Frederick Rotimi Williams

Last updated
Rotimi Williams
Regional Minister for Local Government
In office
Preceded by Obafemi Awolowo
Regional Minister for Justice
In office
Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa
Personal details
Born16 December 1920
Died26 March 2005(2005-03-26) (aged 84)
Political partyAction Group

Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams, QC, SAN (16 December 1920 – 26 March 2005) was a prominent Nigerian lawyer who was the first Nigerian to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. [1] In the 1950s, he was a member of the Action Group and subsequently became the minister for local government and Justice. He was the president of the Nigerian Bar Association in 1959, the association is the leading body for lawyers in the country. He left politics in the 1960s, as a result of the political crisis in the Western Region of Nigeria.

Queens Counsel jurist appointed by letters patent

A Queen's Counsel, or King's Counsel during the reign of a king, is an eminent lawyer who is appointed by the monarch to be one of "Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law." The term is recognised as an honorific. The position exists in some Commonwealth jurisdictions around the world, but other Commonwealth countries have either abolished the position, or re-named it to eliminate monarchical connotations, such as "Senior Counsel" or "Senior Advocate". Queen's Counsel is an office, conferred by the Crown, that is recognised by courts. Members have the privilege of sitting within the bar of court.

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is a title that may be conferred on legal practitioners in Nigeria of not less than ten years' standing and who have distinguished themselves in the legal profession. It is the equivalent of the rank of Queen's Counsel in the United Kingdom, from which Nigeria became independent in 1960, as well as in South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Canada. Several countries use similar designations such as Senior Counsel, State Counsel, Senior Advocate, and President's Advocate. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria is said to have been admitted to the "Inner Bar", as distinguished from the "Outer", or "Utter", Bar, consisting of junior advocates.

A local government is a form of public administration which, in a majority of contexts, exists as the lowest tier of administration within a given state. The term is used to contrast with offices at state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government and also to supranational government which deals with governing institutions between states. Local governments generally act within powers delegated to them by legislation or directives of the higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises the third tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government, often with greater powers than higher-level administrative divisions.


Throughout his career, he was involved in some memorable and important court cases, such as Lakanmi vs the Western Government of Nigeria, which set the precedent that a military government could not use its power to make laws that will appropriate an individuals property. [2] The Oloye Williams, himself a Yoruba chieftain, was also among a group of lawyers that represented the Oba of Lagos, Adeniji Adele, against challenges by the Nigerian National Democratic Party. The latter had previously gained solidarity and foundation from the ruling House of Docemo in Lagos.

Yoruba people ethnic group of West Africa

The Yorùbá people are an African ethnic group that inhabits western Africa. The Yoruba constitute about 44 million people in total. Majority of this population is from Nigeria, where the Yorùbá make up 21% of the country's population, according to the CIA World Factbook, making them one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Most Yoruba people speak the Yoruba language, which is tonal, and is the language with the largest number of native speakers.

Oba of Lagos

The Oba (king) of Lagos is the traditional, yet ceremonial, sovereign of Lagos, a coastal Yoruba settlement that went on to become the largest city in Africa after first giving its name to Lagos State, the acclaimed financial heart of contemporary Nigeria. The king has no political power, but is sought as a counsel or sponsor by Nigerian politicians who seek support from the various residents of Lagos. Among other ceremonial roles, the Oba also plays a central part in the Eyo festival as well as indulging in tourism advertisements on behalf of the city, often stating, "you've gotta go to Lagos".

Adeniji Adele

Oba Sir Musendiku Buraimoh Adeniji Adele II, KBE was the Oba (King) of Lagos from October 1, 1949 to July 12, 1964.

Early life

Rotimi Williams was born on 16 December 1920 in Lagos. His older brother was Akintola Williams, born a year earlier, who became a distinguished Chartered Accountant. [3] His father and uncle were both lawyers, and were called to the bar in 1927 and 1892 respectively. He entered primary school in the 1930s, at the Methodist Ologbowo School, then went to C.M.S Grammar School, Lagos for secondary education. Despite being given a full scholarship to study mechanical engineering at Yaba Higher College, he chose to become a lawyer. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1942 and was called to the bar at the Gray's Inn, London in 1943. He set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm in 1948 with Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode and Chief Bode Thomas. The law firm was called "Thomas, Williams and Kayode". [4] [5]

Chief Akintola Williams was the first African to qualify as a chartered accountant.

