In History

Remembering Chief Godfrey Kio Jaja Amachree, QC

 

Godfrey Kio Jaja Amachree, fondly called “Godfrey Kio Jaja” or “GKJ” by friends, was born on the 27th Day of February 1917. He was the first son of the late Chief Sekin Jaja Amachree (Pa Sekin). Pa Sekin studied Administration and Education, was a graduand of Fourah Bay College a public University in the neighborhood of Mount Aureoly in Freetown, Sierra Leone founded on the 18th Day of February 1827, it is the oldest University in West Africa. It is a constituents College of the University of Sierra Leone (USL) and was formerly affiliated with Durham University (1876-1967), Pa Sekin was a leading Kalabari Chief who had a distinguished career as a pioneer Kalabari civil servant in the colonial administration of Nigeria.

Pa Sekin was also a disciplinarian par excellence and a firm believer in the value of sound education. This belief in education accorded him the singular honour of producing, among other illustrious children and proteges, the first Kalabari lawyer in the person of Chief GKJ and also the first female graduate in the entire, Eastern Region of Nigeria, Mrs Christiana O. Graham Douglas (nee Amachree) as well as the former Leader of Government Business in the then British Cameroon., the Hon. John Ngu Foncha who had the good fortune of coming under the tutelage of Pa Sekin.

On retirement from the colonial civil service in 1950, Pa Sekin was moved by the plight of his people to assume the mantle of a fearless protagonist of minority rights. This crusade led to his election into the Eastern House of Assembly as an opposition member in a House dominated by the majority group in the Region.

He soon made his mark and was found a fit and proper person to serve on the Nigeria delegation to the 1958 Constitutional Conference in London. It was at this Conference that a definite date for the Independence of the country was finally decided. Pa Sekin also partly realized his dream with the appointment, by the British Government, of the Henry Willink”s Commission of Inquiry to proffer solutions to the inequities to which the minorities of the Niger Delta Area of Nigeria were subjected.

Pa Sekin’s first son, Chief GKJ, was a chip off the old block. He shared his illustrious father’s fearlessness and passion for excellence, discipline, and education. His passion for education, in particular, saw him through the prestigious Government College. Umuahia, Kings College, Lagos and the Higher College, Yaba, where he obtained a Diploma in Commerce. In those days, that was the ultimate in terms of higher education that Nigeria had to offer. But for Chief GKJ that ultimate was not good enough, He, therefore, proceeded to the University College London where he obtained the Bachelor of Law Degree and was called the Bar in 1948 at the Gray Inn. He later proceeded to Pembroke College Cambridge for a course in Colonial Administration.

Back home in Nigeria Chief GKJ started his distinguished legal career in the then legal Department in Lagos as Pupil Crown Counsel in 1949. Chief GKJ was an icon of the legal profession and his rise to the top was meteoric. In less than 10 years in the legal department, he rose from Pupil Crown Council to the exalted position of Solicitor – General of the Federation in 1958, a position which he was the first Nigerian to occupy. On the elevation of the Legal Department to the full-fledged Ministry of Justice, he was also appointed the first-ever Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, in addition to being the Solicitor-General of Nigeria.

His crowning glory as a lawyer came as one of the first set of select Nigerians to be admitted to the British Inner Bar as QUEEN’S COUNCIL (QC) in 1960, long before the rank of SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA (SAN) was created to replace it in consonance with Nigeria’s new status as a Republic. During his tenure in the Legal Department, he also acted from time to time, as ATTORNEY GENERAL, as well as the LEGAL SECRETARY of the then BRITISH CAMEROON which entitled him to a seat in the Executive Council and the Legislature of the BRITISH CAMEROON.

On retirement from the civil service in 1962, Chief GKJ was appointed the first and perhaps the only Nigerian UNDER SECRETARY – GENERAL of the UNITED NATIONS. At the UN. he was charged with responsibility for TRUSTEESHIP AND NON-SELF GOVERNING TERRITORIES. He was also responsible for the UNITED NATION SPECIAL CIVILIAN OPERATIONS in the former Belgian Congo. He discharged these onerous assignments creditably and was an inspiration to other Africans who looked up to him as a role model.

Chief GKJ’s meteoric rise in the service did not come as a surprise, having regard to his diligence and dedication to duty. He was incorruptible and fearless in ensuring that Justice was dispensed without fear or favor and with malice or ill will towards none. Pursuant to this crusade, he traversed the length and breadth of the Federation prosecuting “sacred cows” who lesser mortals would shudder to confront.

Besides, Chief GKJ was a stickler for excellence, He had no patience to suffer fools gladly and had the courage of his conviction to call a spade a spade. Nevertheless, he had a heart of gold his generosity and kindness to all and sundry was legendary. These sterling qualities endeared him to all who came into contact with him and commanded the admiration and reverence of friends and foes alike.
In 1966 he left the UNITED NATION and returned home to set up a very successful Law firm of GKJ AMACHREE & CO in Lagos which is still existing.

Chief GKJ was a man of too many parts and it was one only in is the professional endeavor that he made his mark.
Chief GKJ, was a quintessential sportsman. He featured actively in sports as an undergraduate and later graduated into a sports administrator. In this connection, he was a member of the University college, London Cricket Team, and Captain of the University’s Football Team. He later became the first Nigerian Chairman of the Nigeria Football Association and served for many years as the Secretary of the Nigeria Cricket Association.

He was a horse racing enthusiast and for a period, even had his own racehorses, apart from his membership of the Lagos Polo Club.
Chief GKJ was also a Patriot. During the fratricidal war when our beloved County was on the brink of collapse. Chief GKJ served on many Federal Government delegations, in search of PEACEFUL AND NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT. He also served as Chairman OF the RIVERS STATE LEADERS OF THOUGHT that worked in concert with the General Gowon’s Administration to find lasting solutions to the plight of the minorities in the Country. As a mark of appreciation, he was honored with a Certificate of Merit by the Rivers State Government and awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the Rivers State University, then the University of Science and Technology.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Chief GKJ had the Midas touch that brought success to every economic endeavor he embarked upon. He was Chairman and /or Director of many reputable national and multi-national companies and had the distinction of pioneering indigenous investment in the Oil exploration and Air charter businesses in Nigeria, and also Chairman and Founder of many Banks both local and international.

In the midst of all the onerous local and international assignments, Chief GKJ never forgot his childhood home Church. He was reputed to have made substantial contributions to the renovation and furnishing of the St Michael Anglican Church Buguma. To this end, he single-handedly provided a giant Generator, Electric Organ, Fans and all the Pews still being used by the Church today.
Finally, he, was a Kalabari Chief and never declined any clarion call to come over to Buguma and help, be it development fundraising or other occasions that needed to be graced with his August presence.

CHIEF GKJ LIVED A FULL AND EVENTFUL LIFE AS A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD .

I SALUTE YOUR COURAGE!..

KALABARI OMENI SAKI ENE-BATE!.

SOURCE : Compiled By Engr Tams Benjamin From His Field Work Findings.

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