USORO, OBI-OKAFOR MOURN OLOWOKURE

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) and former NBA presidential candidate, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor are among the Bar leaders who are mourning the sudden demise of veteran Bar activist and former Chairman of NBA Kaduna Branch, Mr. Olumuyiwa Olowokure.

Popularly known in Bar circles as “OO” in line with his initials, Olowokure was considered by many as a consummate Bar-man and a much-sought-after strategist especially in relation to Bar politics.

During the last NBA Elections, he pitched his tent with Obi-Okafor and was one of his ‘Returning Officers’ during the poll. In particular, he was known for his cerebral disposition and integrity, as his support for any particular candidate never wavered.

In a statement signed by NBA Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, Usoro described Olowokure as “an active bar man who featured prominently in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association as a former Chairman of NBA Kaduna branch and member of the National Executive Committee of the NBA for several years.”

On his part, Obi-Okafor described Olowokure as “an astute Bar man, a personal friend and confidant.” In his tribute titled “O. O. Olowokure’s Demise: A Good Man Bids Goodbye,” Obi-Okafor said that Olowokure “will be remembered as a detribalized and consummate Bar man with the midas touch.”

Below are the statements by the Bar leaders:

NBA MOURNS THE DEMISE OF QUINTESSENTIAL BAR MAN, OLUMUYIWA OLOWOKURE

Moments ago the sad news of the sudden demise of Olumuyiwa Olowokure Esq reached the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro, SAN and the National Officers. It was shocking and saddening.

Mr. Olowokure was an active bar man who featured prominently in the activities of the Nigerian Bar Association as a former Chairman of NBA Kaduna branch and member of the National Executive Committee of the NBA for several years. He was also the Kaduna State Co-Ordinator of Swift Count. Olumuyiwa Olowokure served the bar in many other capacities and made positive contributions to the development of the bar throughout his more than 3 decades of practice. He contested for the office of the General Secretary of the NBA in 2012.

On behalf of the National Officers, the NBA President condoles with members of the Nigerian Bar Association, particularly the leadership and members of NBA Kaduna branch and the family of our dearly loved colleague, over this very sad loss.

The NBA President prays that the almighty God will grant the family the fortitude and grace to bear this loss and grant our dear colleague a peaceful rest in the bossom of the Lord.

Kunle Edun
National Publicity Secretary, NBA

O.O. Olowokure’s Demise: A Good Man Bids Goodbye.

It is with a heavy heart and sense of great loss that I join family, friends and associates in mourning the untimely demise of a one time Chairman of the Kaduna branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumuyiwa O. Olowokure Esq, who passed on to eternal glory yesterday afternoon after a brief illness.

O.O. as he was fondly called was an astute Bar man, a personal friend and confidant. As the head of my Technical Team during the 2018 NBA elections, I found in him a loyal, dedicated, dependable and committed ally who committed his time, energy and resources into my project to lead our noble association.

O.O. will be remembered as a detribalized and consummate Bar man with the midas touch who during his tenure as Chairman of Kaduna branch of the NBA hosted one of the most successful conferences in the history of the association. He believed in excellence and brought same to bear in all he did.

His sudden exit leaves a great vacuum that will be difficult to be filled. O.O. was a good man and my sincere prayers is that the Almighty grant his family, friends colleagues and members of the Kaduna branch of NBA, the grace to pass through this dark hour and may the soul of the deceased find eternal rest in the bosom of the Almighty.
Adieu O.O. Olowokure Esq till we meet to part no more.

Arthur Obi Okafor (SAN).

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WORKERS’ UNION: APPEAL COURT REVERSES APPOINTMENT OF EX NBA CHIEFTAIN AS PUBLIC TRUSTEE

FEATURED

  • AGREES WITH DR. LESLIE OLUTAYO NYLANDER, SAN

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has reversed the appointment of fiery activist and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani as the Public Trustee of the Nigeria Civil Service Union.

Ruling on a motion brought by Ubani’s counsel and former NBA presidential candidate, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN (with him, Darlington Onyekwere, Esq and Mark Chidi Agbo, Esq) for change of counsel in Appeal No. CA/A/1089/2019, The Nigeria Civil Service Union (Appellant) And Comrade Benson Ekasa & 3 Ors (Respondents), the Presiding Judge, Justice A. A. Adumien held that the President of the National Industrial Court (NICN) acted ultra vires his powers when he appointed a public trustee for the union on 29th December, 2020 after the Appellant (then represented by its Executives) had compiled, transmitted and exchanged briefs.

The court further held that the appeal had long been properly entered and the court below lacked jurisdiction to make any further pronouncement on the matter. The Court of Appeal also held that the public trustee should stop parading or acting as the public trustee of the Appellant, adding that any process filed in the court by the public trustee or through his lawyer would be discountenanced.

Chief Gadzama had filed a motion on behalf of the public trustee to withdraw the appeal settled by Mr. Leslie Nylander SAN (with him, Chika Eze Esq for Chief Lawrence Uchechukwu Amaechi, President, Nigeria Civil Service Union) on behalf of the executives of the Appellant union, arguing that with the appointment of the public trustee, Ubani became the alter ego of the troubled union and the mantle fell on him to take over all the affairs of the union, including the appeal.

In his counter argument, Nylander contended that the application was premature, as the current executives were challenging the order of the lower court to appoint a public trustee. He argued that legal representation had to be sorted out first.

He further submitted that allowing the public trustee to take over the appeal that was instituted by the Executives of the Appellant was tantamount to robbing them of their constitutional right of appeal, especially as the appeal was rightly and timeously entered and briefs exchanged by the parties as far back as November 2019 and February 2020 respectively, prior to the appointment of the public trustee on December 29, 2020.

Nylander submitted that part of the applications pending before the court is a motion to stop the appointed trustee from acting in that office, adding that any further act by the public trustee would render the whole appeal nugatory and foist a fait accompli on the court. He further argued that the President of the National Industrial Court failed to follow the laid down procedure as enshrined in Order 59 of National Industrial Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2017 in appointing the public trustee.

