BIOGRAPHY OF HON JUSTICE CLARA BATA OGUNBIYI JSC, FCArb.
Hon. Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi JSC was born on the 27th of February 1948 at Lassa in Borno State into the family of Baba Bata and Malama Awa Shallangwa. She commenced her primary school education at the Lassa Primary School, which she attended between 1955 and 1958. Then she proceeded to Waka Primary School; and in 1960 she completed her primary school education. Between 1961 and 1965, her secondary school education took place at Government Girls Secondary School, Dala, in Kano State. Between 1966 and 1969, she worked briefly at Barclays Bank and then Northern Nigeria Marketing Board.
In October 1969, she gained admission into Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, and in 1971, she obtained a diploma in Law. Between 1971 and 1972, she worked as an Assistant Registrar with the High Court of North Eastern State. In 1972, she commenced an LL.B programme at ABU Zaria, which she successfully completed in 1975. Thereafter, she proceeded to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos. After the successful completion of the Law School programme, she was called to the Bar on 3rd of July, 1976.
She commenced her legal career during the course of her NYSC posting to the Ministry of Justice Kaduna, where she served as Pupil Counsel. In July 1977, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi was appointed as State Counsel at the Ministry of Justice in Borno State. Over time, she rose through the ranks. In 1978, she proceeded to the University of Hull, where she did a Masters Programme. She also attended continuing legal education courses at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Lagos in 1985.
On 1st February 1983, she was appointed the Borno State Deputy Director of Public Prosecution (DPPP), a position she held till December 1984, when she was appointed as Director of Civil Litigation (DCL). On 23rd of January, 1987 she was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Borno State, becoming the first female Judge from Borno State and the entire North Eastern region. After serving for 15 years as a Judge, she was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal. That was on the 17th of October, 2002. In all, she served in Enugu, Lagos, and as Presiding Justice in Ibadan, Lagos and Jos. On the 13thJuly, 2012, Hon. Justice Clara Ogunbiyi was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, becoming the first female Justice from the North–Eastern zone to be appointed to the Supreme Court and the fourth female Justice of the apex Court.
Hon. Justice Clara Ogunbiyi is a jurist with a passion for the rule of law. Her 31-year judicial career has churned out several notable judgments, which confirm her status as a quintessential jurist. In resolving issues and conflicts, she combines the analytical mind of a scientist with the precision of a mathematician. Her Judgments are well researched, painstakingly written and eloquently delivered. They remain a focal and reference point for lawyers, legal academics and law students all over the country. Through her judgments, she has enriched the nations Judiciary and jurisprudence. In her capacity as a Justice of the Supreme Court, she wrote about 200 Judgments – 90 lead judgments and 110 contributory judgments. She wrote far more in her 10-year service at the Court of Appeal. She retired on the 27th of February 2018 (on the attainment of the maximum retirement age of 70), after 31 years of honourable and meritorious judicial service.
Justice Clara Ogunbiyi has been a member of National Association of Women Judges from its inception, as well as a one-time President. In 2009, His Lordship became a member of the Body of Benchers, and on 31st March, 2017, became a life member. She is also a member of the Nigeria Institute Chartered of Arbitrators.
Justice Ogunbiyi is an active member of EYN Church and has held several leadership positions, including Church Adviser in Maiduguri, Lagos and Abuja churches. She is the Chair of several faith based organizations, including Missions Supporters League, Peniel Outreach Ministry and Chapel of Grace in the University of Mauduguri. Between 1984 and 1992, she was on the Governing Council of Nigeria Fellowship of Evangelical Students (NIFES). She is a Grand Patron of Boys Brigade of Nigeria and has been a Chancellor of Ekiti Kwara Anglican Diocese since 2014.
Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi has received several awards and recognitions, including the Legal Magnates of Excellence, in recognition of her contribution to the rule of law and sanity in the legal profession in 2009. In recognition of her place as the fourth female Justice of the Supreme Court, she received the Distinguished Trail Blazers Award. She has also been conferred with different awards by the Nigeria Bar Association. In addition, she has delivered several papers at national and international conferences.
Justice Clara Ogunbiyi has been married to Dr. Bamigboye Ezekiel Ogunbiyi, a senior Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, for 45 years. They both have 5 biological children, as well grandchildren. She is an avid reader, loves gardening, taking walks and faith related activities.
HONEY FROM THE ROCK is Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi’s Biography. In it, Olugbenga Owa captures in great detail her humble roots, upbringing, challenges and faith. She emerged from an obscure village settlement in North Eastern Nigeria, but slowly and systematically, she climbed the Legal and Judicial ladder till she got to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The book captures the different phases and experiences of her life, including her childhood mistakes, her strength of character, her challenges and her victories. Her biography will inspire people of every creed, gender and background, and convince them that, with diligence and faith in God, anyone can make it to the top. It is a simple narrative of hope, courage, faith and divine destiny.