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Olufunmilayo Atilade

Olufunmilayo Atilade

Former Chief Judge, Lagos State Judiciary.
Managing Consultant, Williams Hamilton Juris Consult.

My Story, Your Inspiration

I was called to the Nigerian bar in 1976. After years of practice, I joined the Lagos State Judiciary in 1982 as a Senior Magistrate. I was excited about being my own boss in my own courtroom and I craved courtroom experience. I was able to juggle being a wife and mother with my official duties as I could work within my own schedule. I encountered some hostility from some of the other magistrates who were all as old as my parents, but I plodded on with the job. After 15 years, I rose through the ranks and became a Chief Magistrate and I was appointed a High Court judge in 1996. In 2014, in line with the judicial norm of seniority, I was appointed the fifteenth Chief Judge of Lagos State. By taking this position, I succeeded my sister Justice Ayotunde Phillips who was retiring from the position. We made history in the Nigerian judiciary as sisters who succeeded each other as Chief Judge. As Chief Judge, I worked with my staff to increase the number of Family Courts and employed more Assessors to assist the judges. I created Revenue Courts, visited the prisons several times and set free many inmates awaiting trial, with emphasis on teenagers and youths. I set up an E-Library and health scheme for junior staff. I retired statutorily as Chief Judge in 2017. I sat on a Judicial Tribunal in the Seychelles Islands for a few months in 2018 and presently I run a consultancy hosting international training seminars for judicial officers. Apart from a few challenges (putting it mildly), I would say I enjoyed my 35 years on the Bench.

There were a few hard times as a magistrate when I felt like resigning my job. However, my personal resolve combined with support from my family kept me going. About 75% of the Lagos Judiciary comprises women and men have become an endangered species. Women should try harder to support each other and hold each other up. It is through support that we can rise together or else, divided we shall fall together. It is still a man's world out there. We have to present a united front and stop petty jealousy and squabbling among ourselves. Work hard and keep your eye on the ball and you will get to your desired destination.

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