The 1st Respondent was represented by Chinyere Moneme, Esq while the 2nd Respondent was represented by Mohammed Ndarani Mohammed SAN (with him, Stephen Apeh, Esq).

When contacted on the ruling, Ubani told CITY LAWYER tersely: “We are studying the decision. I may appeal it.”

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EXCLUSIVE: NBA TO SUE MALAMI OVER RPC

Barring any last-minute change of mind, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will in an unprecedented move soon drag the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN to court over his alleged unilateral and illegal amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (RPC). The Attorney-General is considered the Leader of the Bar.

A source who is familiar with the controversy told CITY LAWYER that the NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata has directed the Public Interest Litigation Committee led by Dr. Charles Mekwunye to draft the pleadings on the matter.

CITY LAWYER gathered that the NBA leadership may have been frustrated by the fact that efforts by the Bar association to amicably resolve the debacle have not yielded fruit. It is recalled that Akpata had visited Malami last September immediately rumours filtered into the public domain that “the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.” Rule 10 of the RPC deals with issuance of the NBA Stamp. The “Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules 2020” expunged the use of NBA stamp by lawyers and provisions requiring lawyers acting for government, ministries or corporations to pay annual bar practising fees.

According to Malami, the amendment was made in exercise of the powers conferred on him as Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as well as President of General Council of the Bar by section 12 (4) of the Legal Practitioners Act.

Though the visit seemed to have doused the tension between the two camps, the debacle took a new twist when copies of the gazetted RPC hit the cyberspace recently. The gazette is listed as Government Notice No. 140 Vol. 107 of 7th September, 2020.

It is recalled that the NBA had in a statement promptly disowned the new Rules, saying that the Attorney-General lacked the power to unilaterally issue the Rules without calling a meeting of the Bar Council. It urged Malami to “rescind” the Rules, saying: “Pending such proposed holistic reforms to the RPC, I urge you to immediately rescind the Instrument in the interest of the rule of law, the unity of the Bar and the sanctity of the legal profession. The NBA has been subjected to needless controversy and ridicule on account of the Instrument, and this does not augur well for the sanctity of the profession, of which you are a key stakeholder.”

Said Akpata: “I have been duly informed, by NBA Representatives on the Bar Council and other members of the Bar Council who have reached out to me, that to the best of their knowledge, no meeting of the Bar Council was convened to discuss any amendment to the RPC or to approve the Instrument. It therefore appears that the Instrument was enacted without proper authority.”

Former NBA First Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani had last October sued Malami over the controversial amendment. He later withdrew the suit apparently due to pressures from the NBA leadership, saying: “The leadership of the bar at the highest level have reached out to me to have the law suit withdrawn to avoid an ugly situation where the issue of the case in court will be used as an excuse to scuttle the much anticipated resolution of this unnecessary rumble within our revered body.”

RPC (Amended) 2020

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AGOMO DELIVERS UNILAG EXAUGURAL LECTURE TODAY

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

Renowned law teacher and first female Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Chioma Kanu Agomo will today deliver an Exaugural Lecture heralding her retirement from the university after over 40 years illustrious teaching career.

Titled “The reflections of a working woman in the University of Lagos workspace: 1980–2021,” the lecture promises to be a tour de force on the intersection between law, teaching, administration and gender issues among others.

Organized by the Faculty of Law, the blended event which holds at 3 pm is available via Zoom at Meeting ID: 81540067549 with Pass code as 652879. In line with strict observance of COVID-19 protocols, stakeholders are strongly encouraged to watch a live streaming of the exaugural lecture at the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81540067549?pwd=SklWVXpYZE1SWnczYkkwWWMweVRjQT09.

Coming on the heels of an unblemished career which saw her become not only the pioneer female Dean of Law but also the first female to be elected Dean of a faculty since the establishment of the university in 1962, Agomo’s retirement from UNILAG is viewed by many jurists as the end of an era.

An expert in sundry areas of law including the law of contract, labour law, insurance law as well as gender and human rights, the respected jurist will retire from UNILAG on Monday, March 1, 2021 being the day she will clock 70 years.

Already, several events have been lined up to herald her celebrated exit from the ivory tower. Aside from a Special Board of Studies session also organised by the Faculty of Law, a Thanksgiving Service will hold on March 1, 2021 at 10 am at the Chapel of Christ Our Light, University of Lagos, Akoka. The Thanksgiving Service will be streamed live at bit.ly/agomothanksgiving. Also, an autobiography titled “My Story, My Song” will be unveiled the same day at 1 pm at the church’s Global Christian Centre (GCC) Auditorium. Admission to the events is strictly restricted in observance of COVID-19 protocols.

While the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe is the Chief Host for both events, the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip (FNIALS) is the Special Guest of Honour. The Guests of Honour are Prof. Fidelis Oditah, QC SAN and Bar. Chris Ezem, Secretary to Abia State Government. The book presentation will be chaired by Dr. Kingsley Ononogbu, while renowned law teacher and jurist, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN is the book presenter. The book reviewer is Prof. Chimdi Maduagwu, Director of the Confucius Institute at UNILAG. Attendance at both events is however strictly restricted, due to COVID-19 regulations.

Prof. Agomo was born on March 1, 1951 to Sir Henry Kanu Offonry OFR and Madam Chijiago Stella Udeogu of Nkpa in Bende Local Government of Abia State. Chioma’s parents separated in 1954, when she was three years old. She was thereafter, raised by her paternal grandmother, Madam Nnenne Ogbodiya.

After her early education, she was admitted by Queen Mary College, University of London to read Law in 1973. She graduated in 1976 with an Upper Honours Bachelor’s degree and earned her Master of Laws (LLM) degree (with Merit) in 1977.

She returned to Nigeria in September 1979 and enrolled at the Nigerian Law School. She was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1980. From September 1980, she undertook her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) primary assignment in the Department of Commercial and Industrial Law, University of Lagos. She was retained immediately after her service year in 1981, and thus began her UNILAG career that has spanned almost 41 years. Agomo rose through the ranks to become a Professor of Law of the University of Lagos in 2001, notionally backdated to 1999.

