Teacher, Headmaster, Lawyer, Politician, Chief Judge
David Koripamo Ungbuku was a pioneer Chief Judge of Bayelsa State and he retired as the longest serving Chief Judge from southern Nigeria; he was a recipient of Officer of the order of the Federal Republic (OFR).
David Koripamo Ungbuku (1938-2008) hails from Sabageria town in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government of Bayelsa State. He was an inspirational pupil teacher who walked on foot in the late 1960s and later became an erudite attorney. In 1992, he miraculously became the Chief Judge of old Rivers State. Justice Koripamo Ungbuku retired as Chief Judge of Bayelsa State in 2003. He died in Yenagoa in 2008 at the age of 70.
When and Where Was He Born?
David Koripamo Ungbuku was born on Friday, 27 May 1938 at 10.00pm in Sabageria Eastern Nigeria (now Bayelsa state).
Family and Early Life
David Koripamo’s deceased father was Mr. Ungbuku Ruskin Bikikoro, a grandson of a famous warrior Gbegbe from Seibokorogba (the Englishman pronounced it as Sabageria). His predeceased mother, Rose Racheal was an industrious farmer and trader from Odi town in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. His both parents were Anglicans and they had five children together. David Koripamo was their first child and was raised with Christian values. His mother saw him through his early education at Sabageria and Kaiama. Unfortunately, she died in May 1984 thereabout.
David Koripamo Ungbuku first had his primary education at Mr. Ezekiel Freshman Stephen Erefa’s private school in Sagbageria. Later, when David was Nine years old in 1947, he attended St. Stephen primary school Sabageria and left after passing the highest class in the school (standard five) at the end of 1953.
Thereafter, he proceeded to Reverend Proctor Memorial Primary School, Kaiama where he wrote and got his First School Leaving Certificate in 1954. At the same period, he wrote and passed the entrance examination to Bishop Demiaril Grammar School Yenagoa.
Unfortunately, David Koripamo Ungbuku’s parents could not afford his fees that year to start his schooling at Bishop Demiaril Grammar School.
Consequently, between 1955 and early 1956 David Koripamo Ungbuku couldn’t access any secondary school due to his predicament of inadequate funds.
Teaching College and GCE Exams
In 1956, he resorted to becoming a teacher. He then applied and was given admission into Preliminary Teacher’s College, Oporoma Southern Ijaw; the College offered him a One-year teachers’ preparatory programme.
In early 1958 he sat for the Teachers’ Annual Examination; he was successful and selected for a further two-year teachers’ training course at Elementary Teachers’ College (ETC) Okordia-Zarama.
Meanwhile, during the training at (ETC) Okordia-Zarama David Koripamo Ungbuku sat and passed the General Certificate of Education Examination (Qualifying Test).
In 1960, he sat for the General Certificate of Education Examination (Ordinarily Level) and passed four subjects out of the required five.
Consequently, in 1962 he rewrote the General Certificate of Education Examination (Ordinarily Level), and he passed all the five subjects.
In 1966, he sat for the General Certificate of Education Examination (Advanced Level) and passed the requisite four subjects. As a result, he applied for Direct Entry to study Law at the University of Lagos and Political Science at the University of Ibadan.
Fortunately, the Two universities offered him admission, but he opted to study law at the prestigious University of Lagos.
Afterwards, on 15 September 1967, he was an undergraduate law student at the university of Lagos and graduated in 1970. He went to Law school and was called to the Nigeria bar in 1971.
David Koripamo Ungbuku’s Career
Koripamo Ungbuku had a varied career life as a teacher, headmaster, an attorney, politician and jurist.
Firstly, David Koripamo Ungbuku finished his one-year Teachers’ Preparatory Programme in December 1956 and was posted to St. Stephen’s Primary school Odi as a Pupil School Teacher from December 1956 to 1957.
From early 1958 to late 1960 he was made a grade III teacher transferred to Local Government Authority Primary School Ayamabeni in western Ijaw district eastern Nigeria. In 1961 thereabout, he left his duty post at Ayamabeni and migrated to the city (Port Harcourt) and took up another teaching job at St. Mark’s Primary School Diobu (a private school) Port Harcourt.
Consequently, he was punitively posted to a Primary School in Bolou-Angiama in western Ijaw district eastern Nigeria in January 1962 and later he was posted to Model school, Gbarigolo. Subsequently, in early 1963 he was teaching at Doherty Memorial Grammar School Ijero, Ekiti western Nigeria.
