Lagos – Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Thursday swore-in Justice Ayotunde Phillips as the 14th Chief Judge of Lagos State.
Phillips, 62, who took her oath of office at a swearing-in ceremony at Alausa, Ikeja, is the fourth woman to serve in that capacity.
She succeeds Justice Inumidun Akande, who retired on June 10, after attaining the statutory retirement age of 65.
Speaking at the ceremony, Fashola said her appointment came at a critical time in Nigeria’s democracy when emphasis was being placed on the rule of law.
“It comes at a time when we must give full meaning and effect to the rule of law as a necessary pillar for the sustenance of our democracy.
“It comes at a time when all well-meaning people of Lagos and Nigerians must subject themselves to the laws of the state and rise up to ensure that all those laws are given their full force.’’
He assured Phillips of the support of the executive and legislature, adding that the three arms of government needed to collaborate to achieve their objectives.
“Yes, we are independent arms of same government.
“I must emphasize that our success as a government lies more on our interdependence and collaboration which must be undertaken without inhibiting our respective independence," he said.
Fashola, who described the new chief judge as a reformist and a fearless judge, said he was confident that the Lagos State Judiciary would witness more positive reforms under her tenure.
In her speech, Phillips promised that she was up to the present challenges being faced by the state judiciary.
“The huge population we have and the very litigious society that we live in today makes disputes almost inevitable in Lagos State.
“And I am not unaware of the challenges many litigants face in this regard.”
The chief judge said the judiciary would begin the implementation of a total computerisation programme in phases to enable it to fast-track the administration of justice.
Phillips promised to upgrade the libraries at Ikeja and Lagos High Court Divisions and equip them with modern law reports and reference books.
She said the infrastructure at the high courts, Magistrates courts as well as the customary courts across the state would also be renewed to make them more efficient and effective.
The chief judge also promised to improve staff welfare and collaboration with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), both at the state and national levels to raise the standard of the profession.
“What you can expect and what you certainly deserve is a functional, efficient and proactive judiciary to complement the efforts of government in the administration of justice and that is what I promise we will try to achieve.”
Phillips was born on July 26, 1949 in London, UK, to the family of Justice James Williams and Henrietta Williams of Lagos State.
She is the first of four children and an elder sister to Justice Funmilayo Atilade, also of the Lagos State High Court.
The Chief Judge spent the first 10 years of her life in the UK, where she attended primary school and returned to Nigeria to continue her primary education at the Ladi-Lak Institute, Yaba, Lagos.
In January 1962, she was admitted into Queens College, Yaba, Lagos and obtained her West African School Certificate in 1966.
She proceeded to Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan and was awarded the Higher School Certificate in 1968.
Phillips gained admission into the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (now Moshood Abiola University), Akoka, Yaba and graduated with LL.B (honours) in June 1973.
In 1974, she was called to the Nigerian Bar and performed her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme as a pupil counsel at the Enugu State Ministry of Justice from June 1974 to June 1975.
Her working career began at the Chambers of the late Kehinde Sofola (SAN) from November 1975 to September 1976 where she worked as a junior.
That same year, she took employment as a Legal Officer at the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) and rose through the ranks to become its Secretary/Legal Adviser.
In 1990, she transferred to the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and was elevated to the position of a High Court Judge on Feb. 18, 1994.
She is married to Mr Folorunsho Phillips with children.