On this day in 1914, aNigerian jurist who was Attorney-General andMinister of Justice of Nigeria and a judge and President of theInternational Court of Justice at another time,Taslim Olawale Elias, was born was born in Lagos State, South-West Nigeria.
He received his secondary education at the CMS Grammar School andIgbobi College in Lagos.
In 1935 he joined the Nigerian Railway Corporation and served in the Chief Accountant’s Office for nine years.
While working at the Nigerian Railway Elias became an external student of London University, and later he passed the intermediate examinations for the B.A. and LL.B degrees.
He left Nigeria for the United Kingdom in 1944 and was admitted toUniversity College London.
As this was during World War II, with London the target of frequent bomb attacks, he spent some time at Cambridge’s Trinity College.
He graduated with a B.A. the year he entered University College London and two years later received the LL.B.
In 1947 he was called the bar.
He continued his graduate education and became the first African to earn a PhD in law from the University of London in 1949.
He came back to Nigeria for a while and returned to London in 1957 and was appointed a Governor of the School of Oriental and African Studies.
As the constitutional and legal adviser to the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons which later became the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens, he participated in the 1958 Nigerian Constitutional Conference in London. He was one of the architects of Nigeria’s independence constitution
In 1960 Elias was invited to become Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
Although later dismissed after the coup d’état in January 1966, he was reinstated in November of that year.
In addition to contributing to Nigerian and African law, Elias had long been active in field of international law.
He was a member of the United Nations International Law Commission from 1961 to 1975, he served as General Rapporteur from 1965 to 1966 and was its chairman in 1970.
In 1966 Elias was appointed Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Lagos.
Later in 1966, Elias was re-appointed as Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice (a position he held while remaining Dean and Professor at the University of Lagos), until 1972, when he became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
He was ousted from this position by a military regime that took power in Nigeria at the end of July 1975.
In 1979, he was elected Vice-President by his colleagues on that Court.
In 1981, after the death of Sir Humphrey Waldock, the President of the Court, he took over as Acting President.
In 1982, the members of the Court elected him President of the Court.
He thus became the first African jurist to hold that honour.
Five years later, Elias was also appointed to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.
Elias died on 14 August 1991 aged 77.