The learned Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, has officially left the
justice of the country on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Justice Peter-Odili, who is one of the first women to be elevated to the bench of the Supreme Court, retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 years after serving on the Supreme Court for 11 years. The Imo State-born jurist, whose meritorious judgments have shaped the political, economic and social terrains of the nation, was invited to an elaborate retreat event that day.
The Supreme Court officials had a farewell session worthy of her. The session was presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, in the main courtroom of the Supreme Court on Thursday morning. Eminent Nigerians, especially the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Justice, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Corps of Counselors and the Senior Lawyers Corps of Nigeria, among others graced the farewell session.
Spanning 45 years in the legal profession, her total journey to the Supreme Court followed a steady ascent through the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, in 1976 and was admitted to the Bar the following year. Shortly after, she enrolled in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and completed her primary duty at the Ministry of Justice in Abeokuta, Ogun State, before going to the Ministry of Justice of former Bendel State as a student state attorney.
Upon her call to the Bar on July 1, 1977, Mary saw her dream of seeing her family come true. She and Dr. Peter Odili, who had known each other for a long time at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus which housed both the Faculties of Medicine and Law, decided to marry in Benin City two months later ( August 26, 1977). The two are said to have met at a party on campus and started a lasting relationship which culminated in a marriage. They received their first baby, Adaeze, in 1979. Soon after, they had three more children: Chinelo, Peter and Njideka.
For the first time since becoming the second-longest-serving Supreme Court justice, she has had the privilege of speaking about herself and the nation she has served without passion for more than four decades. Born on May 12, 1952, at Orieonuoha Maternity Hospital, Onicha Ezinihitte-Mbaise, Imo State, young Mary’s father, Bernard Chigbu Nzenwa, was a renowned lawyer, sports enthusiast and traditional leader. while his mother, Bernadette Nwatuma Nzenwa, was a seamstress and textile designer. Trader.
Mary, a gentle lady of glamorous qualities and eminence that surpasses the legal profession, was well known for her irresistible voice in the temple of justice. She has offered the best of her intellect to the betterment of the legal profession during her many years of unprecedented rulings at different levels of courts in Nigeria. The retired legal giant is an example of hard work, industry, discipline and moral rectitude. We commend her for her contribution to the judiciary in Nigeria.
In addition, Ms. Odili is a dedicated jurist and an example for the public service. She is an outstanding judicial icon whose service on the bench will continue to be referenced because of her sense of balance, fairness, integrity and confidence in the nation’s justice system. She left the bench as an outstanding jurist. Her devotion to duty took her to the pinnacle of her career, having served honorably as a magistrate, a High Court judge and a judge on both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the land. Her support for women, her advocacy for legal reform and her crusade for positive change in society are part of her legacy that will continue long after her retirement.
Attesting to the virtue of the retired jurist, Rivers State Governor Chief Nyesom Wike revealed that Justice Mary Odili saved his political career in 2004 and vowed to remain grateful to him. The disclosure was made during the Mass of Thanksgiving for the 70th Anniversary and Retirement of Mary Odili as Justice of the Supreme Court at the Chaplaincy of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Catholic Institute of Africa of the West (CIWA) in Port Harcourt.
Wike postulated that in 2004 he wept at Ms Peter-Odili after he got the hint that his name had been omitted from those approved to stand for first or second term president of local councils in the State and the retired judge listened to him. and complained to her husband, Dr. Peter Odili, who was then Governor of Rivers State. Wike explained how Mary’s presentation of the case led her husband to act immediately.
Citing a vital life lesson he learned from Justice Peter-Odili as the determination to build the capacity to succeed in one’s career while not ignoring the required attention to family, Wike said: “I have seen someone who is very compassionate and very caring. As soon as you are near her husband, she takes care of you. She sees you as the person of her husband, and therefore she will always relate to you. Some of us are direct recipients of care through our relationship with the husband.
However, Justice Peter-Odili’s career has not been free from a number of notable controversies. Her status as a judicial officer married to a politically exposed person makes her an easy target in the intrigues of the political rivals of her husband and his party. One example was the ripple effect of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the Supreme Court ruling on February 13, 2020, which removed APC’s David Lyon as Governor-elect of the State of Bayelsa, just 24 hours before his inauguration. Justice Peter-Odili led the panel of Supreme Court judges who decided the case.
The Tide joins all well-meaning Nigerians, the judiciary, the NBA, the international community and all the illustrious sons and daughters of Rivers State in celebrating and specially congratulating our very own Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, on her 70th birthday and discharge from the Supreme Court. Indeed, it was a stay, and we are proud of it. She left her indelible marks. Our best wishes for a successful and exceptional retirement.

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