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‘Lack of mentorship, bane of our judicial system ‘



‘Lack of mentorship, bane of our judicial system ‘

Ogwu James Onoja is a seasoned lawyer, who become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) at a young age. In this interview with MUHAMMAD BASHIR, he speaks on why he is critical of the decadence which pervades the Nigerian judiciary and other issues…




My name is Ogwu James Onoja. By the grace of God, I’m a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). I am the Agenyi Attah of Igala Kingdom. I hail from Ofante Ogugu in Olamaboro Local Government Area (LGA) of Kogi State.


I’m proud to be an Igala man. I’m also proud to acknowledge that my community, where I was raised impacted positively on me, because whatever we are, is a function of where we came from and the people we associate with. I’m proud to be a Kogite based in Abuja.


What did you do differently to make you become a SAN at a relatively young age, despite your harsh background?


One of those things we discussed, is that   we have problems with legal practice like other professions. What we called mentorship and pupillage are no longer there.


Before, we used to have five years pupillage before you set up your firm. These days after law school, the next thing is to set up a law firm. No more mentorship and what I call mentor and mentee. We have now people who are not guided. Some of us started by learning the rope.


I started with Humphrey Abah in 1993 in Lagos and from there, I worked with many senior lawyers. When Bello Okpoko was the NBA President I was with him. I went through the rudiments of legal practice.


I learned a lot to come to this stage, and in all these, I worked hard for it, I burnt the proverbial midnight oil. I had the commitment and was focused in spite of the distractions of poverty, being a responsible child is very important. From the beginning you know the pains of your parents. And because of that when others are doing something funny, won’t join them.


You know the son of whom you are, and knowing this, the crisis of peer group pressure will not affect you. Some youths believe they can use cultism to break barriers of their family background.


This is what is happening, you are a cult member and whatever your parents are, does not matter. It is what is killing effectiveness of youth development. Now I am a SAN, God has blessed my efforts at 44. I am a member of Legal Practice Privileges Committee; the grace of God.


We are talking about standards in legal practice, charter of Legal behaviour and integrity of lawyers. We are working hard to making law an asset to the people instead of being a liability.


I am proud to be a lawyer and also proud to mentor young ones that are willing to be mentored. I have 22 lawyers working with me. I write books on law, I have a printing press, a bookshop and we try to do things that enhance quality of legal practice.


What is the driving force behind your giving back to the community you were raised from?


Number one, I have to start from my community in Ofante. My father was a civil servant and a farmer.


In those days one will be a civil servant and also ventured into farming. My father in those days, was always being transferred from one community to another, and I learnt how to provide services from him. Apart from serving my father, uncles, relatives, I served other people in the community.


Whatever I am doing now, I have been doing since I was a teenager. I have been giving scholarship and prizes to students in my community, where I hail from for over than 20 years. I have been doing that in collaboration with Dr. Simon Akogwu, we have been consistent at it.

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