On the 17th November 2020, history was made in the Customary Court of Appeal, Abia State as the Governor, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu sworn-in acting capacity

The Honourable Justice, Stellamaris Chinedum Ururuka Onyensoh, the First female Judge of the Customary Court of Appeal as the first female President of the Customary Court of Appeal and the first from UKWA NGWA extraction to hold that highly esteemed and sensitive office which is the third arm of the government.

The Governor, who expressed confidence that Honorable Justice Stella would discharge her duties creditably enjoined her to adopt reforms and leave her office with a legacy that will outlive and also assured her of his administration’s determination to provide her with the enabling environment that will ensure her success in office.

Honourable Justice Ururuka, being a person of proven character and good standing in the society, a person of adequate means, properly placed by her circumstances to perform the function as a member of the Customary Court coupled with her distinguished academic background and accomplishments was later sworn in as the Substantive President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Abia State on February 11, 2021.

Few months after her swearing-in, Honorable Stella Maris deployed her energy, resources and vast experience to improve the legal system by first setting up a Committee headed by Honorable Justice Okey I. Nwamoh, with His Worship, Obioma Nwachukwu as the Secretary to review the Customary Court Laws in Abia State aimed at ensuring the effective functioning of the court and improving the service the court renders to society.

Taking cognizance of the facts that the
the Customary Courts are Courts that are established by individual states to exercise summary jurisdiction over native persons only; which are only applicable to Native Law and Custom
prevailing within their judicial districts in both civil and criminal matters, but punishments given by them is not repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, Honourable Justice Ururuka Onyensoh has with collective determination, grown the Customary Court of Appeal to a greater height.

By protecting the independence and impartiality of the courts and individual judges, and acting every moment as a guardian of these values and principles, Honorable Justice Onyensoh has maintained a robust cordial relationship with the Abia State government under the leadership of Okezie Victor Ikpeazu which has contributed immensely to her enormous achievements within her short period of stay in office.

Hon. Justice Stella Maris by The Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which made adequate provisions for States, through their respective Houses of Assembly to establish Area and Customary Courts to hear and determine matters over persons subject to native laws and customs prevailing in the areas of their jurisdiction, including the courts being close to the grassroots citizens, has with the approval of the Governor, within five months since assumption in office established more Customary Courts across the State.

These rare feats and unprecedented achievements, which happens once in years have attracted accolades and commendations from different stakeholders and community members who are elated by the impactful projects and trailblazing sterling qualities of this indefatigable, eloquent, disciplined, clairvoyant, courageous and experienced Jurist of decades, Honourable Justice Stella Maris Ururuka Onyensoh.

For instance, on the 7th of July, 2021, when she commissioned the Amaba Ugwueke Customary Court, in Bende LGA, the people of the community through her President-General in his address said her name shall be caved in gold in Ugwueke Hall of fame as she has through rigorous efforts ensured the inauguration of this court which is the last hope of the common man, in their community”.

In the same vein, the people of Umuchieze in Umunneochi LGA during the inaugural ceremony of her Customary Court as performed by the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Abia State expressed delight for the establishment of the customary court. According to them, it is the first time they are witnessing and feeling the presence of the government in their community.

“What has happened today in the community is historical and monumental. It will be recorded in the annals of the history of the community that it was during the tenure of Honorable Justice Ururuka the establishment of a Customary court in our community came to reality”.

” His lordship, you are the highest government official that has ever visited this community in recent times, and we are hopeful that your coming today will bring more light and development to our community”, they added.

From these eloquent testimonies, one can easily assert that Justice Ururuka is ready to serve with transparency, equity and fairness. The acknowledgement of her tremendous achievements by stakeholders even when she is not given to self-adulation, has further lent credence to the axiom that a goldfish has no hiding place.

One cannot stop to thank the Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu who has continued to play a pivotal role in ensuring dividends of democracy not only in infrastructural development and provision of basic amenities but also has set a pace in the Judicial system by approving the establishments of these courts which reverberate across the States and added to his equitable development, provision of institutional reforms, commitments and giant stride achievements in the State in all sectors of the economy.

Indeed, Honourable Justice SMC Ururuka has lived up to expectations and her promise to do her work in an upright manner during her acceptance speech after swearing-in. She lives her ideals and reputation as a woman of moral integrity and clear vision.

Obinna Frida
Writes from Umuru Umuehim Nvosi Isiala Ngwa South.