Justice Mary

Justice Mary Odili’s Preemptive Utterances Dangerous To Democratic Journey—Labour Party

Justice Mary

OpenLife Nigeria reproduces a statement signed by Obiora Ifoh, National Publicity Secretary, Labour Party on Tuesday expressing concerns over a preemptive utterances by Justice Mary Odili’s at a colloquium to mark the 25th anniversary of the elevation of a renowned jurist, JK Gadzama to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN

It has become necessary for the Labour Party to draw the attention of the public and indeed democratic watchers to some unfolding developments in the country ahead of tomorrow’s ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC.

The unguarded statement from the former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Mary Odili in Abuja last week at a colloquium to mark the 25th anniversary of the elevation of a renowned jurist, JK Gadzama to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and the boasting of some persons, serving Ministers and notable legislators about the outcome has left our party in shock.

When those who should know the importance of the sanctity of the judiciary descend to the arena of abusing it with their preemptive utterances just to show loyalty and support to their interests, we as a party see this as unfortunate and dangerous to our democratic journey as a nation.

We note also the needless lavish showering of praises on the legal counsels of both APC and Candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu by the retired Justice when the gathering was not theirs.

We find this extremely undignified of a renowned jurist who rose to the peak of her career in the country’s Apex court and who as the Chairperson of the body of benchers, should be at the forefront of defending the virtuousness of the courts.

Also curious to every discerning mind watching the unfolding events in Nigeria since the February 25th Presidential election is the fact that the PEPC that refused live television coverage of the hearings of the petition, and is now anxious to have the conclusion beamed live.

What is it that has happened between the hearing period and the delivery of the judgment that the live coverage which they claimed was a policy issue changed suddenly at the delivery point?

We are aware of the efforts of the agents of the States to orchestrate problems and blame them on the political opposition. We wish to emphasize that it is the right of the people in a democracy to demonstrate and the obligation of state security agents to protect the demonstrators and those not demonstrating.

Meanwhile, we implore Nigerians to remain calm and peaceful, abide by the rule of law, and understand that this matter has not reached its logical and final conclusion.

Our concern as a critical stakeholder in Nigeria’s project especially the democratic evolution is that what is being destroyed with all these clever by half playing on people’s intelligence is Nigeria as a nation not necessarily an individual.

Anybody who loves this country should appreciate the importance of due process and the rule of law because, without it, this country is going nowhere.

Justice Mary Odili’s Profile

Mary Ukaego Odili (née Nzenwa; CFR born 12 May 1952) is a Nigerian judge and wife of Peter Odili, who served as Governor of Rivers State from 1999 to 2007.

She was appointed an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) by President Goodluck Jonathan and was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice Katsina-Alu on 23 June 2011.

Prior to becoming SCN justice, she held numerous important offices, including Judge, High Court of Rivers State (1992–2004), Justice, Court of Appeal, Abuja Division (2004–2010), and Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division (2010–2011). She served as the First Lady of Rivers State during her husband’s tenure as governor.

Early life and education

Mary Ukaego Nzenwa was born on 12 May 1952 in Amudi Obizi, Ezinihitte-Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State.

She is the second daughter of Eze Bernard Nzenwa and Ugoeze Benadette Nzenwa. Her father Eze Nzenwa worked as a lawyer in the United Kingdom during 1959 before he was made Secretary of the Nigeria Airways.

Ukaego attended a number of primary schools as a child including St Benedict’s Primary School, Obizi Ezinitte, St Michael’s Primary School, Umuahia, St Agnes Primary School, Maryland and Our Lady of Apostles Primary School, Yaba. She briefly attended Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, also in Yaba, Lagos.

Following the outbreak of the civil war in 1967, Ukaego and her parents relocated to the southeast of the country.

There, she continued her education at Owerri Girls High School until her family moved back to Mbaise. She then attended Mbaise Girls Secondary School and later enrolled at the Queen of the Rosary College in Onitsha.

In 1972, she passed with Grade I (aggregate 6) in the West African School Certificate Examination. The same year, Ukaego gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus where she read law. In her second year in the university she earned a scholarship for maintaining the second class upper division league with higher scores.

She met Peter Odili, a medical doctor, at a campus party and the two began a romantic relationship. In 1976, she graduated with an LLB (Hons) and was rated the best student of the department of commercial and property law.

Shortly after, she attended the Nigerian Law School and received her B.L. certificate in 1977, before embarking on her youth service in Benin City and Abeokuta. Odili was serving as a house officer in Benin City at the time.

Legal career and First Lady of Rivers State

Ukaego commenced her career in the judiciary as a Magistrate grade III in November 1978. She married Odili in 1979 and gave birth to a daughter, Adaeze.

Ukaego and her family moved to Port Harcourt city where her husband founded his medical centre Pamo Clinics. Odili and Chibuike Amaechi subsequently met there for the first time.

Between 1980 and 1988, Ukaego served as Chief Magistrate Grade I, Chairman of the Juvenile Court, President, Marine Board of Inquiry into the 1979 Buguma Boat disaster, chairman, Constitution Drafting Committee of the University of Nigeria Alumni Associates, Inaugural Chairperson of the International Federal of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Rivers State and Secretary, Nigerian Horticultural Society.

With her support, Odili entered politics and served as member and leader of Rivers State Delegates to the Constituent Assembly. In 1992, while she was a High Court Judge, Odili was serving as the Deputy Governor of Rivers State.

In 1999, following her husband’s election as governor, Ukaego became the First Lady of Rivers State, serving until 29 May 2007.

Supreme Court

She had held the offices of Justice, Court of Appeal, Abuja Division and Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division.

On 3 May 2011, President Jonathan nominated Ukaego with two other Appeal Court Justices to the Supreme Court. In the new arrangement, she will represent the South East geo-political zone in the apex court bench.

In a letter to the Senate, Jonathan said their appointment was necessitated by the retirement from service of Justices Niki Tobi, I.F. Ogbuagu, J.O. Ogebe and G. A. Oguntade. Ukaego was appointed an Associate justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) on 23 June 2011.

She was the leader of the Five Person Panel at the Supreme Court that nullified the Gubernatorial Election of David Lyon after his deputy was found wanting for submitting fake certificates during pre-election screening after they were declared winners on November 16, 2019, Bayelsa State gubernatorial elections.


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