Professor Ernest Maduabuchi Ojukwu: A Law Professor With Many Crowns
He started his legal practice immediately after he was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984 as an NYSC counsel with the Legal Aid Council in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. After his national service, he joined the law firm of Chief GNA Atulomah & Co. in 1985. Later, he partnered with Eleuthera Chambers, before pitching his tent with Ekenna Nwajei Nwauche & Ojukwu in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State from 1992-2001. This upward mobile legal wizard was not yet done. In 2014, he and his partner floated Nwonye and Ojukwu in Aba where he had an extensive legal practice where he evolved into a guru in the legal profession. Currently, he is a senior partner with Ojukwu, Faotu & Yusuf (OFY-Lawyers) in Aba and Abuja.
This is a concise journey of Professor Ernest Maduabuchi Ojukwu, SAN, in the legal profession. This patriarch of Clinical Legal Education in Nigeria is the Gbaonwa-Gbaonwa Agbaonelu of Ahaba Imenyi, his home town, in Isuikwaato Local Government Area of Abia State. .
This legal icon was born on September 23, 1960 in Ahaba Imenyi. He attended the Methodist College, Uzuakoli, Government College Umuahia, and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife where he received the Bachelor of laws and Master of laws degrees in 1983 and 1987 respectively and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1984. He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2014.
As a teacher of lawyers, he has been the dean of the Faculty of Law, Abia State University from 1995-2000. He is an expert in litigation practice, finance law, energy law, tax law, access to justice, risk and compliance, mediation and international commercial arbitration. From February 2001 to March 2013, he was the Deputy Director-General and Head, Augustine Nnamani Campus of the Nigeria Law School, Agbani, Enugu State. Under his watch, the campus witness transformation in the area of infrastructure and student welfare. He is the President of the Network of University Legal Aid Institution (NULAI Nigeria), a platform through which he has continued to achieve his dreams of promoting clinical legal justice education and reform of legal education in the country.
Ojukwu taught as adjunct at Nasarawa State University LLM international commercial arbitration in 2015 and was also External Examiner to Kenyatta University, Nairobi, from 2013-2017, External Examiner Baze University from 2015-2016, Visiting scholar at Griffith University Law School Socio-legal Research Centre, Brisbane, Australia in 2009. He was appointed professor of law, Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State from 2014-2016.
As an active member of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ojukwu has a tremendous record of service at local, regional and national levels where he held various positions among which, NBA Chairman, Aba branch 1997-1999; Secretary of the branch 1992-1993; Chairman, NBA Law Reform Committee 2003-2004; Chairman, NBA Academic Forum 2006-2010; Chairman, NBA Editorial Committee 2006-2008; Chairman, NBA Legal Education Committee 2006-2008; and Chairman, NBA Strategic Plan Working Group 2012
Others include Project Director, NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education (set up the institute as the pioneer director) 2006-2010 and 2012-2014; Alternate Chairman, 2003 NBA Annual Conference Planning Committee; Alternate Chairman/Editor in Chief, Editorial Board, Nigerian Bar journal 2002-2004; Alternate Chairman, NBA summit on Future of Legal Education in Nigeria 2006; Member, NBA Special National Committee on Abuse of Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers 1998-2000; Member, NBA Committee on the State of NBA 2005; Member, NBA Working Group on Review of Legal Practitioners Act and Council of Legal Education Act 2011; Member, NBA Special Committee on Review of Rules of Professional Conduct 2006; Member Joint Working Committee of NBA and CLEAN on Continuing Legal Education for practicing members of the legal profession 1999-2000; Member NBA Legal Education Committee 2002-2004; and Pioneer Chairman/Founder NBA Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) 2004-2011
Achievements: As Chairman of NBA Law Reform Committee, he produced a new Legal Practitioners Act in 2004 under Wole Olanipekun, SAN, as PresidenT; requested an amendment in place of a completely new Act of the amended legal practitioner’s act which was submitted to the National Assembly under Olisa Agbakoba SAN as President in 2006; he produced a new draft for the legal practitioners Act which is pending before the National Assembly under J B Daudu SAN as President in 2011; he also submitted to the NBA draft bills on legal education and legal services commission which are before the National Assembly; as NBA Chairman, Aba branch in 1998, he organised the first law reform workshop in Abia State; and as branch scribe, he set up the first secretariat/ bar centre for the branch in 1992 and employed the first full time staff for the bar.