She is a member of the Board of Trustees of various organisations including the Nigerian Association of Law Teachers (NALT) and Prison Fellowship Nigeria (PFN); Council and Life Member of the Nigerian Society of International Law; Member, Nigerian Bar Association; former Chairperson, Chapel Committee, Chapel of Christ Our Light, University of Lagos, and currently its honorary Legal Adviser. Professor Agomo is an Honorary Fellow of her alma mater, Queen Mary College, University of London, and a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators.

Prof. Agomo is married to Dr. Philip Agomo. She is a proud mother of two biological sons and two grand-daughters, and is also blessed with many non-biological children and grand-children, who have all enriched her life.

She has written several books and articles including: Modern Nigeria Law of Insurance; Law and Industrial Relations – Nigeria, Gender and Human Rights in Nigeria. She has also co-authored numerous publications including: Human Rights of Workers in Nigeria: The Role Of The Courts; Law and Industrial Relations – Nigeria (Monograph) in International Encyclopaedia of Laws; The Right to Work and the Right to Strike in Nigeria, Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference of Law Teachers; Legal Education in the Development and Regulation of Economic Activities in Nigeria: Proceedings of the 24th Conference of the Nigeria Association of Law Teachers and many others.

For the full Zoom link details, please see below:
FACULTY OF LAW UNILAG is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: EXAUGURAL LECTURE BY PROFESSOR CHIOMA K. AGOMO: The Reflections of a Working Woman in the University of Lagos Workspace (1980-2021)
Time: Feb 25, 2021 03:00 PM West Central Africa

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LAWYER, RESIDENTS TACKLE LEKKI GARDENS OVER DEATH AT BUILDING SITE

Leading commercial lawyer and Chairperson of Osborne Foreshore Residents Association (OSFRA), Chinwe Ezenwa-Mbah has accused embattled Lekki Gardens of negligence following the death of a worker at its construction site within the estate, saying it is not the first time such a tragedy would be occurring in their buildings.

A construction worker, Steven Magilo, died after falling off the eighth floor of a building under construction and owned by Lekki Gardens, a property company in Lagos.

It was learnt that the incident happened at the Royal Palm Drive, Osborne Foreshore Estate Phase 2, Ikoyi, Lagos State. The 30-year-old was confirmed dead in a hospital in the community, as the matter was reported at the Dolphin Police Station.

Said Ezenwa-Mbah: “Lekki Gardens is the owner of the property from which the young man fell and died. This is the third time in a space of months that workers will be falling off their buildings and plunging to their death. They have no regards for human lives.

“Reports to relevant authorities concerning their atrocities fall on deaf ears; immediately you mention Lekki Gardens, it’s like a no-go area to the authorities of Lagos State.”

The senior lawyer said the Lagos State Safety Commission initially sealed off the building after the estate reported Magilo’s death, adding that in less than a week, it was reopened.

The Estate Manager, Olushola Odukoya, faulted the decision of the state safety commission to reopen the building. He said: “The company’s safety officers told me that the victim was doing overload by trying to get things from a crane when he fell off and died. But to us on the estate, we know that enough safety measures were not taken.

“In the last seven months, this is the third occurrence, which they acknowledged and wrote to us. But this last death, they didn’t want us to know, so they quickly removed the body because they knew we would not take it lightly with them.

“We always try to monitor their constructions to see that they are in accordance with the approval they got and the safety measures the estate wants in place. However, because of the peculiarity of Lekki Gardens, they feel they own the state and try to fence us off and do whatever they like, and that’s why we call on the authorities to come in and do the needful.”

A spokesman for Lekki Gardens, Emmanuel Essien denied the allegations against the firm. He noted that the deceased was not a member of staff of the company, but was engaged by one of its contractors.

Essien said, “This is a very unfortunate and sad incident. Although the deceased was not our staff member, we are very perturbed because he was reported to have been engaged by one of our contractors.

“The issue of death cannot be swept under the carpet, hence the incident was properly logged within the purview of the law with the Nigeria Police Force, while the safety agency was also notified.

“It is completely false that this will be the third death on the estate and it is untrue that the firm does not provide safety measures because as a company, we insist that our contractors submit their site/processes for regular assessments by the regulatory safety agencies and forward evidence of such audits obtained to us. Such certificates are available for sighting at our office.

“It is also false that we’re building more than the approved units of flats. We are building strictly within the confines of our building approval and its specifications.”

Efforts to reach the Lagos State Safety Commission were abortive. The telephone number of the Director-General of the agency, Lanre Mojola, did not go through, while that of the Public Relations Officer of the agency, Adewunmi Okoh, was switched off. Text messages sent to the telephone numbers were not responded to as of press time.

It is recalled that Lagos State had filed a six-count criminal charge against Lekki Gardens’ Managing Director, Richard Nyong over the collapse of a five-storey building on Kushenla Road in Ikate Elegushi, Lagos State, which killed at least 35 persons. 

Citing contravention of planning permit regulations, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, then Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, said the defendants “are facing a six-count charge for failing to obtain building approval for the collapsed building.”

* CREDIT: PUNCH Metro

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USORO, EX NBA PRESIDENT, LOSES MOTHER-IN-LAW

Former Nigerian Bar Association President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has lost his mother-in-law, Mrs. Grace Ekong. The deceased was aged 91 years. 

Mrs. Ekong reportedly died on Thursday, February 18, 2021 at Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

She is survived by the former pioneer Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Usoro’s wife, Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro among others.

Mrs. Usoro, a prominent Bar Leader, is the Managing Partner of Paul Usoro & Co. She has served on a number of presidential and ministerial committees and was chairperson of the ministerial sub-committee of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) regional Maritime development bank in 2009.

She is the recipient of several national and international honours and was conferred with the Officier de L’Ord de Mono, a national honour of the Republic of Togo in 2002.

She holds a BSc in Sociology from the University of Calabar, an LLB from the University of Buckingham, B.L from the Nigerian Law School and an LL.M from University College London.

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EFE ETOMI ELECTED AWLA PRESIDENT

Bar Leader and Member, National Judicial Council (2018), Mrs. Efosa Etomi has been elected President of the popular African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA). Mrs. Etomi is also a member of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) and International Bar Association (IBA); Fellow, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Concilators, and is also affiliated to the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL), and International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

In her “commencement” address, she promised to “promote the principles and aims of the African Union, the United Nations, African Commission on Human and People’s rights, Amnesty International, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, while also holding these organisations accountable by applying legal pressure where they may fall short.”

