Chinwe Aguma, SAN: Forever in Our Hearts

Like a star, he shone brightly in the legal firmament. Sir Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma, SAN, KSC acquired a good education, arming himself with degrees from two British Institutions. He bagged a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Politics and International Studies from Warwick University, and subsequently, a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of Sheffield. This, amongst other things, prepared him for a successful career in law, culminating in his being elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and appointed as the Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in 2015, a position he held until he passed away on August 10, 2018 at the age of 57. Sir Aguma also served as both the Secretary and Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch. In recognition of his unalloyed service, the Rivers State Government under the erstwhile Governor, Nyesom Wike, instituted an Annual Lecture in his honour. Last Thursday, the 6th  Annual Memorial Lecture/Public Discussion themed “The Decongestion of the Correctional Centres: The Role of the Various Stakeholders” held at the NBA Bar Centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, details of which are discussed by the Advocate in Today’s publication, as the event was attended by Onikepo Braithwaite and Jude Igbanoi, who also report on what Lawyers had to say about Sir Aguma, five years on

The event which was chaired by past Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney-General of Rivers State, Adokiye Amiesimaka (Chief Justice of Football), also had in attendance, retired Justice of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Mary Peter-Odili; the Governor of Rivers State, Siminalayi Fubara, represented by the Deputy Governor, Professor Ngozi Odu; immediate past First Lady of Rivers State, Hon. Justice Eberechi Suzette Nyesom-Wike; Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University, Professor Nlerum Okogbule; Hon. Justice Adolfus Enebeli (Rtd) and many distinguished members of the Bar.

The theme of the year’s lecture, the 6th in its series, was ‘The Decongestion of the Correctional Centres: The Role of the Various Stakeholders’. The Chief Judge of the State, Hon. Justice Simeon Amadi presented the lead paper. Discussants included the Hon. Attorney-General of the State, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, NBA Port Harcourt Branch Chairman and retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mrs Hilda Ibifuro-Harrison. 

In his presentation, Justice Enebeli said of Aguma ‘he dignified the office of A-G, and pursued everything with determination and result. He left indelible marks in our hearts’.

Odili JSC (Rtd) said: ‘Aguma was great man and wonderful A-G. he appeared before me, when I was a Magistrate and High Court Judge’.

Speaking to the theme of the lecture, Chairman of the occasion said that, many go into Nigerian prisons and never come out the same. The often come out more hardened, and with incurable diseases, like tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS.

What Lawyers had to say about  Chinwe Aguma, SAN

Chima Emmanuel Aguma – He Placed Premium on Legal Education

The man being remembered, happens to be my Father. I feel fortunate to be his son. A legal colossus he was, in his lifetime. As a child, I became very endeared to the legal profession because of how neat he appeared in his suits or his wig and gown.

I fondly remember him as a very technical and intelligent Lawyer, as I was opportune to practice law with him for two years before his demise. My father believed that no matter the case you had, your originating process must be proper before the court. 

He strongly believed in Legal Education, hence, the decision of my mother, my siblings and I to launch a foundation in his honour, strictly to fund legal education. As a start we have awarded scholarships to 25 indigent students of the Rivers State University Law Faculty. The scholarship is for the duration of their stay in the institution, and encompasses their welfare. 

We hope that the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Educational Foundation can do more in the next few years, in promoting continuing legal education, aside from sponsoring undergraduate scholarships.

OCJ Okocha, SAN – Former NBA President – He served with dedication and zeal

I remember with very fond, even if painful, memories, my late Learned Brother-Silk, the Honourable E.C. Aguma, SAN, KSC.

Our parents were family friends, and I took him as a younger brother, while he took me as an elder brother.

He served with dedication and zeal, when he was honoured to be appointed as Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice of Rivers State.

I pray that his soul may continue to rest in peace. AMEN! AND AMEN!

