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Monday, June 17, 2024

HURIWA celebrates Justice Ogwuegbu; a quintessential jurist at 90

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Though the name Ogwuegbu may not ring a bell to the layman or become popular such as those of the chief justices and other eminent jurists who have served the country in different capacities, he is among a few of the old breed of Nigerian Judges, who by dint of hard work rose from the lowest rung of the Bench to the apex court; and the law books are replete with his legal pronouncements, which have contributed in no small measure to the development of law in Nigeria.

Justice Emmanuel Obioma Ogwuegbu is a retired justice of the Nigerian Supreme Court, who started as a magistrate, rose steadily through the ranks – the High Courts and then to the Supreme Court and left gigantic footprints that would surely remain indelible in the sands of time. His invaluable and outstanding contributions to the apex court and, in fact, Nigerian jurisprudence in general.

In recognition of his commitments and achievements as one of the notable dispensers of justice in the Nigerian Bench, the foremost civil advocacy group; the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has joined friends and families in rejoicing with the quintessential jurist in the occasion of his 90th birthday, describing him as humble, simple, unassuming, resilient and deeply religious.

Eulogizing the eminent Jurist, HURIWA in a statement signed by its National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko HURIWA celebrated God’s grace of a worthy long life of service, with many achievements, especially in the judiciary.

According to HURIWA, Justice Ogwuegbu worked tirelessly behind the scene to enthrone justice in the highest court of the land. “When he is not delivering the lead judgment, he is concurring or dissenting. In his lead judgment delivered on May 29, 1998, in a celebrated criminal case between Sunday Effiong (appellant) and the State (respondent), Justice Ogwuegbu showed the stuff he is made up of.

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“Also, agreeing with a seven-man panel of justices on Friday, April 5, 2002, in a case between the Attorney General of the Federation and the Attorney General of Abia State and 35 others over the derivation palaver, Justice Onwuegbu concurred with the decision of the lead judgment that the Federal Government should calculate the derivation based on the low water mark. It was a dispute between the Federal Government, on the one hand, and the eight littoral states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, and Rivers on the other hand as to the southern (or seaward) boundary of each of these states.

“Again, on the controversy over the decision of the National Assembly to enact laws to regulate the tenure of local councils, Justice Ogwuegbu was also in the panel that gave the landmark judgment. In that case, the Supreme Court declared that no law enacted by the National Assembly could validly increase or otherwise alter the tenure of office of elected officers or chairmen and councilors of local councils in Nigeria except for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) alone. It also held that the National Assembly has no power except about the FCT alone to make any law concerning the following matters or any of them, to wit:“ HURIWA highlighted.

Affirming that the legal luminary worked hard to earn his respected position in the judiciary, the country, and beyond it, upholding standards of clarity and balance in judgments for many years, and consistently sharing his wisdom with leaders, HURIWA thanked the nonagenarian for believing so much in Nigeria that he returned to the country to start his private legal practice in 1963, after studying at University of Liverpool and University of London.

“His achievements could be pinned down to good education. After graduating from college, he traveled to England for his tertiary education. Ogwuegbu enrolled at the University of Liverpool, England in 1957 and left in 1960 with an LL.B degree in law. He also attended the University of London, for B.L. Middle Temple between 1960 and 1962 and also bagged an LL.M Master in Law degree. He was called to the Bar of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in November 1961 and enrolled in the Supreme Court of Nigeria in October 1962 as a barrister and solicitor.

“Before his travel to England for further studies, Justice Ogwuegbu worked as a clerk in the then Okigwe Native Authority from 1953 to 1956. When he returned to Nigeria after graduation in 1962, he went into private legal practice, which began in 1962 and lasted until 1965 when he was appointed Magistrate Grade 1.

“He was later promoted to a senior magistrate in 1969. Thereafter, he was seconded to the Ministry of Justice, East-Central State of Nigeria as Secretary to the Law Revision, Law Reform, and Law Reporting Division of the Ministry of Justice. In that capacity, he edited Vol. X of the Eastern Law Reports and Vol. 1 of the East Central State Law Report in 1970. In 1971, he resigned and resumed private legal practice.

“After years later, the Imo State government could no longer bear the absence of Justice Ogwuegbu at the Bench and promptly appointed him judge of the High Court of Imo State in 1976. He was assigned to Owerri and Aba Judicial Divisions between 1976 and 1987 as an administrative judge in both divisions.

“In 1987, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal of Nigeria. Very assiduous and innovative, after spending only five years at the Appeal Court, his industry as a judge caught the attention of the authorities and he was subsequently elevated to a justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in February 1992. He was appointed justice of the Supreme Court of The Gambia in December 1999”.

HURIWA’s Onwubiko prayed for continued good health and sound mind for the quintessential retired jurist, who bowed out of the Supreme Court gracefully on Friday, March 16, 2003, when he attained the statutory age of 70.

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