Below is the full text of the speech.

2021 African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) Commencement

I would like to thank every single woman who elected me as the president of the African Women Lawyer’s Association. I do not take this for granted. We are at a turning point when it comes to the battle for gender equality and justice… as individuals, as a nation, as a continent, as one world. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of work that has already been done by so many women before me who paved the way. I ask you for your support and strength in bringing about the positive changes we want to see for women on this continent.

“Educate a woman and you educate a nation.”

We have heard many iterations of this saying and, just like the saying “behind every successful man is a strong woman”, these complimentary statements, while often rooted in truth also serve to mask a societal problem behind pretty words. They imply that a woman’s core strength comes mainly from pure selflessness and sacrifice. What a noble sentiment… but this is not what we are here for.

The trope of the quiet woman who give endlessly to others, often to her own detriment no longer applies. It is time for women to play key roles in society. It is time for us to step into positions of leadership, not just as the neck, but as the head. It is time for our voices to be heard. For us to be supported by those around us, if we are to be pillars of support for everyone else.

From the prepubescent girl child subjected to marriage before she has fully matured in various normalised practices, to women forced to undergo female genital mutilation and a lack of equal access to education, to the much too often silenced and villainised survivors of assault, to women like myself who attain positions of responsibility only to be held to higher, more critical standards than our male counterparts, I say this to you- enough is enough. This is our time; our time to be seen and heard.

Some may hear this and feel threatened, believing that feminism stems from a place of hate and wanting to exact revenge on our oppressors. This happens despite multiple attempts by so many to explain that feminism is simply a call for fairness & equality, an appeal to the humanity that we all possess. Many may believe the ideals but shirk from the term itself. This is because, In a world where we are repeatedly subjected to the trauma of gross abuses of human rights, it can seem like brut force and subjugation are the only things that prevail. I am here to challenge that notion, because it is the people who shape society and determine cultural norms. Patriarchal values and entrenched misogyny may have taught us that there is only one way to survive in this world… but we are not just meant to survive. We are meant to thrive.

As women step forward into their power, as we reach out and help those around us to do the same, we are shaping the world as it should be. Our strength lies in our boundless intellect refusing to be stifled; our embracing of our emotional intelligence without the fear of being labelled as “too sensitive. Our capacity for empathy can change the world and it will.

So as we step into our power, as we move forward with love, as we deploy our skills and resources to bring about justice and equity for women all over the continent, this is our vision. AWLA seeks to:

• Identify the pressing needs of self-identifying women and children across Africa
• Promote, preserve and protect the rights and interests of self-identifying women and children across Africa
• Challenge societal norms that condone discrimination, violence, abuse and indignity against women and children
• Expand and protect the legal status of women and children in Africa, through enforcing existing laws designed to do so and pushing for legislative reform where needed
• Innovate new ways of moving forward with equity for all self-identifying women and children
• Develop powerful, just women lawyers through training, mentorship and constantly evolving modes of support, in order to grow our competence and capacity to face legal and societal challenges.
• Rebuild an Africa where gender does not determine status and being female does not relegate one to the position of second-class citizenship

We aim to do this through:

• Expanding networks among female lawyers across Africa and beyond.
• Seeking sponsorships from and partnerships with like-minded organisations in Africa and the world on various empowerment & justice campaigns
• Supporting grassroots female-led organisations and individuals already doing this important work
• Utilizing information and technology platforms to raise awareness and develop new strategies for advocacy
• Conducting research and launching initiatives as needs arise within the continent
• Increasing our accessibility and profile on an individual and organisational level in order to provide those in need with a clear route to assistance, as well as to collaborate with and learn from human rights organisations that are also proffering solutions and generating data for use by individuals, industries and policy makers.

We strive to promote the principles and aims of the African Union, the United Nations, African Commission on Human and People’s rights, Amnesty International, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, while also holding these organisations accountable by applying legal pressure where they may fall short.

We cannot accomplish these ambitious, but attainable, goals without your support. Please feel free to reach out to us via our website and social media platforms if you would like to help, are seeking help or simply want to connect. Together, we will bring about a better, safer, more equitable world for women and children, and in doing so build a better world for us all.

Thank you
Signed,

Efosa O. Etomi
President
African Women Lawyer’s Association (AWLA)

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‘LAWYERS WILL GET ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING RULES SOON,’ SAYS AKPATA

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is set to roll out anti-money laundering guidelines for lawyers across the country. This was disclosed by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata while receiving a delegation from the National Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) led by its Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Modibbo R. Tukkur.

In a statement by NBA Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, Akpata said the guidelines had become imperative to ensure that lawyers are not conduits for money laundering activities. According to the statement which was made available to CITY LAWYER, “The NBA President thereafter, pledged to set up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee that will come up with a robust Anti-Money Laundering Rules which will govern legal practitioners in their dealings with clients, both corporate and private.”

It is recalled that NBA has been in a face-off with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over implementation of Section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 which mandated lawyers to report certain financial transactions by their clients to the anti-graft body through the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML). SCUML, the forerunner to NFIU, was originally under the supervision of the EFCC.

In an Originating Summons dated March 15, 2013 and taken out on behalf of the Registered Trustees of the NBA by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN), Messrs Babajide Ogundipe, Emeka Nwadioke and Davison Oturu, the NBA asked the court to declare that the provisions of section 5 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, insofar as they purport to apply to legal practitioners, were invalid, null and void.

Ruling on the matter, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and SCUML from enforcing the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 against legal practitioners. The judgement was CBN-VS-NBA_CA on appeal by a full panel of the Court of Appeal. CITY LAWYER gathered that a final appeal may be pending at the Supreme Court.

Below is the full text of the statement.

ANTI-CORRUPTION WAR: NATIONAL FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE UNIT MEETS WITH NBA LEADERSHIP; SEEKS NBA’S COOPERATION IN COMBATING MONEY LAUNDERING AND OTHER CORRUPT PRACTICES.

