Asaba, the Delta State capital, came alive on Friday and Saturday as Punuka Attorneys and Solicitors, and its non-profit arm, Punuka Foundation, honoured the late Supreme Court Justice, Chukwunweike Idigbe.

The late Justice Idigbe, who hails from the state, founded the law firm in 1947. It was formerly known as Punuka Chambers.

Friday’s events included the inauguration of the “Hon. Justice Chike Idigbe e-Library & Resource Centre”. It was donated to the Asaba Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) by the Punuka Foundation.

A public lecture in honour of the late Justice Idigbe, organised by the NBA branch, was also held on Friday. The day ended with a dinner event tagged “An Evening with Prof. Poonam Puri”.

Puri, a professor of law at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto, Canada, was also one of the speakers at the lecture. The other speaker was Prof. Emeka Chianu, a professor of law at the University of Benin (UNIBEN).

The high point of Saturday’s events was the inauguration of the “Hon. Justice Chukwunweike Idigbe Museum and Youth Centre”. It was built by Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors. The commissioning was preceded by the Holy Mass at the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Asaba, and a visit to the Asagba of Asaba’s Palace.

The Asaba events were a continuation of a year-long programme designed to immortalise the late Justice Idigbe. On July 31, the Punuka Foundation Childcare Centre, Lekki was opened, as part of the events.

Earlier on May 3, the Justice Chike Idigbe Faculty of Law at the Veritas University permanent site in Bwari, Abuja, was unveiled under the auspices of Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors. The firm and the Idigbe family spearheaded the fundraising and got donors to contribute towards the building construction.

Principal Partner at Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors, Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) said the year-long events were designed to honour his father, who would have been 100 years old on August 12, 2023.

He said the Museum and Youth Centre would preserve the legacy of Justice Idigbe – his experiences, life’s lessons and contributions to jurisprudence. The youth centre, he said, has an internet-equipped library, offering research opportunities for youths who need quiet surroundings to study.

“There is sufficient space for seminars and other programmes to empower the youth. We hope to partner with the state government to deliver on the programmes,” he said. The centre also has a gazebo, which Chief Idigbe said can be used to stage plays or recitals as well as other creative displays.

Speaking on the E-Library and Resource Centre, Managing Partner at Punuka Attorneys & Solicitors, Mrs. Elizabeth Idigbe, said it would boost legal practice.

She said: “Justice Idigbe stood for excellence and good education. He believed in doing things right. The e-Library will encourage lawyers to do things right. The enhanced research will enable them to do their cases powerfully and properly before the courts.

“We’ve had issues about inadequate knowledge. Judges and lawyers complain. So, we believe the e-Library and Resource Centre will help address that. We also believe it’s another good way to honour a man who represented the very best of the legal profession.”

Delta State Governor, Sheriff Obarevwori, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kingsley Emu, paid tribute to the late Justice Idigbe and lauded the family for immortalising him.

He said: “I am happy to be part of this deserved honour being accorded to Justice Idigbe by his family and the NBA. It is most befitting that having traversed the legal profession and became a judge of the Supreme Court, the legacy he left behind should be given a life of its own to serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement to members of society, especially members of the NBA and the youths.

“No doubt, a museum in his honour will definitely harbour his works, especially the in-depth judgments he gave as a judge in the High Court, and as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

“From 1946 when he became a lawyer, he began to blaze a trail as he set up his chambers in Warri in 1947. Despite the interregnum caused by the civil war, he still rose to become a judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“Months to his anticipated elevation as the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, nature intervened and he went in a blaze of unblemished glory to meet his creator.”

He promised that the state would partner with the Youth Centre in building human capital.

The Asagba of Asaba, His Royal Majesty, Chike Edozien, shared fond memories of the late Idigbe, who he said was a year ahead of him in secondary school and loved to play the piano.

His words: “It’s a day of joy to recognise our brother who left us many years ago. He taught me how to play the organ but I could never play it as well as him because God gave us different talents.”

“I am happy we are celebrating Chike’s immense contributions to Delta, the Judiciary and to Nigeria in general,” said the 99-year-old monarch, who marked his birthday on July 28.

The immediate-past Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clement Agba, who chaired the Friday night dinner, said the removal of petrol subsidy removal was necessary because it was unsustainable.

“Removal of petrol subsidy is one right decision taken by the new administration, as well as the unification of exchange rates,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria could not continue to subsidise petrol consumption for other countries while it has an infrastructure deficit of $2.5trillion. “The only way to make omelettes is to break the egg and I’m happy the current government is doing that,” he said.

Prince Agba, who believes that the private sector should drive the economy, called for increased impact investment to help grow local communities.

His words: “Impact Investing is investments made to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. It is growing and gaining a reputation as a more sustainable way of investing across the globe.

“The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimates the size of the worldwide impact investing market to be $1.164 trillion. A major reason for its wide acceptance is that it offers a huge potential to address development challenges and a veritable source for bridging the SDG financing gap, estimated to be $2.5 trillion annually.

“Government’s role in promoting impact investing in Nigeria will include building an ecosystem of regulatory framework and oversight by strengthening the industry infrastructure through appropriate regulation, as well as establishing sufficient leadership to monitor the market.”

Prof. Puri highlighted the critical public financing role of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which she believes Nigeria can learn from. She also stressed the need for an efficient dispute resolution mechanism to encourage investments, adding that clear and simple rules are needed.

“I believe in regulation, but over-regulation can be harmful to the economy,” she said. “Also, when businesses need licenses, it should be easy to get. It should not take months or years to obtain a permit.”

The events were graced by dignitaries and eminent Nigerians from the Bar, the Bench, and captains of industry, among others.

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