By Eric Elezuo
“Should I become president, I will fashion out policies that will significantly improve the welfare and well-being of young lawyers and lawyers generally. Issues around welfare in terms of better remuneration, health insurance, protection from sexual and other forms of harassment at the workplace and access to finance for those seeking to set up their own practices will be front-burner issues for me.”
Olumide Akpata made the above statements during an interview months before he dusted two renowned Senior Advocates of Nigeria to emerge the President-elect of the reputable Nigerian Bar Association, the umbrella body of all practicing lawyers in Nigeria.
The boss at the Corporate and Commercial, Templars, becomes the first non SAN person in 29 years to become the President of the body of intellectuals in their own right. The last time a non-senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was elected president of the NBA was in 1989. His name was Charles Idehen. He left office in 1991 for Clement Akpamgbo (SAN). Two other non-SANs that have tested the presidency of NBA were Priscilla Kuye in 1990 and Lanke Odogiyan, in 2005. Both were not elected into office. They took over after their principals, Clement Akpamgbo and Bayo Ojo were appointed Attorney General respectively.
Olumide Akpata, 47, emerged winner, defeating two senior advocates, Dele Adesina and Babatunde Ajibade, by a wide margin. Akpata scored 9,891 votes as against Ajibade who had 4,328 votes and Adesina who polled 3,982 votes. Just as the combined votes of the defeated candidates fell short of Akpata’s score, the total number of voters also fell short of the over 29,000 lawyers accredited to vote.
However, not many stress awaits the conqueror since he has made his plans long before now, watching from the sidelines and amending, in his closet, whatever misdemeanor he picked up while his predecessors were holding in office.
Akpata is bent on reconstructing the Nigerian Law curriculum, to equip young lawyers with requisite knowlwdgw of the the real background as it relates to todays world. He frowned at the fact that even first class graduates of Law both from the universities and Law schools come across like mediocres because according to him, they are bamboozled with the outdated knowledge.
Hear him: “They have book knowledge; they are following a curriculum that I followed 20 years ago when I entered the University of Benin, how can anybody still be teaching people with that kind of curriculum in today’s world? In 2020, you are not offering Technology Law, there is nothing about commercial awareness to make lawyers understand that they are operators in an economy; that we are the pivot in the economy because all the relationships in the economy are underpinned by legal documentation. That is what we are supposed to be doing.”
Born in October 7, 1972, Olumide Akpata, son of a foremost legal luminary, Ephraim Akpata, had his early education in Warri, Delta State. He attended Kings College, Lagos, for his secondary education and later got admitted into the University of Benin. He was called to the bar on December 15, 1993.
Akpata is a founding member of the NBA Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), which comprises 22 committees, and focusing on various areas of commercial law dating back to as far as 2006 as well as Partner and Head, Corporate and Commercial Practice Group of Templars Law.
- The Nigerian Bureau of Public Enterprises’ restructuring of the Nigerian Electricity sector and the unbundling of the national power utility.
- International joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions, takeovers and also the world’s second largest port operator in its bid for the Apapa Container Terminal concession.
- Several local and international clients on regulatory compliance in relation to company law and practice in Nigeria.
Other areas of his advice include
- GE on regulatory compliance matters related to its establishment of a multi-billion naira manufacturing plant in Nigeria.
- Azura Power on its US$1 billion financing and development of a pioneering project-financed 459MW IPP.
- Google, Halliburton, Novartis, Lafarge, Technip, Snamprogetti, KBR & JGC consortium, Rolls Royce and FMC Technologies in connection with various governmental relations, regulatory, general corporate and labour and employment matters.
- Eagle Hills, subsidiary of EMAAR group on joint venture construction project for the development of 1260 hectares Centenary City project.
- ATC on the US$1.05 billion acquisition of up to 4,800 telecommunications towers from Bharti Airtel.
Not forgetting that he had acted and continues to act for several clients on a wide range of Immigration and Labour matters including the setting up of private pension schemes, employment contracts and general immigration compliance.
He has been recognised by IFLR 1000 as a leading Mergers & Acquisition lawyer in Nigeria and by Chambers and Partners “as having long experience in representing foreign clients” in his area of practice.
The entry of Akpata, who is happily married and blessed with children, into the highest echelon of Law practice, has opened a new dawn to the administration of law, practice and recognition if all his campaign promises are to be relied upon. Of course, his pedigree has proved they can be relied upon. The next two years, beginning from August, when he is sworn in to take over from Dr. Paul Usoro SAN.
For a man who conquered many odds such as coming from a region not zoned to be president as well as not accounted as one of the big boys (SAN) before becoming president, it is believed Akpata will leave NBA better than he met it.