Meet Rev. Fr. Edwin Obiorah; the First Catholic Priest to Become SAN

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A Catholic Priest, Rev. Father Edwin Obiorah is one of the seventy two legal practitioners conferred with the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC).

Father Obiora becomes the first catholic priest to to be conferred with the rank.

Below is Rev Father Edwin Obiorah’s biography as published in the Nigerian Biography

ABOUT REV.FR.DR. E.S.C. OBIORAH

Rev. Fr. Dr. Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu  Obiorah popularly known as Edwin Obiorah is a Priest of the Roman Catholic Church and a Lawyer of very high repute. He was born on June 26, 1955 to Chief Timothy Obiorah Anakudo and Mrs. Esther

Obiorah Anakudo. Edwin Obiorah is a native of  Igbuala Village, Ifite-Ukpo (Ifitedunu) in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria.

EARLY EDUCATION

Edwin Obiorah had his early Education at St. Simon’s Catholic School, Ukpo, in Anambra State. His early Education was however interrupted by the Nigerian/Biafran War  in 1967.

In 1968, Edwin Obiorah was miraculously saved from being bombed by one of the Nigerian bomber crafts. This was when he was taken to Awkuzu refugee medical centre at St. Raphael?s Catholic, Awkuzu due to illness and a bomb was dropped on their building barely minutes after he left his bed.

In June 1968, he was lucky to be among those children included by the then Biafran Government to travel to Gabon for Medical treatment. When he got to Libreville, Gabon, he was selected to go to the city of Mouila, Gabon to continue his Primary Education. At Moila, he found favour with the Bishop of the Diocese of Mouila called Raymond De La Mourere who took the young Edwin Obiorah to Suborn in Paris, France to continue his primary Education.

It is worthy to note that in France, Edwin Obiorah was the only black boy serving Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral Parish. It was while there that his call and vocation to the priesthood was born.

However, in 1970, Edwin Obiorah returned to Nigeria and in 1971, he completed his Primary Education at St. Gabriel’s Primary School, Ifite-Ukpo, Anambra State. In January 1972, Edwin Obiorah was admitted as one of the pioneer students of St. Paul’s Seminary, Umunuko, Ukpor. From there, he entered into All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha in 1973. In 1976, he obtained his West African School Certificate(WASC) and G.C.E. O’level with straight A’s in all nine subjects.

His outstanding results made the then Arch Bishop of Onitsha, now Francis Cardinal Arinze to appoint Edwin Obiorah as the first formative teacher of the Brothers of St. Stephen, at Holy Trinity Onitsha. He also doubled as a bursar for the Arch bishop’s household.

In 1977, Edwin Obiorah’s outstanding performance at his O’levels, prompted his cousin to obtain admission for him to study Law at the University of Nigeria but the young Edwin Obiorah rejected the offer of admission as his heart was yearning to fulfil his primary call which was to the Priestly vocation.

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PRIESTLY VOCATION

In 1978, in other to assist him in achieving his dream of  becoming a priest,  the Archbishop of  Onitsha, now Francis Cardinal Arinze sent Edwin Obiorah to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot-Ekpene, an affiliate of Urban University, Rome to obtain his Philosophical Studies. In 1981, he obtained his Bachelor of Philosophy Degree with a Second Class Honours, Upper Division.

Furthermore, in 1982, in pursuit of his dreams, Edwin Obiorah was admitted into Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, another affiliate of Urban University, Rome for his Theological course. In December of that year, he was admitted into the Ministry of a lector. In December 1983, he received the Ministry of Acolyte. Thereafter in December of 1984, he was ordained a Deacon. In June 1985, Edwin Obiorah received his Bachelor of Divinity Degree with a First Class Honours. He distinguished himself as he was the first of two candidates to get a First Class Honours in 1985.

Edwin Obiorah’s dream of becoming a Priest became reality when on November 16, 1985, he was ordained a Priest of the Roman Catholic Church by his Excellency, Most Rev. Dr. Albert K. Obiefuna(Deceased), the then Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Anambra State.

On November, 16, 2010, Edwin Obiorah celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a Priest and the Occasion was well attended by notable individuals in Anambra State and Nigeria as a whole.

After his ordination, he was posted first to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Ufuma, Anambra State where he imparted positively on the lives of his parishioners. He has also ministered in Sacred Heart Parish, Uwani Enugu, St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Ebute Meta, Lagos, Our Lady of Assumption Church Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos, Vicar of Dedan Barrack and Bonny Camp, Ikoyi Lagos, Our Lady of the Lake Cluther Parishes, Newyork, St. Alphonsus Church, Auburn, New York.

LEGAL CAREER

In 1987, the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Dr. Albert K. Obiefuna (Deceased) sent Edwin Obiorah to go and study Law in other to defend the poor and oppressed. This he did at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus(UNEC) where he graduated in 1990 with an LL.B Degree in Law and was subsequently called to the Nigerian Bar in 1991 with a B.L. coming out with Second Class Upper Division in both instances.. It is worthy to note at this point that Edwin Obiorah has always been outstanding in whatever he set his heart to. He is a born scholar.