Dear Colleagues,

The National Financial Intelligence Unit (“NFIU”) paid a courtesy call on the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) on the 17th day of February 2021.

During the course of the engagement, the NFIU team led by its Chief Executive Officer – Mr. Modibbo R. Tukkur, highlighted the critical role of the NBA and its members in fighting corruption, as the nature of their work places them in a privileged position of requesting disclosure of sources of funds, investigation of funds, checkmating money laundering and other corrupt practices.

The NFIU boss also reiterated that NBA’s role as a Self-Regulatory Organization, imposes a moral responsibility on the NBA and her members to ensure that there are ethical rules that modulate their relationship with clients and members of the society at large.

Against the above background, the NFIU team recommended to the Association as follows, that:

I. The NBA sets up a dedicated Self-Regulatory desk officer at the NBA Secretariat.

II. The NBA sets up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee to collaborate with the NFIU on its anti-corruption mandate.

III. The NBA trains legal practitioners on their roles in fighting money laundering and related corrupt practices.

IV. The NBA partners with NFIU at large.

In response, the NBA President pledged the commitment of the NBA to work with existing government agencies in ensuring that legal profession in Nigeria is practised in line with global best practice so that legal practitioners are not seen to be enablers, or facilitators of corrupt practices.

The NBA President, further assured the NFIU of the Association’s desire to collaborate with the Unit, in building the capacity of legal practitioners by educating them on anti-money laundering, investigation of sources of funds, disclosure of origin of illegal funds, etc, in a manner that does not compromise their professional obligations to their clients.

The NBA President thereafter, pledged to set up an Anti-Money Laundering Committee that will come up with a robust Anti-Money Laundering Rules which will govern legal practitioners in their dealings with clients, both corporate and private.

Dr. Rapulu Nduka
Publicity Secretary,
Nigerian Bar Association.

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NBA-SPIDEL COUNCIL MEMBER NOW UAC COMPANY SECRETARY

UAC of Nigeria PLC (UAC) has appointed leading commercial lawyer, Ms. Nkem Agboti as its Company Secretary with effect from January 1, 2021. This follows the retirement of Mr. Godwin Abimbola Samuel whose career in the foremost conglomerate spanned 23 years.

In a notice to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) signed by the company’s Group Managing Director, Folasope Aiyesimoju, UAC described Ms. Agboti as a “regulatory compliance expert” who has “worked on technical committees for the Standards Organisation of Nigeria.”

A consummate “Bar man” and current Council Member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL), Ms. Agboti has since assumed duty.

Below is the full text of the notice.

UAC OF NIGERIA PLC – NOTIFICATION REGARDING COMPANY SECRETARY
UAC of Nigeria PLC (“UAC” or the “Company”) hereby announces the retirement of its Company Secretary, Mr. Godwin Abimbola Samuel with effect from December 31st 2020, after 23 years of service to the Company.

UAC’s Board of Directors (“Board”) has appointed Ms. Nkem Agboti as Company Secretary with effect from January 1st 2021. The Board thanks Mr. Samuel for his service and wishes Nkem a long and fulfilling career with the Company.

Nkem Agboti holds an LL. B degree from the University of Lagos and has close to two decades of experience in the practice of Business Law. She is an accredited mediator and well rounded in Corporate Affairs.

Early in her career, Nkem worked at the law firms of Aluko & Oyebode and Olaniwun Ajayi, followed by in-house experience at British American Tobacco Marketing Nigeria Limited and British American Tobacco South Africa.

She has experience in alternative dispute resolution, brand enforcement, as well as, trade marketing and distribution.

Nkem is a regulatory compliance expert and has worked on technical committees for the Standards Organisation of Nigeria. She is experienced in Ministry, Department and Agency (MDA) engagement and has participated in legislative hearings on key industry bills before the National Assembly and the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Nkem formed part of the teams acting as legal advisers during the wave of banking consolidation in 2004/2005 and has gained experience providing company secretarial services to companies in the financial services, hospitality, and agricultural sectors.

Nkem is passionate about public service, lending her time and talent to the Nigerian Bar Association, where she currently serves as a Council Member in the Section on Public Interest and Development Law. She is also a successful 3-time participant in the annual Lagos State Settlement Week.

She sits on the Governing Board of Lagoon School, Lekki, in Lagos State.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

OPEBI LAND GRAB: ‘COURT WILL FIX LAGOS STATE’S EXECUTIVE LAWLESSNESS,’ SAYS UBANI

Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice President, Mr. Monday Ubani has vowed to contest the decision of Lagos State Government to back alleged land grabbers over the controversial parcel of land at Opebi, Lagos.

In a rejoinder to his indictment by the State Government over the land tussle, the leading human rights activist insisted that the alleged land grabbers were using the machinery of the government to perfect the land grab, adding that he is confident that the courts will redress any injustice done to his client.

Below is the full text of the statement made available to CITY LAWYER.

RE : OPEBI LAND TUSSLE, LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT JUSTIFIES ACTION FOR THE UNLAWFUL EXECUTION OF COURT JUDGMENT ON DISPUTED LAND. – UBANI’S RESPONSE 

I have just seen the Press Release of the Honourable Commissioner of Information and Strategy of Lagos State, Mr Gbenga Omotosho concerning the land grabbing episode at 1, Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi in which Lagos State erroneously got itself entangled and illegally helped notorious land grabbers to chase away the rightful owner of a land and put the land grabbers into physical possession.

Despite my alarm that this action is patently illegal and wrong, the State Government through its Officials have been trying hard to justify this illegality having succeeded in using the state apparatus to commit the heinous illegality of “enforcing judgement” over a land that was never part of the alleged judgement of the Supreme Court.

I was away on Christmas holiday when the Lagos State Government led by one Engr Omotosho used bulldozer, trucks, towing vans and great number of policemen and thugs to chase away the legitimate tenants of the landowner and towed away all the vehicles at the site where they have been working for many years. When we were informed of this development, I raised alarm where I was holidaying and it was widely publicised both in mainstream and social media. Several government officials including the present Commissioner for Information and Strategy reached out to me over the issue and I promised to be back to Lagos to address the issue if they were ready to redress their error.