Chief Agums, as many of us called E.C. Aguma, was a very active member of the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt Branch. He was in fact a Past Secretary and a Past Chairman of the Branch. On the two occasions when I ran for election as NBA President, that is, in 1998 and 2000, he was a member of the main Campaign Committee. And, he strongly supported me throughout my tenure as the 19th/ Millennium President of our great Association.

He took his several engagements in the Legal Profession very seriously, and was never found wanting in any respect whatsoever. He was always impeccably dressed, and he exemplified the best traditions of our Learned and Honourable Profession.

Happily, he married a Lawyer, and their union has already produced another Lawyer, Emmanuel Chima Aguma, who is carrying on in the footsteps of his illustrious parents. To God be the Glory!

Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, Honourable Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State – He could not be easily intimidated 

E. C. Aguma, SAN, KSC, of blessed memory, was a brilliant, focused, and admirable Legal Practitioner. I recall that it was during his tenure as Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Port Harcourt Branch, that I got my first appointment as the Chairman of the Continuing Legal Education, Seminar and Legal Series Committee  of the NBA, Port Harcourt Branch. We had very wonderful working relationship, marked by mutual respect for each other. 

When he became the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, I, again had the privilege of being retained by the Rivers State Government as one of the External Solicitors to the Rivers State House of Assembly, and in that capacity, we appeared together on the same side in several political matters. 

Aguma was a fine court-room Lawyer, with deep knowledge of the law and impressive command of the English Language. He was one Lawyer who could not be easily intimidated by the Judex, to abandon his line of argument.  He was always neatly and impeccably dressed.  

By irony of fate, following the translation of E. C. Aguma, SAN, KSC, I was appointed by His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, Life Bencher, the former Governor of Rivers State, to succeed him as the Honourable Attorney- General of Rivers State. 

E. C. Aguma, SAN, KSC, is greatly missed. May his gentle soul continue to find eternal and peaceful rest, Amen.

Judge Professor Epiphany Azinge, SAN – He used his office to shift the frontiers of the Law

Humility personified. A man of integrity. Industrious, with an engaging personality. Attorney-General of highest distinction and a quintessential gentleman.

I delivered his maiden memorial lecture, and for me it was an honour and a great privilege to pay him public tribute. A great man indeed. Will always be remembered.

It is difficult to believe that it is now five years since the demise of late Aguma SAN. Understandably so. Here was a man who was not only larger than life, but loomed larger than life. He was intellectually gifted, and filled with wisdom. A painstaking researcher, he exuded scholarship and confidence. He was easily the best Attorney-General, ever produced by Rivers State. He carried his office as a badge of honour, and was undoubtedly a role model to budding Lawyers and all who aspired to make the best of their tenure of office as AGs.

History certainly will be kind to him. May his memory be a blessing to his family, loved ones and to all who, like him, believe in using the office of Attorney-General for shifting the frontiers of Law.

Tonye Krukrubo, SAN: He was a dogged and formidable litigator

Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma, KSC, SAN of blessed memory, was a Lawyer worthy of emulation. I had the privilege of knowing him as a professional colleague, and had cause to engage with him in court on a number of occasions. He was a dogged and formidable litigator and, above all, a decent human being. He pursued his matters with utmost professionalism. He was very passionate about law, and the practice of law. He was Bar man as evinced by his activities at the Bar, which culminated in his being elected Chairman of the NBA Port Harcourt Branch, appointment as Attorney-General of Rivers State and the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee. No doubt his legacy in the legal profession will live on. May he continue to rest in peace. Amen.

Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Educational Foundation

The highlight of the event, was the introduction of the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Educational Foundation by the son of late Chinwenwo Aguma, SAN, Chima Aguma. The idea of the Foundation and endowment, is the brainchild of the widow of E.C. Aguma, SAN, Mrs Inime Aguma and their children, to assist brilliant students who may be in need financial assistance, to fulfil their dreams. The Foundation was inaugurated by Deputy Governor, Professor Odu, and this was followed by the presentation of a cheque in the sum of N7.5 million to the Law Faculty of the Rivers State University, for 25 pioneer beneficiaries of the scholarship scheme. 

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