TheNigeriaLawyer.com Features Onyekachi Umah, Esq as Legal Personality of the Week.
“There Is Need For Judges To Avoid Ex Parte Orders That Can Truncate Democratic Processes” — Onyekachi Umah.
This interview was conducted and published by “TheNigeriaLawyer.com” on 14 November 2018. The original publication is accessible via <https://thenigerialawyer.com/there-is-need-for-judges-to-avoid-ex-parte-orders-that-can-truncate-democratic-processes-onyekachi-umah/>
MAY WE KNOW YOU, SIR?
My name is Onyekachi Umah.
WHO IS ONYEKACHI UMAH, ESQ IN DETAILS? Onyekachi Umah is a husband and a private legal practitioner with amazing experience in intellectual property, transaction and regulation advisory, corporate, commercial and investment law and energy law as well as litigation and arbitration arising from them. He is a certified arbitrator both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) and a Certified Conflict Management Practitioner. He is a member of prestigious “Young ICSID” of International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), Washington DC. Among other, he has a certificate in Law of Contract from a program of Harvard University, a certificate in International Environmental Negotiation from United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Geneva and recently, a certificate in Conflict Management from United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. He also holds a master of laws degree from University of Jos.
He is the managing partner of a leading law firm; Bezaleel Chambers International. He is the founder and President of a free law awareness platform known as www.LearnNigerianLaws.com that promotes awareness and understanding of rights and laws of Nigeria (#SabiLaw) and offers free daily law tips (#DailyLawTips). Understanding the challenges of Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria, he dedicates his daily law tips every Mondays to promoting Criminal Justice (#CriminalJusticeMonday). Recently, he started a new series on Election Laws tagged (#SabiElectionLaws) to increase legal awareness on elections laws, policies and regulations in Nigeria. He is the convener of the Sabi Law Lecture Series (#SabiLawLectureSeries), travelling around Nigeria delivering free law awareness lectures. He also organises and sponsors a quarterly competition, titled “Sabi Law Video Challenge” (#SabiLawVideoChallenge) were Nigerians win money (over $130.00 per winner) for making videos of themselves talking on any law or right as a way to promote law awareness and have fun. To further promote legal awareness among Nigerians across the world, he started a law awareness show titled “Sabi Law With Onyekachi Umah, Esq” (#SabiLawWithOnyekachiUmahEsq) showing on social media platforms via @LearnNigerianLaws.
Mr. Umah has written over Three Hundred (300) free to access articles and materials on law with a desire to enlighten the public. He is also the Assistant Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association, Capital Bar, Abuja and a member of the Rotary Club of Abuja, Metro (RCAM), District 9125. Among others, he is serving as a member of the Advisory Committee for Law Clinics Partnership for Reforming Pre-trial Detention in Kuje Prison Project funded by the United States Department Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. He has been featured as the Legal Personality of the Week by This Day Newspaper (a leading national newspaper) on its September 11, 2018 edition and has also won several awards for his innovative legal practise across the world.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN LAW PRACTICE?
I have been practicing law in Nigeria for about 8 years.
ARE YOU THE AUTHOR OF “DAILY LAW TIPS”.
HOW DID “DAILY LAW TIPS” START?
Well, since my days as a student, I have had people calling for advices and tips on their rights. As a practicing lawyer, I receive numerous calls from clients, strangers, fellow lawyers and friends, asking for clarifications, tips, “how-Tos” and “What-To-Dos” on rights, duties, laws and policies affecting them, their families and business. Majority of the questions are on human rights, employment, tenancy, family, criminal, business regulation, justice administration, immigration, probate, tax and commercial law. Often times, questions are repeated and my answers are undocumented considering the means of communication and as such they cannot not easily be stored and passed on to another person in need.
Bum, an idea came in December 2017, when Nigerian police was harassing Nigerians on use of Christmas fireworks without any legislative authority. I recorded my tips on the subject matter and shared it on social media to ensure people are not intimidated by police and punished for no offence. Since it was a season for settlement of family and traditional land disputes across villages in Nigeria, I wrote a lot of tips on the subject matter and shared freely. The response from my family, friends and fans were amazing and encouraging. So, I stopped repeating myself, since I could easily refer people to my earlier answers to their questions. I started writing my responses to questions as “Daily Law Tips”, sharing same for free across the world. As at today, we have published over 220 daily law tips on numerous areas of Nigerian laws and regulations, shared on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, MyBusiness and WhatsApp for free with over 11 Million views.
WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION BEHIND YOUR “DAILY LAW TIPS”.