I returned to Lagos on the 10th of January, 2021 and on the 11th of January, 2021, I attended a meeting presided over by The Solicitor General/Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Mrs Titilayo Shitta-Bey. It is important to point out that, that is the only meeting I attended over this issue, therefore the statement that a Committee set up by Lagos State Government sat from 4th of January to 1st of February 2021 is clearly news to me. I was never invited to any other meeting other than the one of 11th of January, 2021 which had some officials of several ministries and the Surveyor-General of Lagos State in attendance.

At the said meeting I raised the issue that:

1. Lagos State Government cannot “enforce” court judgement as that is the work of the Sheriffs of the court. I am proved right because after the invasion in collusion with Lagos State Government officials, the Meadows’ Family, the supposed judgment creditor, has gone back to court to ask the court re-issue the “warrant of possession” for them to carry out execution on Folorunsho Kuku Street that was never and had never been part of the subject of judgement of both at the trial and at appellate Courts. The matter came up two weeks ago, that is last January, 2021 which is several weeks after the illegal invasion by the land grabbers in collusion with Lagos State Government officials.

2. The Surveyor-General’s report that my client’s land fell into the subject of the judgement at the trial court was seriously objected to by my humble self because the surveyor-general based his report upon a FORGED SURVEY (it was never part of the proceeding at the trial court in Suit No ID/513/80). This purported survey plan upon which the surveyor-general based his report was never used, tendered and admitted in evidence in that case. I have a complete copy of the entire court proceedings that took place on that case and a complete set of all the surveys that were also tendered and admitted in court. I also have the court judgements which never made mention of a purported survey plan drawn by one Suveyor Ogunbiyi in 1981 which is the wrong survey that the Surveyor General of Lagos State has used in his report which the Special Task Force on Lands Grabbers acted upon. I made this particular point clear to the Committee, but my findings were that the Committee members from Lagos State Government came to the meeting with a mindset to clear their names and present a report to the governor that will clear their mess by insisting that they acted upon the purported survey that never existed during the trial of the case.

At that point I felt that the Committee cannot resolve the issue as it was set up purposely to clear their “mess” and not to mete out justice as this press release from the Commissioner of Information and Strategy justifies my position. The Land grabbers have taken over the land and have set out to sell the land (if they have not sold everything) to persons that are very close to this State government as my investigation reveals.

Let me address seriatim the other issues raised by the said Commissioner in his press release.

a. “That the Committee invited all the parties between 4th of January to 1st of February, 2021”. MY RESPONSE. As stated earlier, I was invited only on the 11th of January, 2021 and I attended only on that date and not aware there was any other meeting involving parties to this issue. The truth of the matter is that Lagos State Government cannot ordinarily be a judge in its own case. We accused Lagos State Government of aiding land grabbers to take over my client’s land illegally and it is preposterous that the said Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Justice was investigating the matter that we alleged is committed by The Special Task Force on Land Grabbing that is a Unit under them! What an irony?

b. “That the Special Taskforce on Land Grabbers acted upon a petition on behalf of the Meadows to eject occupants of the land which harbors shanties, mechanics and miscreants”. MY RESPONSE. This is clearly laughable. The mechanics that were there were rent paying tenants to the owner of the land, and the property in question was fenced round with a big gate. The mechanics are known within the Estate and are lawful tenants who pay their appropriate dues and levies to the Landlord/ Resident Association. The chairman of the Estate Mr Steve Omamole has testified to that effect.

Upon what basis in law will a State Government act upon a petition of a private citizen to eject fellow citizens without complying with due process and law? Since when did Lagos State Government constitute itself into a law court to engage in recovery of premises on behalf of other citizens? The more the Lagos State Government tries to justify this brazen illegality, the more they get themselves completely soiled in this embarrassing impunity!

c. “That the Petitioners tendered copies of judgements obtained from various courts, High Court, Suit No LD/513/80, Court of Appeal – Appeal No. CA/1/92 and the Supreme Court – SC /146/1995) and other documents showing their title to the land to substantiate their position”. MY RESPONSE. This was the most embarrassing of all the statements in this press release. I ask again, when has Lagos State Ministries or Agencies become the law court that enforce judgement of the court? If it is true as alleged that the Petitioners have these judgements, why can’t they go to court to enforce their judgements? When did they obtain these judgments? Have they enforced them before? Why did they not complete the execution? Why are they now waking up from sleep to enforce 41 year’s judgements in 2020 on a different address with a different survey? Is the Commissioner of Information aware that this same Petitioner was in court two weeks ago(this January, 2021) to ask the court to re-issue warrant of possession over the same property that Lagos State Government have purportedly helped them to enforce judgement in December 2020? Is Lagos State Government aware that the Survey Plan with which they deceived the Surveyor General to act upon in order to write that our client’s land forms part of the subject of judgement was never part of the proceeding in Suit No ID/513/80? Please note that the Hon Commissioner erroneously described the suit number as LD/513/80.

Further question will be what other documents did the petitioner show to the Lagos State Government as alleged by the Hon Commissioner that got the Special Taskforce On Land Grabbing convinced that my client’s land formed part of the subject of the judgement of the Courts in favor of the judgment creditor? Could it be the survey OGEK 1911/81 drawn by one Surveyor Ogunbiyi which the Chairman of the Taskforce Mr Arole said he got from the Court but which was never part of the proceedings in Suit No ID/513/80? How can a whole government agency believe in a document that was never part of the proceedings during trial and chose to act on it? What irks me in this whole mess is the brazen inability of the Lagos Government Officials to appreciate the gravity of this blunder. Their bold-faced attempt to justify this illegality is clearly amazing, shocking and alarming!

d. “That the Coordinator of the Lagos Task Force confirmed the authenticity of all documents presented by the Petitioner and obtained approval to embark on the enforcement in conjunction with other government agencies whose representatives were part of the Committee set up to establish facts of the matter – Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Ministry of Transportation and Office of the Surveyor- General, Lagos State”.MY RESPONSE. It is important we note that from this statement, Lagos State Government has admitted that they were the ones that helped a land grabber to chase away the legitimate owner of his land using state apparatus. Secondly, I ask which of the documents did the said Coordinator of the Lagos Taskforce confirm as authentic? Is it the judgement, the survey or the court proceedings? How does a judgement obtained on over 12 acres of land at Abule Onigbagbo cover a land in Opebi? Assuming but not conceding that Abule Onigbagbo has suddenly become Opebi, what survey plan was used to determine that the judgement of the trial court covered the land situate and lying at No 1 Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi which is a subject of a certificate of Occupancy obtained from the same Lagos State Government since 1989?

