West Africa Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Abuja
Currency Nigerian naira
National Day 1 October
NIGERIA’S NEW High Commissioner His Excellency Mr George Adesola Oguntade arrived in London with his wife Modupeola Adewemimo in October last year. He knows the capital well, having studied at Holborn College of Law in the 1960s, and has travelled here with his family on various occasions over the years.
Born in Ijebu-Ode in the old Western Nigeria in 1940, Justice Oguntade began work as a clerical officer in the judiciary at just age 18. Working with magistrates and judges from this young age, he developed a strong passion for law, and soon it was inevitable that this would become a full-time occupation.
After attending Nigerian Law School in Lagos, he reasons that becoming a lawyer was one of the most memorable days of his life. He recalls: “On 15 January 1966 I achieved what I treasured most: I was called to the Nigerian Bar. I was able to don the wig and gown and walk proudly down the street. Since then, by the grace of God, I’ve been able to achieve good things.” After being in private legal practice for 14 years, Justice Oguntade was appointed a Judge of the Lagos State High Court in 1980, and then the Court of Appeal in 1988. In 2004, he was elevated to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, where he served meritoriously until March 2010 when he attained the mandatory retirement age of 70.
With a reputation as one of the sharpest legal minds to ever sit on the Higher Bench in Nigeria, Justice Oguntade made his mark advancing his country’s legal system. Strategic postings included Chairman of the Lagos State Armed Robbery and Firearms Tribunal; Justice of the Court of Appeal in Enugu and Ibadan, and Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal in Jos, Lagos, and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. In 2004, he was elevated to Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and the following year, Justice Oguntade’s achievements were recognised as he was conferred with the National Honours of Commander of the Order of the Niger, and with Commander of the Federal Republic in 2010.
Of his move into diplomacy, he declares “I didn’t choose it, look for it or ask for it. My President clearly thought I might be useful as a High Commissioner! I believe that my legal background sets me up nicely for the role in the UK. Diplomacy refers to the relationship between countries. The bond between countries is governed by principles and diplomatic practice. In a way, you are practicing law as established by custom and diplomacy.”
In London, Justice Oguntade’s top priority is “to foster trade relationships between the UK and Nigeria.” He says that “Nigeria has always been a close friend of Britain. Over the years, Nigeria has learnt a lot from the UK and we understand each other, and we expect that to continue. With the UK’s impending exit from the EU, we believe that Britain will find a need to walk closer with Nigeria, and we are ready.” He says “I will do the best that I can to ensure that the interests of Nigeria are well and adequately protected. In my relationships with fellow diplomats, I will also promote international peace.”
The High Commissioner and his staff are preparing for several visiting delegations from different Nigerian government agencies arriving for CHOGM in April. “The discussions we have had so far with UK government representatives indicate that there will be plenty of positive discussions promoting business and helping to strengthen our established relationship.”
Of diplomatic challenges back home, Justice Oguntade says “Although we have made progress, there is still a further need to advance quickly enough to enable citizens to reap the benefits of democracy. But this is a work in progress and we are hopeful for the future.”
Aside from his work responsibilities, Justice Oguntade is a keen golfer. He also loves travelling with his family; some of his favourite trips have involved travelling to the US by boat. Justice Oguntade was President of the Rotary Club of Ogba in 1985 and continues to be involved with the organisation. Between 1992 and 1999, he was the Chancellor of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), and between 1992 and 2017, he was Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Lagos, and is still actively interested in the church today.