Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN and President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), heaped praises on the outgoing Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, who bowed out of service after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges.
She is one of the three female Judges who had attained the position of Supreme Court Judge.
Onnoghen and others who spoke at a special valedictory court session in honour of Justice Ogunbiyi, held at the Headquarters of the Supreme Court in Abuja, paid glowing tribute to Ogunbiyi’s astute and exemplary character at the bench.
The Chief Justice commended Ogunbiyi for her forthrightness, honesty and dedication to the business of the court, adding that Ogunbiyi never shirked her task nor wavered from the course of justice.
“I find that his Lordship’s use of clear legal reasoning is complimented by the impeccable courtroom courtesy and decorum, with which she addressed both the Bar and her colleagues.
“Her temperament endeared her to the court and her selflessness often spoke volumes. I dare say that these twin virtues represent the best of the legal profession and are indeed worthy of acceptance and emulation by all members of the Bar and the Bench”, Onnoghen said.
The CJN however, noted that the judiciary will miss her with her measured and erudite contributions and her active advocacy of women’s right, adding that her legacy will endure in the annals of the jurisprudence of the nation.
“Hon. Mr. Justice Ogunbiyi is a champion of gender rights and an advocate of the greater inclusion of women in the affairs of our nation”, he said.
“She has been an inspiration to female legal practitioners, being active in the NBA Women’s Forum as well as other gender related organizations”, he added.
Similarly, Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), while eulogizing Ogunbiyi for her track records in the judiciary stated that the retired jurist would be remembered for her immense contribution in the implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“I must however place on record her contribution to the evolution of our vision of a fast and efficient Criminal Justice system which abhor undue delays, through her lead ruling in the Olisa Metuh matter where the applicant had sought to enforce a stay of proceedings in his trial before the Federal High Court.
“Her Lordship, in her ruling, which was unanimously adopted by her brother Justices on the panel clearly clarified that section 36(4) of the 1999 Constitution, section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and other relevant authorities all ‘mandate and enjoin the trial court not to delay criminal cases’. In this way, she firmly set the imprimatur of the Supreme Court on our collective efforst to develop a criminal justice system which we all can be proud of”, he said.
NBA President, Mahmoud noted that Ogunbiyi was known her brilliant judicial pronouncements, which according to him, had loosened womanhood from cultural bandage, particular her decision in Ukeje vs Ukeje which gave female children right of inheritance to her deceased father or husband property in Igbo land.
In her valedictory speech, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi revealed that there are numerous appeals that should never come to the Supreme Court.
She noted that for the Apex court to achieve expected results, it should not be over burdened with interlocutory appeals.
“Interlocutory appeals should all terminate at the Court of Appeal domain. Supreme Court as the final court of the land should perform at its best. If the justices are over burdened, they cannot achieve their optimum”, she said.
Justice Ogunbiyi started her legal career as an Assistant Registrar at the High Court of Justice, Maiduguri in 1971. After her National Youth Service at the Ministry of Justice Kaduna State, from july 1976 to july 1977, she returned to the Minisrtry of Justice Borno State as a Sate Counsel, rising through the ranks to the position of Senoir State Counsel Grades 1& 11.
She was appointed Judge of the High Court of Borno State in 1987, making her the first female to be appointed judge in the history of the North East geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
However, Ogunbiyi was elevated to the apex court Bench in july 13, 2012 after her sterling contributions at the Court of Appeal.