NIGERIA’S former ambassador to the US Justice Sylvanus Nsofor has passed away at a hospital in Maryland in the ripe old age of 85 after what appeared to be we brief illness associated with being elderly.
Justice Nsofor, a native of Imo State, was the oldest serving Nigerian diplomat at the time of his death and his appointment in 2017 sparked off a controversy. When he appeared before the senate during his confirmation, he refused to recite the national anthem, forcing senators to reject his nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari, based on the recommendation of the foreign affairs committee.
At the time, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, chairperson of the committee, had said that Justice Nsofor did not perform well at the screening exercise. However, despite this, President Buhari went ahead to appoint him alongside several other ambassadors.
In July this year, President Buhari renewed the appointments of 12 non-career ambassadors but he did not renew those of Justice Nsofor and Justice George Oguntade, Nigeria’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom. Both retired judges had passed minority judgements in favour of President Buhari when he lost but contested presidential elections in court before winning in 2015.
Paying tribute to the former ambassador, President Muhammadu Buhari described the late Justice Nsofor as an outstanding judge of rare courage. He has directed the ministry of foreign affairs to work with Justice Nsofor’s family on the burial arrangements.
Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari’s spokesman, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed heartfelt commiserations with the family, friends and associates of Nigeria’s outgoing ambassador to the United States, Justice Sylvanus Adiewere Nsofor over his demise. In a telephone call to Jane, the widow of the retired justice in New York on Friday, the president described Ambassador Nsofor as an outstanding judge of rare courage and truth who is not afraid to give justice to whom justice is due.”
After the 2003 presidential election, Justice Nsofor delivered a minority judgment in favour of President Buhari as a member of the election appeal panel. At the time, President Buhari stood as the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party against the then incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Justice Nsofor was born on March 17, 1935 and was appointed a judge in 1977, spending 28 years on the bench. He also taught law at the Holborn College of Law in London, from where he graduated in 1962.
A retired justice of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, Justice Nsofor assumed office as Nigeria’s ambassador to the US on November 13, 2017. He succeeded Professor Adebowale Adefuye, who also died towards the end of his tenure as Nigeria’s ambassador to the US.