Nwokolo Ifeanyi Emmanuel is an alumnus of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Emmanuel was called to Bar on 12th December, 2017. He shares his law journey with JOHN CHIKEZIE
My name is Nwokolo Ifeanyi Emmanuel. I am from Uvuru in Uzo-uwani local government area of Enugu State. I attended the University of Nigeria Nsukka where I obtained my law degree in 2016 with the completion of my research paper on the then novel Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, earning a distinction for original research work.
With the completion of my graduate education, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja Campus, for a one-year practical training preparatory to being called to the Nigerian Bar. I received my call as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the 12th of December 2017. I have since practiced law primarily within the jurisdiction of Lagos State. I am a volunteer with the One African Child Foundation for Creative Learning (OACF), an organization invested in ensuring quality education for rural and economically disadvantaged children.
Choice of career
My decision to study law, I would say, was not really a decision in the sense of this or that as I have never imagined or thought of any other profession of interest to me that I have to choose between law and that others. Right from my childhood days both Primary and secondary schools, the two tags by way of nicknames that I had were either “Barrister” or “Prof”. So, that instilled a clear view and gave out the vibes about where my sights were set. If there was any sub-conscious doubt about studying law, I am sure it went cold after my father became a Barrister in 2006.
Maybe you would call the build-up of his own study of law and becoming a lawyer as the unconscious influence that determined my decision.
Also, my love for Literature and Government in secondary school made my decision very straightforward. I made a distinction in both subjects at WASSCE.
My pupilage and work experience have been incredibly exciting. Prior to my being called to the Nigerian Bar, I was a graduate Intern at Aluko and Oyebode where I was able to gain a broader view of the different practice areas – corporate commercial and litigation/Alternative Dispute Resolution – the nuances, interconnectedness and disparate implications.
My externship experience at Ricky Tarfa & Co. also helped me burnish my understanding of litigation as a practice area.
In 2018 when I was offered employment at Aina Blankson Attorneys, I already knew where my interest laid.
Three years after, every time I step into the court room for briefs, final addresses or argue the finer points of law, I am amazed at just how far I’ve come and it all ties down to the grounded decision on what I really wanted for myself out of law practice.
Today, I have appeared in various strata of courts and can confidently hold my own.
Working with a firm, like mine, that places no barrier on the type of briefs you handle, has helped me extend my skills and contribute to social justice through pro bono works.
I have appeared in matters that touch on gender violence and sexual offences in partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice.
This has allowed me put in action my conviction that the law is an instrument of social engineering, besides its obvious duty of social justice. My interest in pro bono works is also a culmination of my belief that access to justice is the chief of all rights and I am passionate about extending that to anyone who may be aggrieved but whose reach to the powerful cudgel that is the law is limited.
Of course, there is a slight difference between what is being taught in law school and the actual practice experience.
Whether shaped by convention or the exigencies of the times, there is what I would like to consider as an expansion of the basic foundation of practice that we were taught in law school.
But while the fringes might expand and admit of nuances, the core remains the same. I do not think there is a wide gulf or chasm between what we were taught in law school and what actually obtains in practice, though it is clear that you would be a bit off if you bring the exact law school experience into actual practice.
Some people have argued that it is totally different, I do not think so, it’s something like colloquial speaking and formal writing, the demands of the forum is slightly different.
I think the Nigerian Justice system is a robust system and this is not surprising as its development dates back a long time ago. We have had and continue to have great jurists and developed precedents and our laws are largely taking care of the legal issues that may arise.
This does not take away from the fact that there are obsolete laws and lacuna here and there but the basic framework that allows case laws to advance on certain issues exist.
There has been bumps on the way no doubt, including the recent charged atmosphere involving judges and the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) which casts doubt, at least in the minds of the populace about its richness, but no doubt the system of justice delivery in Nigeria is robust.
The downside in my evaluation of the justice system has to do with the slow pace of the adjudicatory process caused by both the procedural laws, the delay tactics of the bar and the bench as well. I believe that our justice system is up to the task even though a few things need to shape out.
Things like a second look at the procedural rules, investing in more courtrooms and personnel and creation of special courts to decongest the case dockets and curb the delays being experienced.
The new Lagos State High Court Rules 2019 with hefty fines for lawyers who delay proceedings is a step in the right direction and its implementation and expansion will ensure that the cranky wheels of justice is oiled.
I understand the solemnity in having one Supreme Court but expanding the building and hiring more hands will ensure that a situation where matters are adjourned up to three years ahead is avoided.
More Courts of Appeal too. Overall, I think the Nigerian justice system is doing well, we can do better.
Sexual Harassment Bill
The bill has its eyes primarily set on harassment within the university system; I believe it applies in other fiduciary relationship setting too.
For me, the issue of sexual harassment in universities is one that borders on abuse of enormous power by someone who should ordinarily be a fiduciary. In a situation where one with enormous influence abuses such, the law would not stand by and watch and our legislature like they are doing now, are on the right track in seeking to curb such gross abuse of influence. I think the bill is fundamental as the issue of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions seems to be rife with impacts that transcends years for the victim.
Even though some portions of its provisions seems to go slightly far, like the provision criminalizing winking or whistling, there is no doubt that it is a welcome piece of legislation. I prefer, however, that the law should set its sights to instances where there has been an active abuse of influence or threat to abuse influence. This is asides the issue of proving in court that there was an incidence of winking in the first place.
I would prefer Senior Advocate Nigeria (SAN) definitely. I love research and generally studying the intersection of law and other areas of discipline. Since silk doesn’t rule out professorship, it is safe to say that I want to have that too. Vice-President Osibanjo is a role model to me in this regard. I see attaining silk as my ultimate career goal as it fits perfectly into my plans for what I want to achieve with the law, which is making society defining changes.
I am very much interested in politics and I certainly see myself vying for political positions which is why being a judge is totally ruled out as it does not allow me do this. It is a conservative world on the bench!