CJN, NBA President, Fashola, Azinge Others To Grace Late Justice Idigbe Centenary

 Late Justice Idigbe

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) and former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Prof Epiphany Azinge (SAN) are among dignitaries expected at events to mark the centenary of former Justice of the Supreme Court, the late Chukwunweike Idigbe.

Nnamdi Oragwu, Partner and Head of Litigation at PUNUKA Attorneys & Solicitors, a firm founded by late Justice Idigbe, said in a statement that the 100th anniversary events will be year-long.

“Our late founder served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria from 1964 to 1967 and from 1975 to 1983. 

“He is remembered as a distinguished jurist, a fearless advocate for justice, and a champion of the rule of law. 

“He was renowned for his landmark judgments, which continue to shape the legal landscape of Nigeria to this day.

“Justice Idigbe epitomizes the gold standard of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, several of his decisions remain a major point of reference in present day cases,” the statement said.

On May 3, Chief Justice Ariwoola will launch the Justice Idigbe Faculty of Law in Veritas University in Abuja.

The Justice Idigbe Symposium, to be held on May 4, will feature frontburner discussions on landmark judgments of Justice Idigbe and his impact on present-day jurisprudence.

The speakers include; Minister of Works Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Professor Abiola Sanni (SAN), Prof Obiora Okafor, Maikyau and Professor Azinge.

The keynote speaker, Mr Ekong Sampson, will speak on “The Life and Legacy of Honourable Justice Idigbe – 100 years of a Gold Standard for Judges in Nigeria.”

Oragwu, Chairman of the 100 Years of Justice Idigbe Planning Committee, said the firm will be celebrating Justice Idigbe’s life and legacy with six major events.

At the commissioning of Justice Idigbe Faculty of Law in Veritas University on May 3, Justice Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Mr Cosmas Enweluzo (SAN) and C.V.C. Ihekweazu (SAN) will also be speaking.

Other events include; the commissioning of Punuka Childcare Centre by the Punuka Foundation, on July 30, 2023 in Lagos.

A Public Lecture/Valedictory Court Session will hold in Asaba, Delta State, on August 11, 2023 and will feature the commissioning of Justice Idigbe NBA ICT Centre.

The following day, a thanksgiving mass and commissioning of Justice Idigbe Museum, Library and Youth Centre will be held in Asaba.

The events will culminate with the commissioning of PUNUKA Attorneys and Solicitor’s new head office in Lagos on December 7, 2023.

Ms. Isioma Idigbe, Partner and Head of Media, Entertainment, Intellectual Property and technology Law, Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors added: “These events are designed to celebrate and immortalize the contributions of late Justice Idigbe, to the development of the legal profession in Nigeria, and to inspire the next generation of legal professionals.

“This is a time of celebration and reflection. 

“Whilst we honour and edify the heritage he left us, we must reflect on whether our lives and practice of the law are in step with his values of excellence, thoroughness, knowledge, diligence and justice which were things that made him one of the greatest legal minds Nigeria has ever seen.”

The Man Justice Idigbe:Justice Idigbe was a distinguished Nigerian jurist who practiced law all over West Africa from Warri from 1947 to 1961 and served as a judge in the then Eastern Region of Nigeria High Court and Chief Justice of Midwest Region of Nigeria rising to the position of Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. 

He was born on August 12, 1923, at Kaduna, Nigeria, the fourth (and only surviving) child of Alexander Ahudinma and his wife, Madam Christiana Idigbe.

Chike, as he was fondly called, began his education at St. Mary’s Catholic Mission, Port Harcourt, at the age of six. 

He later gained admission to Christ the King College, Onitsha, in 1937. 

In 1943, he passed the Cambridge examination in Division One and obtained an exemption from the London Matriculation Examination. 

He had planned to study engineering in London but suddenly and in an interesting manner changed his mind to study law and was admitted to study law at King’s College, University of Cambridge. 

He finished brilliantly from King’s College, obtaining a Second-Class Upper Division Grade in his LLB in 1946 and winning the much-coveted Forster-Campbell Prize in Criminal Law. 

He was also one of the first four Nigerians to pass the Cambridge University Law examination with honours- the others being Dr. T.O. Elias (former Attorney General of the Federation and Chief Justice of Nigeria), Dr. G.B.A. Coker, and Gabriel Onyuike QC, SAN.

Being the first lawyer in the Asaba Division and the then Benin Province, in 1947, upon his return to Nigeria, he was welcomed in grandeur. He was admitted to to the Nigerian Bar later that year. 

He settled in Warri, where he established his law office PUNUKA Chambers (named after his great-great-grandfather Obi Idigbe, who was married to one ‘Onye Punuka’) with the famous Sierra-Leonean lawyer Nelson Williams.

In 1961, he was appointed a Judge of the Eastern Nigeria High Court, and in 1964, he was elevated to the position of Justice of the Supreme Court. 

From 1964-1967, he served concurrently as the Chief Justice of the newly created Mid-Western region before he ceased to be a Nigerian judge as a result of the Civil War.

In 1972, he joined Irving and Bonnar, the oldest law firm in Nigeria as a partner, and three years later in 1975, he was re-appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. 

He shared the Supreme Court bench with notable Justices such as William Algernon Holwell Duffus, Edger Ignatius G. Unsworth, John Idowu Conrad Taylor, Vahe Robert Bairamian, Eugene O. Adeyinka Morgan, Louis Nwachukwu Mbanefo, Michael Oguejiofo Ajegbo, George Baptist A. Coker, Charles Dadi Onyeama, Ian Lewis, Atanda Fatai-Williams (CJN), Udo Udoma, Taslim Olawale Elias (CJN), George Sodeinde Sowemimo (CJN), Dan Ibekwe, Darnley Arthur R. Alexander (CJN), Mahman Nasir, Muhammed Bello (CJN), Charles Olusoji Madarikan, Andrew Otutu Obaseki, Anthony Nnaemezie Aniagolu, Buba Ardo, Kayode Eso, Augustine Nnamani, and Muhammadu Lawal Uwais (CJN).

During his tenure on the Bench, he delivered the lead judgements in several landmark cases amongst which are: Bucknor-Maclean & Anor vs Inlaks Limited, Shitta-Bey vs Federal Public Service Commission, Arase vs Arase, Balogun vs National Bank, Usoro vs Shell Petroleum Development Co., Atiti Gold vs Beatrice Osaseren, Mutual Aids Society vs Akerele amongst others.

He also served as chairman of the land use committee set up to review the land tenure system in Nigeria.

He was the recipient of two national honours: Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Commander of the Niger (CON). 

Justice Idigbe was also a traditional Chief (Olinzele) of Asaba and held the highly coveted title of Izoma of Asaba as a man of the people.

He was happily married and blessed with children, amongst whom are: Mr. Victor Idigbe, Mr. Jude Obioha Idigbe Esq, Mrs. Uche Idigbe, Chief (Dr) Anthony Ikemefuna Idigbe (SAN), Mr. Amaechi Felix Idigbe, Mr. Ifeanyi Paul Idigbe (late). 

He passed away on July 31, 1983, at the Cromwell Hospital in London, just a few days short of his 60th birthday and anticipated appointment as the Chief Justice of Nigeria. 

He was a remarkable jurist and a trailblazer in his field, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire generations of legal practitioners in Nigeria and beyond.