While stuying Law, Edwin Obiorah also did a Post Graduate Course in Education at the Anambra State University of Technology, Enugu, Nigeria where he was awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Education(PGDE) in 1989.

He went further in 1992 to obtain his Masters in Law(LL.M) at the University of Lagos where he specialized in Land Law and Securities.

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In 1994, Edwin Obiorah was admitted to continue his graduate studies in Law by an Ivy League University abroad by name Cornell University, Ithaca Newyork.

Before beginning his studies at Cornell, Edwin Obiorah went and obtained a Diploma in International Law and Jurisprudence from the famous University of Paris, Suborn, Paris. From there he proceeded to Cornell University.

In 1995, he was awarded an LL.M Degree from Cornell University after an outstanding performance.

At Cornell University, it was an established principle that candidates could not apply to be admitted into the prestigious Doctor of Juristic Science(J.S.D) being offered by the school as every three years, the school usually chooses one of its past outstanding graduate students and recommend  same to the graduate school of the University for acceptance into the J.S.D Professional study and research program.

In 1995, Cornell  Law School recommended Edwin Obiorah to Cornell Graduate School for him to proceed with the J.S.D. degree program. In addition, the school awarded him a tuition scholarship of  Forty five thousand US dollars.

That same year, Edwin Obiorah became a fellow of Cornell Institute of African Development.

In December 1996, after distinguishing himself by completing with distinction the academic and professional requirements for the award of the much coveted degree, Edwin Obiorah defended his dissertation titled “ECO-JUSTICE: A New Paradigm in Environmental Jurisprudence.”

The duration for this program was a minimum of three years but for the first time in its history, a time waiver was given to Edwin and he was able to defend his work.

In 1997, Cornell University conferred on Edwin Obiorah the rare degree of Doctor of  Juristic Science(J.S.D.) and he became the first African to obtain the degree from Cornell University and the 19th person to receive the honour from the University since its establishment in the 18thcentury.

Edwin Obiorah became the first person to formulate the principles of Eco Justice which states in a nutshell that ?right and life are autochthonous?. According to his work, every living creature has the inalienable ?right to try to survive? a right which nature compels every non human creature to obey in its ecosystem. Because of its originality and innovation, the monumental work was published by the United States Government in the library of congress and the book is for sale at Amazon- the world’s greatest online shop.

ACHIEVEMENTS

With six degrees and three diplomas under his belt, Edwin Obiorah actually began his legal career in 1992 when he attached himself with Chief Nwazojie SAN, the former Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation. He gained his initial reputation as a trial lawyer when he was representing the Federal Government in the 1990 census litigation. It was in the course of that case that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC)?s Secretary General observed him in court and instantly gave him six very contentious cases.

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After a brief appointment as an associate professor at Cornell University, Edwin Obiorah got a position as an associate counsel at Harris & Wilcox in Rochester New York, the most respected law office in upstate New York ? a firm with 250 practicing lawyers. He later became in charge of international litigation and was the only black attorney in the reputed firm.

Edwin Obiorah was appointed to the bench as a Judge in New York but the Bishop of Rochester and the Catholic Bishop of Awka rejected the position as being incompatible with his vocation as a priest.

From 1998 to 2004, Edwin Obiorah was the legal adviser to the Catholic Diocese of Rochester in immigration matters. He was also the first black legal adviser and board attorney to the crime stoppers of greater Rochester, New York.

In 2004, the Bishop of Awka Diocese recalled him back to Nigeria and he founded what is today known as Equity Law Office, Awka in Anambra State – one of the biggest and busiest law offices in south Eastern Nigeria. He founded the office to address the plight of the poor and oppressed and so far he has brought solace to so many families and the state as a whole.

Rev. Fr. Dr. E.S.C. Obiorah has also been involved in the development of the law as he has done some very contentious cases in which even the Supreme Court has made pronouncements on.

Chief amongst the cases he did is on the issue of whether an accused person is entitled to all the facilities needed for him to have a fair trial. The matter went from the magistrate to the high court to the court of Appeal and finally got to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court in a fully constituted panel did justice to the issue and gave a land mark decision on the point.

Another important case he did that also bother on fundamental human rights was on the repugnant Awka tradition of forcing women not to perform the dust to dust ceremony of their late husbands with the punishment of ostracizing them. The high court in Awka, also gave a landmark decision on that point.

Fr. Edwin Obiorah has been listed in many international directories of ?Who is Who? in the legal profession. He has been listed as a life member in Strathmore’s ?Who is Who and the Global Directory of ?Who is Who?.

He is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the New York Bar Association, the American Bar Association and International Bar Association. He was called to the New York Bar in 1996. And he has practiced in both the US and Nigerian Court of Appeals and Supreme Courts.

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