First of all, out of experience, most cases in Nigeria are avoidable with due diligence. Stereotypes, religion, poor educational level, poor legal literacy, disregard for formal agreement and lack of trust in judiciary have increased disagreement and disputes in Nigeria. Apart from pre-election and election petitions, majority of civil cases are mere small claims that can be avoided by a little understanding of rights, simple agreement and due diligence (background checks). Hence, my motivation is to freely offer my experience, knowledge and understanding of law to all Nigerians across the world via “#DailyLawTips” as a means to increase access to justice, increase understanding of law and demand for rule of law in Nigeria.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE IN PUBLISHING YOUR “DAILY LAW TIPS”.
To run a daily publication, requires special grace, hard work and perseverance in order to keep up with delivery time and maintain standards. As a Nigerian residing in Nigeria, I battle with unreliable electricity supply and internet services. To combat them, I generate and supply my own electric power and since I cannot do same for internet, I have existing subscription with four (4) telecommunication companies at all times. Considering the nature of my work as a practicing lawyer, I travel a lot and there are no internet services in most airports except in their VIP lounges. Worse still, in Enugu Airport, there has been no internet in the VIP lounge maintained by government and I still get to pay same service fee any time I stay in the VIP lounge. So, to research and publish on the go like I do, it quite expensive in Nigeria. Time is the most expensive assets I put into the project, having in mind alternative forgone.
AS A PRACTICING LAWYER, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THE JUDICIARY.
Among the three arms of government, Judiciary is the less respected and funded. There is need for absolute separation of power and rule of law for our democracy to deepen. The executives must respect court orders. Elections are around, there is need for judges to avoid ex parte orders that can truncate democratic processes. Bribery and corruption should not be sighted in our judiciary rather impartiality and wisdom. For us, the practicing lawyers, we waste a lot of time waiting for judges who may be sick or out on administrative engagements. I advice that judges’ calendars should be consulted before fixing courtesy calls, parades and appointments that take them off court.
I look forward to a judicial system, where lawyers need not come to court before 9:00am only to be heard by 3:23pm after a long wait and loss of other businesses. Cases should be adjourned to clear dates and times, so that lawyers come in to do their cases about 10 minutes before the commencement time, to avoid waste and increase productivity. Often times at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in Abuja, I wait for over five (5) hours only to be heard to do my case for the day for 25 minutes. Still on the Court of Appeal, there is need to offer three microphones to all members of a panel instead of only to the presiding judge since all members get to talk and the microphone is stationed.
DO YOU SUPPORT THE CONFERMENT OF THE TITLE OF SENIOR ADVOCATE OF NIGERIA ON OUTSTANDING LAWYERS?
Yes, I do. Life progresses where there is a motivation and hard work must be appreciated. Apart from win smiles of clients, touching lives and making monies the next inspiring factor for young lawyers in Nigeria is the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Some lawyers are sane and upright not because of training alone, eagle eye of disciplinary committee but because they want the blessing of our Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee. So, it has a way of holding our ethics and identifying mentors for younger professionals. I support the title and I desire it.
IS THERE A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR NIGERIAN LAWYERS IN NIGERIA?
There is a very bright future for lawyers in Nigeria and many more to come. Going by statistics, there are 16 Federal faculties of law, 20 State faculties of law and 19 private faculties of Law. There are only 6 Law School Campuses in Nigeria and 1,550 candidates were called to bar in July, 2018 while 4, 633 candidates will be called to bar by this November, 2018. From a reliable source, there are not up to 100, 000 lawyers in Nigeria. Nigeria has a population of 197,403,529 as at October 27, 2018, based on the latest United Nations estimates. Hence, roughly a single lawyer in Nigeria has more than about 1,974 Nigerians to engage his services. Also remember that the population of Nigeria is growing uncontrollably while the graduation of lawyers is controlled. The natural resources of Nigeria and economic potentials will keep increasing Nigeria’s foreign direct investment, thereby increase number of foreigners and business in need of lawyers and their legal services. Above all, foreign lawyers are not authorized to practice in Nigeria, so Nigerian lawyers are immune from the annoying importation appetite of Nigerians. I am not unaware of some dubious foreign businesses here in Nigeria, secretly engaging foreign lawyers on Nigerian soil. So, Nigeria is a wonderful country to practice law and there is a geometric growth of legal literacy among Nigerians, thereby increasing demand for rule of law and access to justice.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG LAWYERS?
Legal practice is for lawyers that are dedicated to hard work! Nothing good comes easy and nothing is magical here. You need to prove yourself, think out of the box and fly with technological advancements. Ensure you use To-do lists and consciously time your day and activities to ensure maximum productivity. If you want quick money, please don’t practice law!