Why is the said judgement creditor the owner of only the 6 plots of my client’s land at No 1 Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi and not the owner of all the adjoining lands on left, right and its surroundings, more so when the judgment of the trial court was for over 12 acres of land? Most importantly is how did the Coordinator of the Special Task Force conclude his investigation and establish that the Petitioner has authentic documents when he knew that there were persons present in the property whose interest on the property he could have requested for in order to give every party to the matter a fair hearing? Was Lagos State fair in using all those above mentioned agencies to grab a citizen’s land without given the citizen the opportunity to explain the reason for his presence on the property? The tenants on the property have been there for over 20 years overlooking the property for our client. They have evidence of paying land charges up to date, in fact in 2019 they received a letter of commendation from Lagos State Government for prompt and regular payments of their charges.

In all these, to us, is the shocking revelations coming from the contradictory press releases coming from the various ministries of Lagos State over this impunity perpetuated by Lagos State Government over the land in Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi. Fact checks on the reasons advanced by the Ministry of Physical Planning is different from the one given by the Ministry of Transport and the one given by the Ministry of Environment differed from the one given by the Special Taskforce on Land Grabbing. Finally this last one released from the Ministry of Information and Strategy contradicts the earlier one issued by the Ministry of Physical Planning which alleged violation of physical planning laws. Whosever and whatsoever made Lagos State Government, the Centre of Excellence to engage in this brazen impunity and their recalcitrance justifying this illegality shall be revealed sooner or later.

e. “That the Meadows family (the Petitioner) was also invited to the Committee and it was established that after the execution of the judgement of the High Court of Lagos State, some mechanics and miscreants dislodged them from the land, and all efforts to remove the trespassers had proved abortive until the petition to the Lagos State Special Task Force”. MY RESPONSE. It is unfortunate that this press statement has clearly indicted the Lagos State Government as aiding and abetting land grabbing in Lagos State. How can someone who has a certificate of occupancy of 1989 with lawful tenants who pay their dues, one as Mechanics to the Local Government Area with receipts, two, with evidence of receipts of payment of land use charges to the State Government and three, with evidence of receipts of payment to the Landlord/Association of the Estate be described as miscreants worthy of being dislodged by the State Government? How can anyone justify this type of illegal act by the Lagos State Government? Under the military, an attempt like this by the Lagos State Government to treat a citizen like a miscreant was frowned at by the Supreme Court in the famous case of Ojukwu V Lagos State Government, and we are now under democracy where the constitution and the rule of law should prevail!

What is very interesting about the narrative above about the said Meadows Family is the several lies that this said family have told the court on why they want the court to re-issue warrant of possession to go back to execute the 41 years judgement. In one instance, they told the court that they did not have money to complete the earlier execution, hence they are now ready financially to complete it. In another application before the court, they told the court that they have completed execution but that the people on site agreed with them to vacate, however they have refused to vacate after the agreed time. In the third application before the court they told the story as re-told by the Lagos State government on their behalf that the alleged miscreants dislodged them after a successful execution. Which of these stories are true? We found out through our investigations that the family through their various counsel did abandon all these fraudulent applications anytime the court raised issue about the genuineness of their strange requests. Even if they are true, which I am not conceding, which area do they want to carry out the execution? Is it on the area for which judgement is entered or upon another area which was never part of the judgement of the court? Interestingly the Courts on which these strange applications were made usually suo motu raised these issues and the next thing is that their lawyers will abandon the application abruptly and run away. We have evidence of these. This was their method of trying to levy execution on a place they never procured judgement on until they found Lagos State Government as a good ally. The question will be why would Lagos State Government lend itself willingly for this type of infamy?

f. “That Ubani did not also provide any document to justify that the land belongs to Circle Nigeria Limited. The Committee also ascertained that the ex parte order submitted by Mr Ubani was in the name of Circle Nigeria Limited but the C of O attached thereto was in the name of Kayode Owoseye Akingbade – two different entities”. MY RESPONSE. This part was the most ridiculous. I ask again, has Lagos State Government Officials taken over the responsibility of the court of the land? Is it not funny that in one breadth the Hon Commissioner admitted that a court of competent jurisdiction granted our client an interim order and in another breadth he is querying our documentary evidence to obtain the order? Is the Hon Commissioner of the view that i got the order without documentary evidence to show ownership of the property by Circle Nigeria Limited? Is the Hon Commissioner by his assertion here querying the competence of the learned Judge who granted the order of injunction? Is the Hon Commissioner trying to rewrite the ruling of the court, which is actually what they did by invading our client’s land in collusion with the land grabbers. If I may ask, is the Hon Commissioner saying that if a legitimate land owner with a certificate of occupancy sells his land to a subsequent purchaser who has a deed of assignment coupled with being in possession for a period spanning over 20 years, that that person is in the eyes of the law a trespasser and a miscreant? Honestly I do not seem to get the argument of the Honorable commissioner on the issue of a certificate of occupancy bearing a name different from the subsequent purchaser. It again speaks volume on the desperation to justify this brazen illegality.

g. “That all the Survey Plans from both the Meadows family and that of Mr Ubani’s client revealed that the subject land falls within the Meadows’ family land; and that the land on which enforcement was carried by LSSTF falls within the parcel of land for which Meadows family obtained judgment in their favor in Suit No LG/513/80” (I am sure he meant ID/513/80). MY RESPONSE. When I appeared at the Committee on the 11th January, 2021 I saw the desperation of everyone from the State Ministries to justify the illegality hence their recourse to a survey plan that was never part of the proceedings, I counseled myself to follow process and procedure and allow the State Government to continue in their quest to justify themselves. The truth of the matter is that the survey plan made available to the Surveyor General to chart the alleged composite plan which gave him a wrong result and report was a fake survey plan as it was never part of the court proceedings in Suit No ID/513/80. All my atfempt to point out this fact to the Committee was rejected because the Committee had already made up its plans to JUSTIFY THE ILLEGALITY THAT TOOK PLACE ON THE 31ST OF DECEMBER 2020.

