Kanyinsola Azeez, who emerged as best graduating student from the University of Abuja in 2016 was called to Bar in 2018. She shares her law journey with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Kanyinsola Azeez. I am from Epe local government area of Lagos State. I attended the University of Abuja where I obtained my LL.B degree in 2016 and graduated as the Best Graduating Student.
After the completion of my undergraduate education, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus. I had a successful year at the Law School and was called to the Nigerian Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2018. Choice of career Truthfully, I won’t say my decision to study law stemmed from an informed standpoint of what I can achieve with the profession. Back in secondary school, I had shown great strength in Literature and Government.
I was also a member of the debate club in school at the time. My strength in these subjects, participation in the club and lack of variety of options for professional courses in Art class, at the time, helped me reach the decision to study law.
However, I have no regret making the decision to study law and it is why I advocate mentoring for the younger generation; it is important they understand the choices they make, although difficult at that stage, it will at least enable them make informed decisions.
Pupilage My pupilage and work experience have been more of discovery and learning. I say this because I have been exposed to different aspects of the law.
Prior to attending the Nigerian Law School, I worked as a graduate intern at a core litigation firm, Williams Attaguba & Co., in Abuja, alongside as an adhoc staff with Policy and Advocacy Center, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), dedicated to promoting citizens’ participation and involvement in government and politics and championing effective policies in government. My exposure at the firm and NGO enabled me to gain a wider view of two practice areas; litigation and constitutional law. I was able to appreciate the intricacies of these areas holistically.
After I was called to Bar, I joined Aina Blankson LP. At the time I joined the firm, I was uncertain of what I really wanted to do. However, I was opportune to learn from different practice groups – litigation, alternative dispute resolution, corporate/ commercial law, intellectual property.
The exposure availed me the opportunity to fully appreciate the different practice areas and identify where my strength lies. I realized my interest was in corporate/commercial, I had come to appreciate the nuances of this practice area and I thrived better in this area. The avalanche of sub-areas in this practice area makes it even more interesting.
My desire for more specialized field made me join Greenwich, a financial advisory company. My experience here has exposed me to the nuances of M&A, internal restructuring, capital market operations, corporate finance and company secretarial. I have been able to appreciate these areas from the standpoint of a lawyer and a financial adviser.
This is a question which should form the basis for an academic discuss due to its extensive scope. However, I will try as much as possible to streamline my opinion. Firstly, constitutional law encompasses various concepts of law. It entails the rule of law, the role of all tiers of government (that is, the executive, legislative and judiciary) in ensuring the tenets of the Constitution are strongly held, the accountability of the government to its citizenry, separation of power amongst others. Its application is germane in ensuring accountability from government, equality and fairness among citizens and that due process of law is upheld.
Dispensation of justice on the other hand means ensuring justice should not only be done but should be manifestly seen to be done. It means doing what is right and just in line with the provisions of existing law and treating all men equally and fairly.
If dispensation of justice entails abiding by existing laws, then we can say constitutional law play a huge role in ensuring justice is dispensed. We cannot talk about the application of constitutional law in the dispensation of justice without analyzing the role of the Constitution in ensuring justice is dispensed. Various sections of the Constitution make provision for the creation, duties and functions of government vis-à-vis the rights of the citizens. How then has the Constitution been applied in dispensing justice? Well the answer is subjective.
In my opinion, the application of constitutional law in dispensing justice has not been strictly adhered to in line with the various provisions of the Constitution. For example, Chapter IV of the Constitution provide for Fundamental Rights of every citizen; specifically, section 35 stipulates that suspects are brought before a competent court of law within a reasonable period of time.
On the contrary what happens is that suspect are being detained for a ridiculously long period of time without being arraigned, hence, the numerous numbers of suspects awaiting trial in Nigerian prisons is outrageously high. In my days at the University of Abuja, as a student clinician, I was opportune to have worked on a Pre-trial Detainee Project.
Our objective was to assist suspects awaiting trial get access to justice by arraigning them in court. We achieved this by working with practicing lawyers.
During this period, I discovered that majority of the suspects in prisons have not even stepped into the four corners of a court room, this is regardless of the fact that some might be innocent of the offence they were accused of. Another example under constitutional law is the provision for separation of power among the three arms of government, although with checks and balances. Each arm of government is saddled with its own functions and duties. However, we often see that one arm of government indiscriminately interferes in the affairs of another arm of government.
For example, you will find that the Executive arm of government is still respon- sible for the appointment of some justices of superior courts thereby ridiculing the tenets of separation power.
There are other numerous examples in our society which I believe should be discussed on a broader platform. Emergence of Akpata as NBA President Firstly, I want to commend the leadership of the Association for conducting the elections, making it possible for lawyers to vote in the comfort of their houses using their phones, and other electronic gadgets.
We were also able monitor the election virtually while it was ongoing. This shows an Association willing to work and take advantage of modern technology as the world has advanced to that stage. It also shows the Association is mindful of the safety of its members amid a global pandemic. Whether the election was hitch free or not, is hard to tell, as there will always be hitches with the adoption of technology for such occasions until we are able to get it right completely.
On the emergence of Olumide Akpata as the President, I expected it, and I think it reflect the choice of most young lawyers in the Association; he won with over 50% of total votes cast. Mr. Akpata and his campaign team were strategic in his campaign, his message of change was appealing to young lawyers, he also rallied the support of corporate and in-house lawyers that was very strategic.
Likewise, one of the factors that was key in his emergence was that people wanted something different from having a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) emerge as President.
The odds favored him as well in that regard. He was able to leverage on this and his campaign message was quite appealing; it was new, different and portends change which the Association is in desperate need of.
Like all elections, we can only hope that we made the right choice, but I am optimistic that his emergence as President of the Association will bring monumental changes to the Association. We can only give him our support and criticism for the next two years.