Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and other eminent lawyers have eulogized the contributions of Emmanuel C. Ukala, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to the legal profession in the country.
Governor Wike and others showered encomium on Ukala as his children, relatives and friends rallied around the legal luminary to mark his 65th birthday on Tuesday night in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. The occasion was chaired by Dr. T. C. Osanakpo (SAN).
The Rivers State governor, who was accompanied by his wife, Hon. Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike narrated that before he proceeded to then Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now Rivers State University to study Law, Ukala had been his family’s lawyer.
The governor recalled that while studying Law in the university, a chieftaincy dispute occurred in his community which led to the arrest and detention of his father, uncle, brothers and himself on trumped up murder charge. He said it took the intervention of Ukala as their lead counsel for them to be discharged and acquitted.
“There was a time that the entire family was charged for murder, every male was taken away.
We only had women left in the house with children between the ages of 1 and 5. As at that time, I was reading law at then Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now Rivers State University.”
Governor Wike disclosed that the legal luminary, in whose law firm he worked after leaving the Nigerian Law School, took his family’s ordeal very personal and gave his best to ensure that they got justice.
Speaking on his initial chequered political history, the governor said when he declared his intention to contest for the office of the chairman, Obio-Akpor Local Government Area in 1998, some callous politicians in his constituency ganged up and conspired with the police to frame him up for armed robbery.
According to him, Ukala not only intervened and secured his release, but also defended him from the tribunal up to the Supreme Court when some vested interest in the council desperately attempted to deprive him to be sworn into office as Obio-Akpor council chairman.
“Throughout my chairmanship matter in 1998, when we had election down to April 4, 2000 when Supreme Court finally decided my matter, he (Ukala) never took a dime, one Naira.”
Governor Wike stated that when the Rivers State election petition tribunal annulled the 2015 governorship poll which he won convincingly, he contacted some lawyers to defend him in the matter and they demanded as much as N300 to N600 million as their legal fee. But when he approached Ukala, whom he described as mentor, he was offered free legal service.
“Then my governorship election, most people may not believe it, from governorship tribunal down to Supreme Court, he never collected one dime.”
Governor Wike, who described Ukala as refined and discipline lawyer, applauded the legal icon for being a worthy mentor to him and his wife when they started their legal practice in Port Harcourt.
The Rivers State governor showered encomium on the children of the celebrant for deciding to honour their parents, Emmanuel and Dr Kate Ukala, in appreciation of all the sacrifices they have made in ensuring they become responsible citizens.
Sokoto State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Suleiman Usman (SAN) said God has endowed Ukala with great learning and wisdom which he has in turn put to good use in the defence of the vulnerable in society.
“Having worked under your close supervision as a member of the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee, I concur with all the encomiums that have been showered on you today. You are one man institution.”
Former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Okey Wali (SAN), said when he took over the leadership of the Bar, one of the major challenges that confronted him was issue of indiscipline among lawyers.
And to tackle the problem head on, he said Ukala was incorporated into the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee of the NBA, and before he left office, discipline was restored in the Bar.
Ukala, who said he was tricked by his children to attend the surprise birthday party they secretly organised, thanked Governor Wike, his wife and everyone who graced the occasion.