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Yesterday a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, retired after reaching the retirement age of 70.
Speaking at the farewell audience held in her honour, Ms Peter-Odili lamented the wave of violent crime in Nigeria, which she attributed to youth unemployment.
At the event, held at the Abuja Supreme Court, the retired Supreme Court Justice, who is the wife of a former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili , warned that “the urgency of what we are all facing right now calls for the necessity to deal with it.
“The massive unemployment of graduates from higher education institutions is only the tip of the iceberg.
“The millions of unemployed young people are not unrelated to the insecurity on the ground,” she said.
She said the current public university teachers’ strike, which has lasted for more than three months, has aggravated youth unrest.
“The situation is not helped by the perennial strikes which leave the students idle.”
In tackling the problem, Ms Peter-Odili suggested that “the Head of State take on the habit of Minister for Youth, Employment and Social Action”.
Drawing on her experience as the former First Lady of Rivers State, Ms Peter-Odili said that with the President assuming the role of Minister of Employment, he would lead “the implementation of what is set up without intermediaries”, hijacking the process.
She advised state governors to adopt the same strategies to tackle youth unemployment.
Mrs. Peter-Odili advocated the urgent “restructuring” of Nigeria.
“My humble view is that the issue (of the restructuring) should receive immediate attention.”
Reminiscing about her legal career spanning more than four decades, she thanked her husband, Dr Peter Odili, and his colleagues for their support.
In his remarks, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, praised Ms Peter-Odili for her “unstoppable voice in the temple of justice”.
Muhammad described the retired jurist as “the epitome of jurisprudential acumen.
“We honor a gracious lady of alluring qualities and excellence that transcends the legal profession,” he said.
The CJN noted that Mrs. Peter-Odili “has offered the best of her intellect to the advancement of the legal profession through her many years of inimitable judgments at various levels of courts in Nigeria.
“She is a specimen of hard work, industry, discipline and high moral rectitude,” Muhammad said.
Similarly, a Senior Advocate from Nigeria (SAN), Wole Olanipekun, commended the outgoing judge for her contribution to the Nigerian justice system.
But, Olanipekun, who spoke on behalf of the Senior Lawyers Corps of Nigeria, said that “the legal profession today faces many challenges.
“Political Affairs is responsible for labeling the judiciary as a ‘supermarket’.”
He stressed that the Supreme Court cannot be “insular.
“When the Supreme Court makes a wrong judgment, it should reverse itself,” adding that “forum-shopping” where lawyers buy favorable court decisions “must be addressed.”
For her part, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, represented by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, noted that Ms Peter-Odili has followed the path of honor during his time as a judge on the seat of the Supreme Court.
He, however, called on the judiciary to embrace technological innovation to ensure a more effective and efficient justice system.
Ms Peter-Odili resigned after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
She was born on 12 May 1952 into the royal family of Bernard Nzenwa in a highly commercial community of Amudi Obizi, Ezinihitte-Mbaise Local Government Area of ​​Imo State.
She made headlines last October after 15 suspected invaders, including a suspected police officer, invaded her home to allegedly execute a search warrant.
The suspects are currently on trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Mary Ukaego Odili was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) by President Goodluck Jonathan and was sworn in by Chief Justice Katsina-Alu on June 23, 2011.
Prior to becoming a SCN Judge, she held many prominent positions including Judge of the Rivers State High Court (1992-2004), Judge of the Abuja Divisional Court of Appeal ( 2004-2010) and presiding judge of the Kaduna Divisional Court of Appeal. (2010-2011).
She served as First Lady of Rivers State during her husband’s tenure as Governor.
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 Bernadette Nzenwa.
His father, Eze Nzenwa, worked as a lawyer in the UK in 1959 before being appointed secretary of Nigeria Airways.
Ukaego attended a number of primary schools as a child including St Benedict Primary School, Obizi Ezinitte, St Michael Primary School, Umuahia, St Agnes Primary School, Maryland and Our Lady of Apostles, Yaba.
She briefly attended Our Lady of the Apostles Secondary School, also in Yaba, Lagos.
After the outbreak of civil war in 1967, Ukaego and her parents moved to the southeast of the country.
There she continued her education at Owerri Girls High School until her family returned to Mbaise.
She then attended Mbaise Girls Secondary School and later enrolled at Queen of the Rosary College in Onitsha.
In 1972, she passed with the first year (6th aggregate) in the West African School Certificate Examination.
In the same year, Ukaego was admitted to the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, where she studied law.
During her sophomore year in college, she earned a scholarship for maintaining the second-class upper division league with higher scores.
She met Peter Odili, a doctor, at a campus party and the two began a romantic relationship. In 1976, she graduated with an LLB (Hons) and was ranked top student in the Commercial and Real Estate Law Department.
Soon after, she attended Nigerian Law School and obtained her BL certificate in 1977, before embarking on her youth service in Benin City and Abeokuta. Odili was at the time an agent of the house in Benin City.
Ukaego began her legal career as a Grade III magistrate in November 1978. She married Odili in 1979 and gave birth to a daughter, Adaeze.
Ukaego and her family moved to the city of Port Harcourt where her husband founded his medical center Pamo Clinics.
Between 1980 and 1988, Ukaego served as First Chief Magistrate, President of the Juvenile Court, Chairman of the Marine Inquiry Commission into the 1979 Buguma Boat Disaster, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee of the University of Nigeria Alumni Associates, Inaugural President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) of Rivers State and Secretary of the Nigerian Horticultural Society.
With his support, Odili entered politics and served as a member and leader of the Rivers State Constituent Assembly delegates.
In 1992, while serving as a High Court Judge, Odili served as Deputy Governor of Rivers State.
In 1999, after her husband was elected governor, Ukaego became the First Lady of Rivers State, serving until May 29, 2007.
She had served as Judge of the Abuja Divisional Court of Appeal and Presiding Judge of the Kaduna Divisional Court of Appeal.
On May 3, 2011, President Jonathan appointed Ukaego along with two other Court of Appeal justices to the Supreme Court.
In the new arrangement, she will represent the Southeast geopolitical zone at the seat of the Supreme Court.
In a letter to the Senate, Jonathan said their appointments were necessitated by the retirements of Justices Niki Tobi, IF Ogbuagu, JO Ogebe and GA Oguntade.
Ukaego was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) on June 23, 2011.