FRA Williams is Dead
Daniel condoles family
By Louis Achi, 03.27.2005
Nigeria's foremost legal luminary, Chief Fried-rich Rotimi Alade (FRA) Williams (SAN), a.k.a. 'Timi the Law' died yesterday evening at his Lagos home at the age of 83.
Confirming the death yesterday night, his eldest son, Chief Ladi Williams (SAN), told THISDAY: "Yes, papa passed on at about 9.30p.m. today (yesterday) at his Lagos home."
In January this year, Williams suffered a stroke and was flown to a London hospital. The news about his ill-health was broken to the Supreme Court by Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN) at the resumption of the trial of the Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye.
THISDAY gathered that the late Williams recovered from the stroke and was flown back home some four weeks ago. Though he could not walk, he had his wits with him and gave directions for many legal cases from his sick bed.
In his reaction last night, Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, described the death of Williams as a loss not only to Ogun State but to the whole world. He commiserated with his immediate family and assured that "Timi the Law will be given a befitting burial."
Williams’ landmark 60 years were celebrated at a seminar titled "Enduring Democracy and Federalism in a New Democratic Nigeria" attended by the who-is-who in the country. Among the distinguished luminaries who attended was former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Kayode Eso, who delivered the lecture. Eso described Williams as "a living legend and the greatest law advocate Africa has produced," adding: "He is outstanding, most renowned and most eagerly sought after notwithstanding the fact that he is already over 80 years with continued law practice for over 60 years."
Responding to the accolades, the late Williams had said: "I must confess today that I am totally humbled by the presence of who-is-who in Nigeria who are here present to honour me. Even if nothing happens again, I am satisfied that I am held in high regard among men and women of excellence".
Williams added "there is no body of people or association of people in any part of the universe which does not have the good eggs or the bad eggs while the legal profession is not excluded."
"As far as I am concerned, I have contributed my quota to the maintenance of the Nigerian Bar yet there are some wrongs to be put right in the Bench and the Bar," he added.
Also, former Justice Minister in the Second Republic, Chief Richard Akinjide, in his address said "the quality of the Bar reflects the quality of the Bench in any country of the world. The leaders of legal profession should thus do a rethink in order to stall all centripetal forces betiding the profession in Nigeria."
In his own contribution to the discussion, Chief H.T.O. Coker described Williams, as "a doyen of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria; a quintessential legal luminary, a collossus both in physique and accomplishment, a legend of the noblest of all professions, a lawyer who has left his indelible footprints on the floor of law courts, a litigator's delight and a man whom Nigerians, both young and old, literate and illiterate, have come to know and address as 'Timi the Law'."
Giving the toast at the occasion, the late Chief Debo Akande (SAN) challenged lawyers and other Nigerians close to Williams to ensure that the biography of the top lawyer is produced for all to learn from. "Yours truly will like to know more about what happened in the 20 years before he returned from England in 1964 like what he disclosed recently that there was only one High Court judge for the whole of Lagos when he joined the bar in 1943," Akande said.
He noted that "Williams' contributions to the legal development of our profession are unparralleled as will remain indelible in the annals of our legal history."
Williams before his death had been decorated with several national honours in Nigeria, including the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), 1965, and Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 1978, when he had acted as chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee that fashioned out the 1979 Second Republic Constitution.
An acclaimed constitutional lawyer, he was the first minister of Justice and Attorney-General in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria and the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1975. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel (QC), in 1958, the first African to be appointed to the position.
His decades of practice predates independent Nigeria as he plied his trade in the West African Court of Appeal, the Federal Supreme Court, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
He is also the longest ever President of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Chairperson of the Body of Senior Advocates, a life Bencher, a former politician, university administrator and much more.