The Honourable Justice Esohe Frances Ikponmwen was born on the 22nd day of November 1954 to the family of Mr. Anthony Uwuigbe Okuonghae and Mrs. Dianah Oritsejolone Okuonghae (nee) Onaghise Ede. Both now deceased. Her father, the senior twin to the late Mr. Gregory Onasemwenkhai Okuonghae was the son of a police man, Mr. Erhunmwunse Okuonghae from Enyaengie, lgun and Isiemwenro in Oredo Local Government Area, while his mother Mrs Aikpitanyi Okuonghae nee Ovtowe of Ekekhen in Igueben Local Government Area. On the other hand his Lordship maternal grandfather Mr. Onaghise Ede a boat repairer or engineer (as her mother would want to call him, was from Uteh in Ikpoba-Okha area but lived all his adult life in Warri where he met her maternal grandmother, Madam Titi Magbeyiteren Ede of Ejutshe family Okere Warri. It is not surprising that it was in Warri that his Lordships father working as a Sanitary Inspector met and married her mother. Between her parents they have nine children, Asemota, Esohe, ltohan, Adeyan Osadolor Amenaghawon, lyobosa, oghogho and AiweriogheneTosan. It is on record that His Lordship being the first daughter was privileged and pampered in that her dad’s first wife, the late Madam Noruwa Osunde had no children for him for the many years before they were born.
His Lordship was never spoilt by the pampering she got from her dad who always drove her to Secondary School during resumptions and breaks whether for midterm or long holidays. The only time she recalls taking a taxi home throughout her years in Anglican Girls’ Grammar School, Ughelli (1966 – 1970) and High School in Government College Ughelli (1971 – 1972) was when the school was shut down abruptly in 1968 due to infiltration of Biafran soldiers into the State.
His lordship recalls her father doing everything possible to make her comfortable at school. In her days in Primary Schools in Warri and Sapele 1960 – 1965 her siblings and herself were the only ones and or among the very few that wore socks and sandals to schoo Mrs. Tosan Inko-Tariah, her friend from primary school recalls with nostalgia how they used to teased her for wearing shoes to school. Her Lordship remembers taking off her shoes soon after being dropped off in school by her dad in order to be like other children who had no shoes.
His Lordship excelled in her education and in 1974 was admitted to read Law in the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and bagged a 2nd Class Lower Division Degree in 1978.
His Lordship was called to the Nigerian Bar on 17th July 1979 and did the National Youth Service Corps. In 1980 she was employed as a State Counsel Gd. 11 in the Ministry of Justice Bendel state and rose to the position of Principal State Counsel in 1991. She served in the Departments of Public Prosecutions the Civil Litigation after attending the 7th Advanced Course in Civil Litigation in the University of Lagos in 1987. She relishes the period spent in the Ministry of Justice where she was groomed for the task ahead by legal icons like the Hon Justice G. E. Edokpayi her DPP; Hon. Justice G. O. U. Okungbowa, her Director of Civil Litigation and also DPP; Hon. Justice J. O. Omorodion, her Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary; Hon. Justice S. O. Elaiho (Attorney General), Hon Justice S. F. E. Akhigbe (her Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary) and several others including her senior colleagues like the Hon. Justice Tinu Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA, Hon. Justice Rita Nosakhare Obaseki-Pemu, JCA, Mrs Dupe Ojo, retired DPP and Permanent Secretary, Princess Dr. Chief ododo Irene odaro, retired Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, other colleagues like Mrs. Bridget Nwaka, Hon. Justice Adama Iye Iyayi-Lamatanka, now Chief Judge Rivers State.
His Lordship recalls with nostalgia her prosecution of cases before judicial icons like the Hon. Justice J. O. Aluyi in Agbor High Court, especially the case of the State V James Ovia & Another and Hon. Justice J.O. Maidoh in Auchi High Court in the case of the State V Chief M.C.K. Orbih & Ors amongst numerous other cases.
At the creation of Edo State, there was a dearth of Magistrates in the judiciary and she was appointed Chief Magistrate Grade 1 serving in Benin City and Abudu. She was administrative Magistrate in Court No. 1 and was Vice Chairman Magistrates’ Association from 1992-1997 becoming Chairman when Mr. S. A Ehiemua, Chief Magistrate Grade 1 retired from service. In 1999, his Lordship was appointed to the High Court Bench and served in Benin, Ekpoma and Auchi Judicial Division. She was in 2002 assigned as ICPC and later EFCC Judge for Edo State and remained so till her present appointment. She has served the nation as Chairman Yobe State Election Petition Tribunal, Chairman Edo State Local Government Election Appeals Tribunal and Chairman Personnel Management Board (Management Staff Committee) of Edo State Judiciary. His Lordship has attended several seminars, workshops and training on the job both locally and internationally. She has many awards and is a Paul Harris fellow of Rotary International.
She is a member of some professional bodies like International Bar Association, National Association of Women Judges, International Association of Women Judges; J. Reuben Clark Law Society. She has been married to Chief Edward Osawaru Ikponmwen JP, FNIM, mni for over 40 years and blessed with five children Imuwahen, Osahon (deceased), Isoken and Esosa (Twins) and Ifueko and her nine grand children for now. She has fostered same children like Oghogho, Franca and Odion.
Her membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is cherished by her.
We congratulate our amiable Chief Judge, Hon Justice E.F Ikponmwen on her swearing in as Chief Judge Edo State. Incidentally my lord the Chief Judge is the first female Benin Chief Judge and we are very proud for you m’lord. I recall with noslagia when we were in the Bendel State Ministry of Justice you were one of the State Prosecutors who went to Supreme Court to regularly defend Government cases; yourself, Hon Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson and Hon Justice M.I. Edokpayi of blessed memory. As you take on this new position m’lord the CJ, I wish you divine wisdom because as King Solomon asked God ‘ how do I rule over this great a people?’ It is not easy to rule over numerous judges, Magistrates and Lawyers
All the best m’lord CJ and many congratulations.
I want to associate with you, your Lordship and to congratulate your Lordship over your examplary hard work, dedication ànd contributions to the entire legal profession, culminating to your well deserved achievements ànd ascension to becoming the able head of the Edo State judiciary.
I wish you well in your new office and other endeavours.
Barr. Martin Ogbeide
(Dublin – Republic of Ireland)
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