It is to Ojukwu’s credit that he proposed the introduction of a mandatory continuing legal education at the NBA Annual General Meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State 1998. As member of NBA National Executive Council (NEC), he proposed a resolution dated November 3, 2003 for NEC to direct the General-Secretary to publish on or before December 31, 2003 the list of co-opted members of NEC and branch representatives in accordance with Section 9(a)(iv) and (v) of the NBA Constitution. He proposed a resolution dated November 26, 2003 that NEC issues a financial regulation for the operation of the finances of the Bar. Currently, he is the National Representative of Nigeria in the Brown-Morsten International Client Consultation Competition.
This academic egghead has a wide range of books, articles and journals to his name. He is the co-author of Introduction to Civil Procedure, a leading material on civil litigation for law school students in Nigeria as well as legal practitioners. He is the Editor-in-Chief of African Journal of Clinical Legal Education and Access to Justice, Abia State University Law Journal 1995-2002.
He is a principal co-author of clinical legal education books like, Clinical Legal Education: Curriculum Lessons and Materials, Handbook on Prison Pre-trial Detainee Law Clinic, Manual on Prison Pre-trial Detainee Law Clinic, Impact Assessment of Clinical Legal Education in Nigeria, Externship Student Handbook, and Externship Handbook for Supervisors. These aside, he is a contributor to two International books on Clinical Legal Education- The Global Clinical Movement: Educating Lawyers for Social Justice, and Rethinking legal Education under the Civil and Common Law: A Roadmap for Constructive Change.
He is a member of the International Bar Association, and was invited to speak at its Chicago’s conference in 2006 and that of Boston, USA in 2013. He has conducted so many training programmes and workshops for practicing lawyers, teachers and law students. He has attended and presented over 250 papers at international conference and workshops on legal education. Some of the plural confabs include, Global Alliance for justice Education at Cordoba, Argentina in 2006, Philippines 2008, Valencia Spain 2011 and New Delhi India in 2013.
International journal of clinical legal Education (IJCLE) conference, Perth Australia 2009 and Griffiths 2013; Externship 6 conference Boston USA 2012; Association of American law schools (AALS) clinical legal conference Puerto Rico 2013; International Bar Association (IBA); African Network of constitutional lawyers (ANCL); Harvard law school’s Global legal Education Forum; Keynote Speaker at the 11th international journal of clinical legal Education/12th Australian clinical legal Education conference at Griffith University Brisbane Australia in july 2013; and Keynote speaker at the conference of legal Academics, Kwame Nkrumah University Kumasi Ghana in October 2017.
He has presented a paper on Executive Lawlessness and Judicial Helplessness in the Administration of justice: A Need to Plug up the Holes, at NBA annual conference in Owerri, tagged Young Lawyers at 7 years at the Bar. In this paper, Professor Ojukwu suggests that the way out lies in reforming, reappraising and reorganising the judicial system. According to him, that will not only be from the point of appointment of personnel but also to the structural imbalance that affect its independence. He pointed out that the Bar should be involved in the selection of judges and magistrates, an independent funding and budgetary for the judiciary, the appointment and control of supporting staff by the judicial service commission, a special code of conduct for judicial officers, inspectorate committee for the judiciary and a review of the system of recording as long hand.
This legal wizard, teacher and scholar of no mean repute, has numerous Awards and Recognition to his kitty. He holds the traditional title of Gbaonwa-Gbaonwa Agbonelu, that was bestowed on him by his community Agbonelu Ahaba Imenyi in 2005. He was awarded the traditional title of Ugomba, Imenyi Kingdom Isuikwuato Traditional Rulers Council in 2009, an Award of Eecellence and Recognition by Agbonelu Autonomous Community, Merit Award by NBA Eastern Bar Forum in 2014, Merit Award by NBA Aba branch in recognition of years of selfless dedication and meritorious service to the Bar, Merit Award by NBA, Aba branch for outstanding contribution to legal education in Nigeria, and Merit Award by the Nigerian Bar Association Aba branch as the most contributor to the development of the Nigerian Bar Association Aba branch.
Besides the legal terrain, Ojukwu has held several government offices such as, member, Board of Directors of Enyimba Football Club. owned by Abia State Government, from 1992-1994; Chairman, Contracts Review Committee, Aba South Local Government Council Abia State in 1999; and Chairman, Administrative Panel of Inquiry into the problems of the College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu, Abia State November 1999.
He is happily married to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, and blessed with five children.