conference meeting over a disagreement on holding a one minute silence to honour those that died during the 1993 presidential election.Kutigi later described the conference as the “most arduous” to have been held in Nigeria’s history due to the short length of time, four and a half months, that had been allowed for it. By its conclusion more than 600 resolutions had been addressed covering points of law, public policy and the constitution. The findings were presented in a 22-volume, 10,335-page document.
Kutigi had 18 children and more than 40 grandchildren. He died in a London hospital on 21 October 2018 following a short period of illness.
A street in the Federal Capital Territory was named in his honour in April 2015.The Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi International Conference Centre in Minna is also named for him.
President Muhammadu Buhari has condoled with the Kutigi family on the passing of the head of the family and former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
Buhari, in a condolence message by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in Abuja, on Sunday, also empathised with members of the judiciary and legal profession as well as with the government and people of Niger State on the death of the eminent jurist.
According to him, “the late CJN will be long remembered and honoured for his visionary roles and contributions in the advances our country has made towards building a strong, independent and impartial judiciary, which is sine qua non for democracy to thrive.The President expressed the belief that Kutigi’s “bold and articulate judicial decisions, advocacies on access to justice for all and protection of judicial independence are extant signposts for the advancement of the noble profession in the country and beyond.”
He admonished those who mourn the late jurist to honour his memory by working for a better and just society enjoining them to uphold the virtues associated with him during his lifetime of long and dedicated service to the nation.
He prayed almighty God to comfort Kutigi’s family, friends and associates, and grant eternal rest to the soul of the departed.
All Progressives Congress national stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has commiserated with the family of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi. In a statement by Tinubu Media Office on Sunday, the APC leader said Kutigi was a statesman and distinguished Nigerian who served the country creditably in his area of specialisation and capacity, adding that he would be sorely missed not only by his family , home-state but also by the country at large.
Asiwaju Tinubu recalled the late Justice Kutigi’s onerous contributions to the country’s judicial system, to jurisprudence and to the political system.
He described Kutigi as a thorough-bred judicial officer who rose through the rank, serving as Attorney-general and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State until he was appointed a High Court Judge, serving in that office for more than a decade from where he was appointed into the Supreme Court.The APC national leader said: “He distinguished himself as the nation’s 11th Chief Justice of Nigeria, serving from January 2007 to December 2009. I particularly recall how Justice Kutigi helped to stabilise the judiciary and starved off a judicial crisis when on the eve of his retirement from office he swore in his successor, Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu, in the absence on health grounds of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was constitutionally empowered to so do.”
Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi was a quintessential Nigerian who w a father to all. He built bridges across the divides. He was proud family man. Known and respected for his integrity and discipline .
He held an inner traditional title of “Omenanmkpo Amokwe” in Amainyi, Ihitte Uboma. A title only reserved for sons in far away jurisdictions but only bestowed by the Ancient Inyi Traditional Council of Amainyi.
As a mark of honour following his death the Nigerian flag was ordered to be flown at half mast at the Supreme Court, the official residence of the chief justice, all judicial institutions and courts of records for seven days. A book of condolence was opened at the premises of the Supreme Court.
He was a great pillar for mandateguard Initiative as it relates to its works on anti corruption, good governance and accountability.
Comrade Obinna Ogwuegbu . Member, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.