The Abia and Imo judiciary on Friday in Umuahia held a joint valedictory court session in honour of the first female judge in the old Imo and Abia, late Justice Ijeoma Uche.

Uche who died at the age of 83 years, was sworn in as a Chief Magistrate in 1985 in the old Imo and later elevated to a judge.

She therefore became the first female judge in Abia, after the state was carved out of Imo in 1991.

Various speakers at the special court session held at the Umuahia High Court premises, paid glowing tributes to the late jurist.

In his tribute, the Abia Chief Judge, Justice Onuoha Ogwe, said that Uche “acquitted herself commendably” as a legal practitioner, magistrate and judge.

Ogwe said that the deceased “lived up to a grand old age, after a very brilliant and fulfilled life.

“At a time sending female children to school was a taboo or not considered necessary, she had the best education.

“As a wife and mother, she was also ideal, successful and great,” he said.

The chief judge said that Uche’s rich experience in the teaching and legal professions, as well as on the Bench would be greatly missed, especially with the crisis currently facing the professions.

Also, the Imo Chief Judge, Justice Pascal Nnadi, said that the deceased reached the pinnacle of her career, having served meritoriously until she retired.

Nnadi, who was represented by Justice Goddy Anwunihu, described her death as a great loss to the legal profession, saying that she was “a pathfinder, role model and mentor to many.”

He said that she bequeathed the legal profession with two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), Messrs Chris Uche and Gordy Uche.

The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Abia, Chief Umeh Kalu, described the late legal luminary as a trail blazer, an enigma, a scholar, wise jurist and role model.

Kalu said that she contributed immensely to the development of jurisprudence in Abia and Nigeria.

“Throughout her tenure on the Bench, Uche endeavoured to do justice as a jurist, striving not only to help those less privileged than herself, but also trained those who sought to follow her footsteps.

“She set a remarkable example in the way and manner she conducted herself-always fair, decent and caring.”

He further described her as “a very cerebral jurist and true embodiment of the blind goddess of justice,” adding that she abhorred injustice with passion.

“You always dome out from her courtroom feeling that justice had been served, even though you did not win the case.”

In its tribute, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, said that Uche’s career on the Bench was glorious and marked with great industry, diligence, uprightness, incorruptibility and dedication to the cause of justice.”

The group noted in the speech presented by Chief Awa Kalu (SAN) that “she was highly respected by lawyers and her fellow judges,” adding that “she left giant footprints on the sands of time in the judiciary.”

It also described her as an inspiration to many on the Bench and at the Bar in Nigeria, saying, “she was actively involved in encouraging women to join the legal profession and the judiciary.”

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that chairmen of Umuahia, Isiala Ngwa, Ohafia and Ukwa branches of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in their separate tributes, also described the octogenarian jurist in glowing terms.

Mr Eluwa Nnamdi, the Chairman of Umuahia NBA, described her as “a great admirer of sound advocacy,” who made her court accessible to both lawyers and litigants.

He said that “her motherly nature played a great role in resolving issues amicably when the era of Alternative Dispute Resolution was unpopular.”

He also said that because of her penchant for moral, law and sound judgment, “hardly do we see any of her judgments overturned on appeal.”

In his brief remark, Uche’s first son, Chris, thanked the Bench and Bar for honouring their mother with their large turnout at what he termed a “glorious session.”

He, however, said that the bereaved family would be appreciative if the Abia and Imo judiciary could further honour their mother by immortalising her “in any way possible.”

NAN reports that the solemn event was attended by a cross-section of Magistrates in Abia, traditional rulers and eminent jurists in the country.

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