The Institute for African Women in Law in collaboration with the Nigerian Bar Association Women Forum launched three reports on women in leadership and law. The research gives empirical data on women in law and leadership in three sectors of the legal profession – the bar, bench and academia.

The research was carried out on behalf of the IAWL by the Research and Documentation committee of the NBAWF headed by Prof Adejoke Oyewunmi, Professor of Law at the University of Lagos.

The event which was held at Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel, Lagos, was moderated by Ozofu Igemudia, Partner at Udo-Udoma & Belo-Osagie and featured notable and distinguished members of the bar, bench and academia in the Nigerian legal industry.

Several justices of various courts were in attendance – Justice Amina Augie, Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court and guest speaker at the event; Prof Yinka Omorogbe, SAN, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo state; Justice Toyin Oyekan-Abdullahi, Judge, High Court of Lagos state,

Also in attendance were senior members at the bar including Gbenga Oyebode, Co-founder and Of Counsel, Aluko and Oyebode; Yakubu C. Maikyau SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association ably represented by Adesina Adegbite, General Secretary of the NBA; Hairat Balogun, OON, founder and Senior Partner, Libra Law; Funke Agbor, SAN, Senior Partner, Dentons-ACAS Law.

Representing academia were Prof Oluyemisi Bamgbose, SAN, immediate Past Chairperson of the NBAWF and Deputy Vice-chancellor, University of Ibadan; Prof. Chioma Kanu Agomo, Professor of Law at the University of Lagos; Prof Adejoke Oyewunmi, Head, Research and Documentation Committee of the NBAWF; Onyoja Momoh (PhD), International Family Law expert and Board member, IAWL.

In her opening remarks, Chinyere Okorocha, Chairperson of the NBA Women Forum congratulated both bodies on the “momentous report launch”. She noted that the NBAWF was first contacted in 2021 by Prof J. Jarpa Dawuni, Founder and Executive Director, of IAWL to carry out the research on behalf of the institute and this report marks the first properly compiled data on women in law and leadership in Nigeria. She also noted that women for centuries were not treated as they should in the various professions they found themselves including the legal profession. According to her, “this is why the research is important and will help to find out through empirical evidence whether what women suffer is perhaps marginalisation, discrimination, unequal pay or just women making a lot of noise.” She also stated that the recommendations from the reports will be carried forward to the right places in order to get good results.

In his goodwill message, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, represented by Adesina Adegbite, lauded the initiative of the IAWL and NBAWF on the research and noted that it was a good thing that women take charge of their destiny. He also noted that the NBAWF would constantly enjoy the support of the administration.

Prof Dawuni stated that the research was conducted in four African countries – Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Senegal. The research has been concluded and launched first in Nigeria and will now be launched in other countries. According to her, the study shows that although there are notable female thought leaders in Nigeria, a lot still needs to be done to increase the number of female legal professionals in leadership in every sector of the legal industry. According to her “the research was done to obtain data on women lawyers in leadership, highlight the successes of female lawyers in Nigeria, pointing out the challenges and proffer solutions to these challenges

An overview of the reports was given by Yinka Omorogbe, SAN, former Attorney General of Edo state, noting that, “it provides recommendations on how to improve their conditions and promote effective gender-inclusion policies.”

In the fire-side chat between Justice Amina Augie, JSC and Prof J. Jarpa Dawuni, the Honourable Justice talked about her 45-year career and highlighted her experience as a woman in academia and on the bench. She noted that to rise and be part of leadership, women face a lot of challenges, however, “women have to embrace obstacles, learn lessons from them and be prepared for anything”. In her words, “women have to be the best they can be”. She also noted that women have to prepare themselves for leadership. “Wanting to be a leader is one thing and preparing for when it will come is another; women have to own it and embrace crisis and be confident always” Amina JSC noted.

The reports of the research were unveiled by J. Jarpa Dawuni and Chinyere Okorocha flanked by Justice Amina Augie JSC, Prof Oluyemisi Bamgbose SAN, Gbenga Oyebode, Yinka Omorogbe SAN and Dr Onyoja Momoh.

In her acknowledgements, Dr Onyoja Momoh noted that the reports show that a lot still needs to be done and that it is not enough to have gender-inclusion policies in place unless they are effectively implemented. In her words, “rights are meaningless unless they are consistently enforced.”

The closing remarks were given by Prof Oluyemisi Bamgbose SAN who stated that it was only just the beginning of what the partnership between the two bodies will achieve. She also noted that the research carried out by the IAWL and NBAWF has shown that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number five which concerns gender equality and women empowerment is achievable.

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