The Life and Times of Justice Joseph Ofomata: A tribute by NBA Aguata Branch Chairman, Dr. C. J. Ubanyionwu
AN ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE CHAIRMAN, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, AGUATA BRANCH AT THE VALEDICTORY COURT SESSION IN HONOUR OF LATE RT. HON. JUSTICE JOSEPH NWAFOR OFOMATA ON THIS 20TH DAY OF MARCH, 2019
We have gathered here today to pay last respect to Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata who peacefully transited into eternal glory on the 22nd day of December, 2018 at the ripe age of 85 years. His death should make us to realize and appreciate more the saying of Williams Shakespeare when he stated that ‘’the entire world is a stage.” This is in tandem with the Book of Ecclesiastes at Chapter 3 verses 1-2 which says thus:
To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to be born, and a time to die.
This Bible verses are in tandem with the powerful Igbo adage that a great man is hailed twice; one at his birth and the other at his death. Literally translated, it means “Ugboro abuo ka ekwe na akpo dike, o kpoo ya na ndu, okpo ya n’ onwu. This I believe is that second call.
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Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata was born into the Royal family of Umejiaku Ogum, the first warrant Chief of Ezinifite on the 16th day of June, 1933. His direct parents Umeawusiofor Umejiaku of Okwochi quarters in Aku village Ezinifite were also people of great repute.
Very early in life, the young Joseph distinguished himself as a lover of education and worked relentlessly to acquire it, culminating in his being the first University graduate, the first qualified Lawyer, the first Magistrate and the first High Court Judge in Ezinifite.
He was an inspiration to many in Ezinifite town and beyond. Infact the history of Ezinifite could not be complete without the mention of the roles played by Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata which earned him the esteemed title of “IDE -JI-OBODO 1 OF EZINIFITE.”
The young Joseph lost his father at a very young age but later, through efforts of his mother and his late brother, His Royal Highness, Igwe S. E. Ofomata (Eze-Ugo-Ato of Ezinifite) became a tree that made a large forest in different aspect of human endeavour.
Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata started his primary education at St. John’s Catholic School, Ezinifite, Aguata in 1938 and completed in St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Ekwulobia in the year 1945, obtaining his First School Leaving Certificate or Standard Six Certificate that same year.
In 1946, he gained admission into St. Thomas Teacher Training College, Ibusa Delta State and passed out in flying colours. Through private tuition and coaching, he obtained the London Matriculation Certificate in 1951 and Cambridge Higher School Certificate (History, Geography and Economics) in 1953.
Appeared not satisfied with the above, he continued and gained admission into Fourah Bay College, University of Durham in 1954 to read Economics and finished in 1957. His unquenching thirst for reading and knowledge pushed him to sail to London in 1957 to read Law. He enrolled in the Council of Legal Education School of Law in London from 1957- 1960 and was called to English Bar on 9th February, 1960 and enrolled in the Supreme Court of Nigeria on 25th February, 1960.
Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata was a rare gem, an epitome of hard work and industry, an exemplary Patriarch and a real motivator.
He started private Legal Practice in Nigeria and Southern Cameroun and had his base at Enugu and Onitsha in 1960 and 1961 respectively. The territorial area of practice covered Onitsha, Enugu, Ikom, Obubra, Afikpo, Abakaliki, Gboko, Bua, Makurdi and Southern Cameroun.
In 1962, Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata moved to Benin City and made a permanent base there. From there, his area of practice increased and encompassed Ubiaja, Uromi, Ekpoma, Sapele, Auchi, Agbor, Asaba or the whole of the defunct Mid Western Region, now known as Edo and Delta States. In the defunct Region, he was appointed Leading Counsel and Legal Adviser to the Defunct N.C.N.C. Party, Legal Adviser of Igbo State Union, retained Counsel for the U.A.C. Nig Ltd, John Holt, Ishan West and Ishan Central Local Government Councils and many other Corporations. He engaged in private practice for 13 years.
Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata joined the Magisterial Bench in December 1972 and served as Magistrate/Chief Magistrate in many stations in the old Anambra, Imo, Abia and Cross River States between 1972 and June, 1993.
In 1993, he was appointed Hon. Judge of High Court of Anambra State of Nigeria and was posted to Onitsha where he served for 5 years until June 16, 1998 when he honourably retired from service without blemish.
Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata was a front member of Aguata Forum or Leaders of Thought, Legal and Political Adviser to Ezinifite Improvement Union and Aku Community Development Association. He was the founder and Chairman of Ezinifite Youth Association which pioneered the building of Ezinifite Health Centre, Dispensary, Postal Agency, Old Town Hall, Community Secondary School, Girls Secondary School Ezinifite, Community Hospital and initiated Rural Electrification Project of Ezinifite Community without assistance from any government or body.
Because of his exemplary leadership style both in Education and Community development orientation, Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata was honoured by the Community with a befitting title: “IDE-JI-OBODO 1” during the 1995 OFALA CELEBRATION OF HRH IGWE S. E. OFOMATA.
Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata was a practicing Catholic who believed religiously in all the tenets of the Catholic faith. He never wavered. Although the parents were pagans, he became a Catholic right from his childhood, through the instrumentality of his maternal uncle – Late Isaac Ibenyendu. He was baptized in 1938 by Rev. Fr. Kettles then living in Uruagu, Nnewi. He later received his first Holy Communion and was confirmed. Justice Ofomata loved God and brought up all his children in the Catholic faith.
To crown it all, in October 1984, Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata was admitted into Ancient and Noble Order of Knights of St. John International (K.S.J.I) and became the first Judge Advocate for Commandary 509, Ekwulobia.
Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata got married to pretty Christiana M. Ofomata (Nee Ezeoke) on January 1st, 1964 at Holy Cross Cathedral Benin City. The marriage was blessed with nine lovely children (five boys and four girls) and many grandchildren.
My Lords, my Learned colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata has played his part at the world stage and has had his exit.
As we mourn our dear colleague Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata today, we should mourn like people that have hope in resurrection. We should be consoled that he lived above the biblical two scores and ten, that he lived an eventful and remarkable life, that he left enduring legacies which include but limited to the children he left behind. We should rather cherish the memories of his friendship and legacies as consolation for his transition to eternity.
We therefore urge his children to accept our heartfelt sympathies and condolences and that God Almighty grants all of us the fortitude to bear this colossal loss.
We finally pray that the soul of Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata and souls of our departed faithful colleagues through the enduring mercy of Christ rest in perfect peace Amen. To God be the glory.
Adieu Late Rt. Hon. Justice Joseph Nwafor Ofomata.
May my Lords be pleased.
C J. Ubanyionwu PhD
Associate Professor of Law