Kazeem Ugbodaga

Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola Wednesday swore in Justice Oluwafunmilayo Olajumoke Atilade as the new Chief Judge of Lagos State, western Nigeria.

Atilade was a former High Court Judge. She became CJ following the retirement of her elder sister, Justice Ayotunde Philips from the bench of the state judiciary as Chief Judge.

They are both daughters of the late Justice James Williams, who was a judge in Lagos State and the late Mrs. Henrietta Williams. This is the first time in the history of the state judiciary siblings succeeded each other as Chief Judge of the state.

Justice Funmilayo Atilade, New Lagos Chief Judge

Justice Funmilayo Atilade, New Lagos Chief Judge

Presenting the Chief Judge designate, for the oath of office, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye said that due to the glorious exit of Justice Ayotunde Phillips, it had become necessary for Lagos State to have a new Chief Judge.

 “In that regard, section 271(1) of the Constitution provides that ‘The appointment of a person to the office of the Chief Judge of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, subject to the confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State,’” he noted.

Ipaye, however, added that the Chief Judge designate has indeed been recommended by the National Judicial Council and appointed by the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, and that her appointment has also been reviewed, found worthy and confirmed by the Lagos State House of Assembly.

In her response, the newly sworn in Justice Atilade praised her predecessor’s immense contributions to the growth and development of the judicial arm of the state while promising to continue from there.

She promised to complete the computerisation process of the judiciary and make a case for the appointment of more judges to speed up hearing of cases at the court.

Atilade further said she would continue with the decongestion of prisons started by her predecessor, especially with those awaiting trial.

Atilade was born on  24 September, 1952 in London, England, United Kingdom to Justice James Oladipo Williams and Henrietta Aina Williams both of blessed memory.  She is an indigene of Lagos State and a second generation judge.

Atilade spent the first seven years of her life in London, England where she attended Primary School until her parents decided to return to Nigeria.

She completed her primary school education at Ladi-Lak Institute, Yaba, Lagos. She attended Holy Child College, Ikoyi, Lagos (1964-1965); Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School, Surulere, Lagos (1966-1969) and Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos (1970-1971).

She graduated with LLB (Hons.) in 1975 from the University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1976.

In 1977, she was posted to Benin (former Bendel State) for her NYSC, where she served as a Pupil State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice, Benin. Her working career began at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Marina, Lagos, where she worked as a State Counsel from 1977 to 1979 before she was employed as a Senior Legal Officer at the Nigerian Ports Authority in 1979 and then rose to the post of a Principal Legal Officer.

 In 1982, she transferred to the Lagos State Judiciary as a Senior Magistrate Grade 2 and rose through the ranks till she became the Chief Magistrate Admin in Apapa, Lagos between 1993 and 1996.

She was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Lagos State in July 1996.  She has held several judicial positions during her career on the Bench.

During the course of her career, she attended several professional conferences and workshops. She has also adjudicated over many matters and presented papers both locally and internationally.

She enjoys playing golf, going to the gym, and travelling. She is a member of National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria (NAWJN), International Association of Women Judges of Nigeria (IAWJN), World Jurist Association (WJA), Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA), International Federation of Women Lawyers, International Bar Association (Judges Forum).

She is also a member of Ikoyi Club 1938, W. M. U Ikoyi Baptist Church Lagos, Ladies Roundtable, and International Women’s Society.

She became the Head Judge in June 2012, also occupied by her sister, Justice Phillips before her elevation as the chief judge.

Atilade, whose hobbies include travelling, aerobics and listening to music, has three children. She is the 15th Chief Judge of Lagos State and the fifth female to occupy the number one office of the State Judiciary.

The first to occupy the office and, in fact the first female Chief Judge in Nigeria, was Justice Rosaline Omotosho (1995 to 1996), the third was Justice Ibitola Sotiminu (2001 to 2004). The third was Justice Inumidun Akande (from 2009 to 2012) and the forth was Justice Ayotunde Phillips (June 14, 2012 to July 2014).