David Koripamo Ungbuku was appointed Headmaster of Local Authority Primary School, Urhovie, Abraka Mid-western Nigeria in 1963 and also in December 1963 he was transferred to another Local Authority Primary School, Ogharaefe, a town opposite Sapele town, Mid-West Nigeria and found his best friend Mr. Joseph Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN) a fellow grade III teacher; he got married to his first wife (late Mrs. Kate Ungbuku) and had his first son afterwards.
In August 1966 thereabout, he was transferred from Ogharaefe to another Local Authority Primary School in Ijomi Mid-Western Nigeria for a period of six months. Ijomi was a remote and interior village that no teacher posted to the school ever love to live in the village. Therefore, David had to trek to and from the school a distance of many kilometers because he couldn’t afford a bicycle then. So parents and children of Ijomi village ridiculed him: Teacher walks on foot! Teacher walks on foot!! Teacher walks on foot!!!
However, the ridiculing stopped afterwards when he faced his duty with ultimate sincere zeal. He consciously drummed up dedication to duties among the teachers. Truancy among pupils was stopped. All were made to imbibe discipline; parents and pupils of Ijomi community missed him greatly when he left.
Finally, he tutored at Bishop Demiari Grammar School (BDGS), Yenagoa in mid-1966; He was an inspirational teacher. David Koripamo Ungbuku taught the then Governor of Bayelsa State late Dr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha and many other renowned personalities who attended the school during the said period.
His Law Career
Firstly, David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. was under the tutelage of famous Chief Owen Fiebai for a period of six months in Jos the capital of Benue/Plateau state after passing out from law school in early 1971.
Afterwards, he relocated from Jos to Port Harcourt to start his law practice. Initially David Koripamo Ungbuku never had the opportunity to work under any chambers, his one room apartment was his residence and law office.
He reached out to some senior lawyers who framed out briefs for him to handle on their behalf. The first case he handled in Port Harcourt was a criminal matter before a Chief Magistrate Mr. J D Manuel (later became a Judge of the then Rivers State). After an impressive cross-examination the Chief Magistrate openly commended David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. and likewise even a notable Chief Magistrate then who was deemed harsh and punitive applauded David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq.
Subsequently, some senior attorneys offered mutual gestures to David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. they gave him briefs (cases) to handle for them in court and such lawyers were: Chief B G Whyte, Dr. Cyrus Nunieh (a foremost attorney from Ogoni land) and FNN Ichioku (then a Chief Magistrate).
David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. was a workaholic and his fame spread like a wild fire in the early 1970s. In less than three years, the teacher who “walks on foot“ became popularly known as D.d.de Law to both folks and enlightened minds in Port Harcourt city and beyond.
G.T. Denemu v. Makbob (fixed odds Pool Ltd) & Anor (1973) 3 ECSLR 306
The plaintiff (G.T Denemu) won £564 in a pool stake, he betted with the defendant who refused to pay on the pretext that in pool betting “that parties are bound in honour only”. David argued that unlike earlier English cases on pool betting the plaintiff in this case paid for the betting thereby establishing of enforcement contract, making the defence of “gentleman’s agreement inapplicable to the case”. The presiding Judge, Douglas J. who later became the Chief Judge of Rivers State upheld David Koripamo Ungbuku’s argument and entered judgment for the plaintiff. Soon, the case became a landmark ruling and new attitude in the legal system of Nigeria.
Law Career Enhancement
In 1975, David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. Law practise was given a boost when Chief Okara was appointed Judge of the High Court of Justice of Rivers State. As a result of such alleviation on late Chief Okara from the Bar to the Bench; David took over his entire chamber and practise afterwards. David Koripamo Ungbuku’s practise in this firm exposed him further. Unfortunately, Hon. Justice Okara died on the bench in 1988.
You can get clues of his personality, views and cases from a consummate biography of Justice David Koripamo Ungbuku THE SENTINEL OF JUSTICE.
His Royal Highness
In October 1975 Sabageria community selected David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. as their traditional (Amananaowei) and on 17 April 1976, he was installed as Pere I of Sabageria. He held the stool for eight years and resigned afterwards, when he repented (found Christ) in 1982.
As A Politician
David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq had a stint in politics and got his fair share of betrayal and losing an election. Towards the building up of the second republic from 1977; David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. became a member of National Party of Nigeria.
His party NPN eventually nominated him to contest election into the Rivers State House of Assembly representing Kolokuma/Opokuma constituency I. As it turns out, the party NPN did fail and refused to register his candidature but he was only used to amass and galvanized support for the party from his kinsmen and constituency. David Koripamo Ungbuku Esq. was betrayed.