Primary school school in which children receive primary or elementary education from the age of about five to twelve

A primary school is a school for children from about five to eleven years old, in which they receive primary or elementary education. It can refer to both the physical structure (buildings) and the organisation. Typically it comes after preschool, and before secondary school.

Secondary education education for most teenagers

Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education scale. Level 2 or lower secondary education is considered the second and final phase of basic education, and level 3 (upper) secondary education is the stage before tertiary education. Every country aims to provide basic education, but the systems and terminology remain unique to them. Secondary education typically takes place after six years of primary education and is followed by higher education, vocational education or employment. Like primary education, in most countries secondary education is compulsory, at least until the age of 16. Children typically enter the lower secondary phase around age 11. Compulsory education sometimes extends to age 19.

Early political career

In 1943, he became the first Nigerian solicitor to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and soon thereafter entered the political arena as a member of the Nigerian Youth Movement. [6] He rose to become the movement's general secretary. However, the movement was soon embroiled in a crisis which dented its political support among the Nigerian masses. When the movement began to fade politically, he was one of the educated members of the Nigerian political class who joined the Action Group. He was the group's legal adviser in the early 1950s and was also a member of the Western region's privy council. He was elected into the Lagos Town Council in 1953 and was subsequently made chairman of the council. In 1957, he became the Western Region's Attorney General, the first Nigerian to be an attorney general. He was made Queen's Counsel in 1958, another first for him, as he was one of the first two Nigerians to be made one.

A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be described as a solicitor and enabled to practise there as such. For example, in England and Wales a solicitor is admitted to practise under the provisions of the Solicitors Act 1974. With some exceptions, practising solicitors must possess a practising certificate. There are many more solicitors than barristers in England; they undertake the general aspects of giving legal advice and conducting legal proceedings.

Supreme Court of Nigeria

The Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN), is the highest court in Nigeria, and is located in the Central District, Abuja, in what is known as the Three Arms Zone, so called due to the proximity of the offices of the Presidential Complex, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court.

The Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) was Nigeria's first genuine nationalist organization, founded in Lagos in 1933 with Professor Eyo Ita as the founding father and many others including Samuel Akisanya. Ernest Ikoli, the first editor of the Daily Times of Nigeria, which was launched in June 1926, was another founding member. Immediate concerns included the supposedly inferior status of Yaba College, appointments of Africans to senior positions in the civil service and discrimination against African truck drivers. However, the Lagos-based organization at first had generally moderate views and pledged to support and cooperate with the governor. The president was Dr Kofo Abayomi. Ernest Ikoli was vice president and H.O. Davies was the secretary. It was the first multi-ethnic organization in Nigeria and its programme was to foster political advancement of the country and enhance the socio-economic status of the Nigerian citizens. Adeyemo Alakija later became President of the NYM.

Constitutional Conference

In 18 October 1975, Rotimi Williams became the chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. The body was formed to present a draft constitution to be approved by the military administration of Obasanjo. He led the convention to present an agenda for broad coalition building across ethnic and regional lines. The body pushed for presidential winners to have at least 25% of the total votes cast in two thirds of the nineteen states in Nigeria and that each of the 19 states of the federation should have a minister representing them. The political parties should also have support in at least two thirds of the states. [7]

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  1. "Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams (1920 – 2005)" Nigerian Guardian Editorial, The Guardian, Nigeria, 2 April 2005.
  2. The Man, His Life Max Amuchie.
  3. Template:Cite journal and his younger brother was the Late Rev James Kehinde Williams. Born in 1922. A reverend of the Olowogbowo methodist Church and a staff of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
  4. By Femi Fani-Kayode,"In remembrance of Fani Power",
  5. Taiwo Fakoyede (ed.), "F.R.A. Williams: Through the Cases". Longman, 2000. ISBN   978-026-010-2.
  6. Richard L. Sklar, Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation, Africa World Press, 2004. p. 273. ISBN   1-59221-209-3.
  7. David B. Ottaway. "Nigeria Moves Toward U.S.-Style Democracy in Africa", The Washington Post, 25 April 1978.