Sincerely speaking when I noticed the desperation of the Lagos State Officials over this land issue, we had counseled ourselves to pursue this matter legally in the court of law, but the current press release from the Hon Commissioner has made this rebuttal very imperative to avoid a situation where lies unrefuted will be taken as truth.

I am amused by the accusation that I used social media for sympathy and blackmail. I am not seeking for anyone’s sympathy but for truth to be unveiled. Secondly I am a lawyer of reputable standing and not known for blackmailing. It will be wise for the Lagos State Government to admit this grave error and correct the injustice rather than engage in smearing a name of a lawyer that is out to pursue undiluted justice for his client. Social media is open to everyone and the Lagos State Government have just used it to convey their opinion, even though, wrongly on this issue.

I am a firm believer in Lagos State as a Centre of Excellence and I think I have contributed my own little quota to the development of the State especially pertaining to the election of this present government both at the centre and at the State level. However, I will not be intimidated in pursuing the rights of any of my clients by any government official whose office is only temporal as the State will outlive any individual.

The Lagos State Government through their officials acted wrongly in the manner they dispossessed a citizen of his land. They need to check their process and procedure in investigating cases of land grabbing to avoid aiding and abetting land grabbers in perpetuating their nefarious acts. The State Officials erred gravely over our client’s land episode and it is alarming that instead of redressing the manifest injustice, the Centre of Excellence is digging deep in infamy and encouraging anarchy. The people who grabbed our client’s land have sold out all the land to desperate buyers with the aid and assistance of the State Government. This is clearly evil, unlawful and a dent on the good name of Lagos State. That they are trying to justify this is terribly alarming!

However due to my profound respect and love to the current governor, His Excellency Mr Jide Sanwo-Olu, a complete gentleman i would have said more on this issue, but I am restrained to hold my gun powder dry. I am too sure that he is yet to know the whole truth about this sad episode.

Conscience is an open wound, only truth heals it.

A word is enough for the wise!

Monday O. Ubani Esq,

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

OKONJO-IWEALA, LAWYERS AND LESSONS IN CAREER DEV’T

FEATURED

NTA EKPIKEN has a wealth of experience in the legal framework for the protection of intellectual property rights, brand protection, anti-counterfeiting, copyrights, image rights, licensing & franchising, technology transfer and product registration.

She is involved with many campaigns and advocacy initiatives including a committee working on the review of the IP laws in Nigeria and the United States Consulate “Anti-Counterfeiting Collaboration” (ACC) campaign against fake malaria drugs.

With a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from Swansea University (UK) and a Copyright X Certificate from Harvard Law School, USA, she is also a member of the International Trademark Association (INTA), Intellectual Property Law Association of Nigeria (IPLAN) and Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) International, an Associate Fellow of the Nigerian Leadership Initiative (NLI), and the Course Coordinator for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch Continuing Professional Development Committee (CPDC).

In this piece, she dissects the nexus between career advancement and the emergence of Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the coveted Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

The extraordinary feat of the emergence of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been celebrated across Nigeria as one that represents a true instance of the breaking of glass ceilings on many fronts. It is indeed worthy of celebration that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the first African to be elected as Director General of the WTO in a very keenly contested election. This achievement by this exceptional lady is made more remarkable by the fact that at this time in its history, Nigeria is struggling with its identity as a nation, generally seen by the international community as a corrupt country with corrupt people, a country with one of the highest levels of insecurity, generally lawless and with all other negative perceptions that space would not allow one to mention.

Many have commented on Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala being African and black. Of course, that is worth commenting on because of the racial and other prejudices that often reflect in world affairs and in international diplomacy. Most discerning black Africans who have lived or live in the Western world would understand what it means for a black person to reach certain heights in global politics, international affairs and business.

The other aspect of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s ascendency that people have commented on is that she is female, a mother and a wife. It is not difficult to see why the fact that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, a female, reached this remarkable height is a topic for discussion when considered from the perspective of the many prejudices that still exist in the work place where gender inequality is for many reasons still prevalent. Add this factor to the demands of keeping a home and being a mother and it becomes much clearer. Today, this great lady stands tall as a role model not only for black people across the globe but for all women and all those who aspire to do well irrespective of race, gender, disability or any other seemingly inhibiting factor.

The above said, however, I think that there is an important lesson for every professional and lawyer and, closer to home, for members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch. The Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala story is one that epitomizes the values of consistent and rigorous professional development. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala became the Director General of the WTO against all odds because of the fact that she is a thoroughbred professional. She got there purely on merit.

Her story inspires me and should inspire all of us to achieve more and to continue to develop as we progress in life, knowing that professional growth and development is an inevitable factor to our prosperity and career fulfillment. In our profession today, there are many who do not see much hope in the profession, and many young lawyers are looking for a sense of purpose and seeking direction. I recommend the story of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala – who grew up in the University Campus at Ibadan and Nsukka, had her secondary education at Ibadan and Enugu – to all of us and to say that the possibilities are limitless in this era of globalization, trade (free and otherwise) and continuing advancement in transferability of knowledge.

We are fortunate to have an NBA that is now focused on career development and rolling out a lot of programmes for the advancement of members of the profession. I am particularly proud of the work that has been done by the Continuing Professional Development Committee of our branch (of which I am proud to be the Course Coordinator). Due to advancement in technology we have been able to attract some of the most distinguished professionals in the world, including graduates of the Yale University, Columbia, Harvard and Oxford amongst others, to speak on topical legal issues and areas at our meetings and other CPD events and trainings. I encourage members of the branch to use Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a point of contact for inspiration to continue to develop in their careers and to participate in the various ground-breaking initiatives of the Continuing Professional Development Committee of the Branch.

I join many today in congratulating Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the Director General of the WTO.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.