Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
Anambra-born International judge, Justice Nkem Izuako (retired), has called for the strengthening of the judicial system in Nigeria for meaningful development to be achieved in the country.
Justice Izuako said an independent, protected, strong, and respected judiciary is indispensable for an impartial administration of justice in the country.
She also said judicial officers should actively participate in establishing, enforcing, maintaining, and observing a high standard of conduct to preserve the integrity and respect for the independence of the Judiciary.
According to her, “The judiciary needs to grow and become stronger than what it is today. Everyone keeps saying that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. And that is how it should be.
“The judges, magistrates, lawyers, and others in the legal profession need to bring courage and determination to what they do. They need to live up to their calling. They should look inward, do a self-examination and make a decision to make the country better.
“We can only do so by strengthening the judicial system. The judicial officers need to know that they have a lot of commitment to make to build a stronger society.
“I’m also calling on the government to grant financial independence (autonomy) to the judiciary. If we have a strong judicial system, there will be trust and confidence.”
Justice Izuako made the call during an event marking her 70 birthday at her Mbaukwu residence in Awka South Local Government Area, Anambra State.
At the event which featured the official unveiling/presentation of her autobiography titled: ‘Without Fear or Favour,’ Justice Izuako’s relatives, friends, associates, and well-wishers made sure to extend goodwill to her.
The milestone of clocking 70 as a legal luminary attracted the presence of many of her peers, casting even more light on the celebrant’s accomplishments.
Justice Izuako is a known figure in Nigeria and the international justice sector. She received her law degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State.
She has taught law at Nnamdi Azikwe University and the Gambia Technical Institute. Justice Izuako became a judge in 1998 when she was appointed to the courts of Anambra State.
She later was appointed to the High Court of Nigeria, where she served until 2003. From 2004 to 2006, she served as a judge on the High Court and the Court of Appeal of Gambia. Justice Izuako worked for more than two decades in the Nigerian judiciary, including working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to put together a Judicial Ethics Training Manual for the Nigerian judiciary.
In 2006, she was appointed to the High Court of Solomon Islands (where she was the first female judge). In each of the jurisdictions, and as a judge of a court of general jurisdiction, Justice Izuako handled labour and administrative law matters.
In 2009, she was appointed as one of the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT). The tribunal, which is located in Nairobi, New York, and Geneva, works to improve the UN’s system of dealing with internal grievances and disciplinary cases. Justice Izuako is based in Nairobi Kenya.
As an advocate for women’s rights and development, Justice Izuako has assisted in mentoring legal professionals in the Solomon Islands and helped to develop their potential to hold high judicial office.
Outside the courtroom, she worked to assist social development by mobilising local women to form the Honiara Women’s Initiative, which undertakes micro-projects for the economic and social empowerment of women and girls.
Speaking in an interview, the Traditional Ruler of her hometown, Mbaukwu, Igwe Peter Anugwu, described her as a brave woman, keeper of promise, and worthy daughter. He also said she is a lovely wife and caring mother wherever she goes.
On her part, the leader of Ekenabo Ovolo Mbaukwu women’s wing, Mrs. Nneka Ifezue, said they marveled at her humility, philanthropy, and joyous lifestyle.
Mrs Ifezue said: “You will never know that she is a judge each time she is with us. She is down to earth and humble, associating and providing our various needs whenever we call on her.”
Vice Chancellor of Peter’s University Achina-Onne, Rev. Fr. Prof. Emmanuel Umezinwa, who officiated the birthday Mass, praised the celebrant for choosing to serve God in active service and up to her retirement age.
Dr Livinus Izuako, who is the younger brother to Justice Nkem’s late husband, described her as “a go-getter and so contented. If the new generation can emulate her good virtues, we will have a greater society. We are so proud of her. We pray for God to keep her alive to enjoy the fruits of her labour. Nobody can kill her.”
Hon Justice Izuako’s first daughter, a diplomat, Mrs Obiageri Nwuba, said the birthday party was to celebrate her mother because she is loving, sacrificing, selfless, and humane.
“Our mother always puts the needs of others above hers. She is so dear to us. We are already learning from her. We pray for her joy, peace, happiness, long life, prosperity, and good health for her to continue to reap the fruit of her labour much longer,” she maintained.
Earlier, while unveiling the celebrant’s book, Hon. Justice Chudi Nwankwo, said he has appeared as a lawyer before Justice Izuako as a Magistrate and Judge in Nigeria.
“When I appeared before her as a judge and magistrate, she was an epitome of beauty, elegant and embodiment of legal knowledge. The younger judges and magistrates should imbibe the spirit of resilience, hardworking workpeople, and other virtues that made her successful as a magistrate, high court judge, and an International judge,” Nwankwo said.
Reviewing the book, Mrs. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, said the over 300 pages of the book are characterised by Justice Izuako’s lifestyle, value of courage and, character as a fearless and dogged fighter. She said the book also disclosed how she fought against gender-based violence and exploitation from her childhood to adulthood.
She also gave accounts of how her family survived the economic policy of strangulation introduced by the Federal Government as a result of the Civil War.