Ex-Appeal Court Judge, Ikwechegh, Dies at 97

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Peter Uzoho

A former Justice of the Appeal Court, Justice Abai Ikwechegh, 97, is dead.

Ikwechegh’s family announced his passage in a statement issued yesterday and signed on behalf of the family by Chief Ibe Ikwechegh, saying the late jurist passed on Monday in the presence of his children after a vigil was held for him.

According to the statement, his obsequies would in due course be announced by the family.

Late Ikwechegh was born in September 1923 in Igbere, Abia State to Chief Ogbonnaya Ikwechegh, a merchant and a warrant chief.

He began early education in Igbere and later attended the Hope Waddell Training Institute in Calabar.

He was a teacher and taught briefly at Owo in Western Nigeria and Western Boys High School in Benin City and Enitona College in Port Harcourt.

He later trained in Kensington College, England and qualified as a lawyer in 1955 and was called to the English Bar in the same year.

The late justice was of the Lincolns Inn barrister at Law, practiced briefly in Aba and in 1959 set up practice in Jos.

He was appointed a Magistrate in 1962 and was notable as a Chief Magistrate for policing roads and arresting reckless taxi drivers and trying them himself.

In 1972, Ikwechegh was appointed a Judge of the East Central State of Nigeria and later became Judge of the Imo State judiciary and acted severally as the Chief Judge of that state.

In 1982, he was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal from where he retired voluntarily in 1988.

During his career as a judge, he headed many panels, tribunals, and commissions of inquiry, and in 1977, he was appointed by the Federal Military Government to the Land Acquisition Control Tribunal.

Late justice Ikwechegh also headed the Imo State Chieftaincy Panel in 1978, known as the Ikwechegh Panel, which had laid down guidelines for government recognition of traditional rulers.

He also served as the first chairman of the Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, from January 1977 to June 1980.

He also served as the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri from January 1991 to November 1992.

Described by his family as a devout Christian and an Elder of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, late Ikwechegh held the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs Mercy Ikwechegh, six children and many grand and great-grand children.