Spotlight on Justice Mary Odili

The eminent jurist; the erudite trailblazer.


Friday, April 22, 2022 at 09:24 PM

Written by Editorial Board

On May 12, 2022, Justice Mary Ukaego Odili turned 70. As expected her birthday naturally marked her retirement from an illustrious career on the bench, having served as a judge of the Supreme Court for 11 years. It was a rewarding experience her voyage into the nation's judiciary and climbing up all the way to the top. 

Former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in his goodwill message personally signed by him, described Mrs. Odili as a dedicated Justice and shining example in public service. “I congratulate Hon Justice Mary Odili, on the occasion of her 70th birthday and retirement from the Supreme Court after a meritorious public service. She is an exceptional judicial icon whose service at the bench will continue to be referenced as a result of her sense of balance, fairness, integrity and confidence in the nation’s judiciary", part of Jonathan’s message read. 

Born May 12, 1952, at Orieonuoha Maternity, in Onicha Ezinihitte-Mbaise, Imo State, young Mary’s father Bernard Chigbu Nzenwa was a reputable lawyer, sports enthusiast and traditional ruler while her mother, Bernadette Nwatuma Nzenwa was a seamstress and textile trader. 

She attended various Primary Schools including St Benedict’’s Primary School, Obizi Ezinihitte, St Michael's Primary School, Umuahia, St Agnes Primary School, Maryland, Lagos and Our Lady of Apostles Primary School, Yaba, Lagos between 1959 and 1965. 

She also attended various Secondary Schools including Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Yaba, Owerri Girls Secondary School, Owerri, Mbaise Girls Secondary School, Mbaise and the Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha between 1965 and 1972. 

She later proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Enugu Campus) and obtained her Bachelor’’s Degree in Law (LL.B (Hons)) in 1976. She attended the Nigerian Law School in 1977 for her B.L certificate. 

Her previous professional appointments/positions includes: Pupil State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Abeokuta, Ogun State (1977 – 1978), Pupil State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Benin, Bendel State (1978), Magistrate Grade III, Benin, Bendel State (1978 -1979), Chairman, Juvenile Court, Benin, Bendel State (1978 - 1979)

Magistrate Grade II, Rivers State(1979 – 1981), Chairman, Juvenile Court, Rivers State (1979 - 1981), Magistrate Grade I, Chief Magistrate Grade I (1981 - 1992), Judge, High Court of Rivers State (1992 - 2004), Justice, Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division (2004 - 2010), Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division (2010 – 2011), Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter Odili was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC) on 23 June, 2011. 

She and Dr. Peter Odili who had long been acquainted right from their days in the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus that housed both the medical and law colleges within it, decided to be joined in holy matrimony in Benin City, on August 26, 1977. They were said to have met at a campus party and began a lasting relationship that culminated in a wedding. 

Their union welcomed their first child, Adaeze, in 1979. Soon after, they welcomed three other children; Chinelo, Peter, and Njideka. Two of her daughters are serving members of the bench. 

Justice Odili who served as the first lady of Rivers State between 1999 and 2007 following the election of her husband as governor, will be documented in history books as the third woman to rise to the apex court. In her valedictory speech, she recounted how it was to grow up in an African home with an extended family. 

Mary, is a recipient of the National Honour of Commander Federal Republic (CFR).

Edited By: fadil

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