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.

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