Finally, the Constituent Assembly to represent (Kolokuma and Southern Ijaw) in the Constitution Drafting Conference of 1978, he contested with Chief Frank Opigo (now late) and lost the election. However, with all his travail in politics, he kept faith and remained loyal to his party National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
In 1979, NPN won the gubernatorial election of old Rivers State and Chief Melford Okilo became the first Executive Governor of the state. David Koripamo Ungbuku was appointed as Chairman Rivers State Civil Service Commission for a period of five years.
His Way to Judgeship
In April 1983 thereabout his lordship Hon. Justice Graham-Douglas (now late) invited Chief David Koripamo Ungbuku and informed him that he was slated to be appointed a judge of old Rivers State unless he objects. David Koripamo Ungbuku accepted the offer.
On 6 June 1983 Chief David Koripamo Ungbuku and Mr. Okechekwu Opene (then Deputy Chief Registrar of the Judiciary) were sworn-in as Judges of the High Court of Rivers State.
As a judge he brought to bear a teaching disciplinary style and intellectual prowess to the bench; he was known as the 9.00 o’clock judge who appreciated dedication and handiwork. His ruling and judgments were delivered promptly.
He personally sat and pursued the agenda of getting cases disposed in the shortest possible time.
A Chief Judge
As at 1992, Justice Koripamo Ungbuku was the 4th Judge in the hierarchy of High Court Judges of old Rivers State. Against all odds, Justice Koripamo Ungbuku was appointed Acting Chief Judge of Rivers State on 3 August 1992 and was sworn-in as Chief Judge on 4 September 1992. He was the Chief Judge of old Rivers State till the creation of Bayelsa State on 1 October 1996.
Legacy and Achievements
David Koripamo Ungbuku’s achievements as Chief Judge of Rivers State and Bayelsa State were towering. In the context of Bayelsa State Judiciary, in 1996 there was nothing to work with; he elevated the judicial arm of Bayelsa State to an admirable height. It was David Koripamo Ungbuku who facilitated the creation of several (about 9) Judicial Divisions, eleven (11) Magisterial Districts, the Federal High Court. Most profoundly, he detested corruption in its totality, he never hesitated to sack some judicial offices during his tenure as Chief Judge.
Moreover, David Koripamo Ungbuku was a member of the Board of Governors of National Judicial Institute (NJI), National Judicial Council and Body of Benchers respectively;
His Awards and Memberships
In October 2003 thereabout, the then President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo conferred on Justice David Koripamo Ungbuku a National Award Order of the Federal Republic (OFR). In addition, he was also conferred as a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in July 2006.
Justice David Koripamo Ungbuku retired on 23 May 2003 and this made him the longest serving Chief Judge in Southern Nigeria as at when he retired.
Firstly,David Koripamo Ungbuku was born and raised as an Anglican. In 1982, he repented and embraced the Pentecostal faith. David Koripamo Ungbuku was a dedicated member of Greater Evangelism World Crusade till his demise in 2008.
He was a member of the Board of trustees, Greater Evangelism World Crusade (GEWC) and a member of the Men’s choir Bayelsa State Chapter; GEWC Sabagerias’ church building and furnishing were his own accomplishment which was dedicated on 30 April 2006, to the glory of God.
He coined the Bayelsa State Judiciary Fellowship on resumption of duty as Chief Judge of Bayelsa State in 1996 and he later became the President of the Judicial Fellowship International. It was during his time as President of the fellowship that Enugu Chapter was inaugurated on 30 October, 1998.
The family man
He was a polygamist and a great human architect. He had three wives; dutiful sixteen children, and a step-daughter and foster children that are positively impacting our society.
Names of His Wives
Mrs. Kate Ungbuku fondly called mummy was his first wife (now late) and Mrs. Evangeline fondly called Aunty and lastly Dele Dauperemo fondly called Sister.
His Last Moments and Death
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.Isaiah 1:17 ESV
After David Koripamo Ungbuku retired as Chief of Judge of Bayelsa State in 2003, he found solace in the things of God. On 18 September 2008, it was reported he had a stroke and died afterwards at the age of 70. David Koripamo Ungbuku was buried in October 2008 at his hometown Sabageria, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government of Bayelsa State.
- On the 11th of January, 2023, the late David Koripamo Ungbuku was immortalized by the Bayelsa state government. He was named after a High Court Complex in Yenagoa Capital City Bayelsa state. The occasion was graced by the Executive Governor Sen. Douye Diri, the Retiring Chief Judge of the state, Justice Kate Abiri and other dignitaries of the state.
- On 19 September 2018 David Koripamo Ungbuku’s children, grandchildren and family friends marked his 10th-year remembrance elegantly in Yenagoa and Sabageria Bayelsa State.