Eminent personalities from all walks of life stormed Abuja Tuesday to honour Justice Centus Nweze as he departs in grandeur.

Justice Chima Centus Nweze was at the Supreme Court of Nigeria until 29July 2023. He formally left the apex Court on Tuesday, 10 October 2023 enroute to Obollo, Udenu LGA of Enugu state where he finally joined his ancestors.

It was a final departure from the nation’s capital where he arrived like a king on 29 October 2014, following an elevation from Appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Lords spiritual and temporal were on hand to bid him farewell. Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, along with his Supreme Court colleagues paid glowing tribute to Justice Nweze whom. They united in agreement that he  was a quintessential justice totally committed to enthronement of quality and outstanding delivery of justice.

The CJN said the late jurist “was one of those cerebrally mobile judicial officers in our contemporary history who had latched on our memory an enviable degree of intellectual eminence and legal finesse that encompassed all spheres of philosophy and methodical reasoning.”

Speaking in Abuja at a valedictory court session in honour of the late justice, the CJN said Nweze was a unique and nationalistic personality with a radical posture of justice and the rule of law. He added that, even though he appeared simple and unassuming, CC Nweze was very strict and consciously principled in disposition.

… warm and engaging personality

“He was always very warm and engaging. Like all great men, my Lord was a man of paradox; simple without being simplistic in disposition; elitist and dignified in carriage, yet related exceptionally well with everyone around him, especially the underprivileged and the downtrodden in society”.

The CJN who served contemporaneously with Justice CC Nweze from Appeal to Supreme Court noted that the entire life of the late Justice Nweze was completely devoid of duplicity, undue arrogance, and elitism, as some people often manifest once fortune smiles on them and they are elevated to positions of influence and affluence.

He said Justice Nweze was a dogged fighter for whatever causes he believed in and an astute advocate of the arts of mediation and reconciliation.

“At the Supreme Court, my Lord, Hon. Justice Nweze exhibited immense scholarship and rare jurisprudential candour. All his judgments were laced with academic flavour and intellectual steam. His judicial pronouncements were like ocean waves that move with vigour and vibrancy.

“His judgments covered a gamut of issues that have offered us sufficient food for thought; not just as judicial officers and lawyers but as citizens of the global village who are desirous of having a free, peaceful, and egalitarian society.

According to the CJN, “Nweze’s intellectual accomplishments have largely crystallized the legal profession by injecting confidence in the minds of practitioners, law students, and the common man on the street. His astuteness and eloquence in the courtroom, coupled with the seamless application of legal wisdom to every matter, made him an enigma of some sort.”

Federal Attorney General and Justice Minister Lateef Fagbemi, a senior advocate, noted that the Supreme Court is overwhelmed with a workload of cases. He sent the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs. Batrice Jeddy-Agba to represent him. She described the Court that Nweze left behind as one of the most overworked courts in the world.

On the departed jurist, Fagbemi said Nweze’s life will continue to shine as an example to all. Justice Nweze contributed immensely to the development of the nation’s judiciary, he added.

Damion Dodo, a senior advocate who represented the Body of Senior Advocates said the late Nweze distinguished himself by delivering qualitative judgments during his days on the Bench.

In his speech, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Yakubu Maikyau, also a senior advocate, said  Nweze made “significant contributions to the growth of our jurisprudence”.

The mourning train then moved from the temple of justice to the temple of God at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Maitama. Maitama was where Justice Nweze worshipped. Bishop Anselm Umoren, the Auxiliary Bishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, led other priests to a requiem Mass.

The Homilist at the well-attended Church service was Rev Fr Emeka Ngwoke of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka. He eulogized the quality of life lived by Justice Nweze, observing that life is not necessarily how long one stays on this earth but what was one’s contributions to society. Fr Ngwoke noted that anyone who is born will inevitably die but what matters is the person’s impact in the short period that they lived. He gave the example of Jesus Christ who lived a short life on earth and died over 2000 years ago but his impact continues to be felt.

He observed that from testimonies of various groups including his colleagues, Justices Nweze left behind enviable records to keep him in the minds of the people. If you do not remember Justice Nweze through his judgments or his books, you will remember him through his charity to humanity, he said.

Roll calls of those who graced the two farewell activities on Tuesday in Abuja in Court of Law and House of God are inexhaustible, They include all serving Justices of the Apex Court led by CJN Ariwoola, President of the Court of Appeal, as well as serving and retired Appeal Court Justices. There was also former CJN Walter Onnoghen, former Supreme Court Justice Mary Odili, Senior Advocates in their numbers, and judges of various High Courts. The Chief Judge of Enugu state as well as Deputy Inspector General of Police, Frank Mbah were also in attendance.

Top politicians also attended the ceremony, including 2023 Labour Presidential Candidate Peter Obi, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, former Governor Okwesilieze Nwodo, and current Deputy Governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ossai. Also present were the 2023 Labour Party Enugu governorship candidate, Hon. Chijoke Edeoga, Senator Okey Ezea and other serving and former Senators and members of the House of Representatives.

The Abuja ceremonies were facilitated by a group of friends of the Justice under the Chairmanship of Chief Bona Ugwuja. Justice Nweze’s younger brother, Prof Austin Nweze who is Rector of the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu, led the family to the event with the Nweze’s widow, Justice Jacinta, and the couple’s children, among others.

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