Law Student of the Month — Susan Omeh

You can heave that sigh of relief now — we’re back with our interview series! And this time, the Legal Pages Interview Series will be hosted monthly. What’s more? We have other amazing things lined up moving forward. For now, simply enjoy our interview with the Legal Pages Law Student of the Month.

This month, we had a chat with the current winner of the WIPO Nigeria Intellectual Property Day Essay Competition. Chioma Omeh speaks to us about her interests, leadership experiences and shares her thoughts on how legal institutions can fight Nigeria’s endemic corruption.

  1. Kindly introduce yourself.

I am a 500 level law student at the University of Nigeria. My most treasured moments are when I engage in very intelligent conversation with my friends and also when I birth new ideas either through writing or just by word of mouth. In law, I am really passionate about Energy Law and Intellectual Property Law. Also very keen on corporate law, corporate finance, governance and the workings of companies but it’s still an area I’m yet to wrap my head around plus I’ve had little or no opportunity to build on this latter area. I’d love to make lots of corporate financial investments later in life so I want to learn early. Outside law, I love to contribute my time, money, whatever resources there is, to the education of indigent children. I love children (the ones that don’t disturb ooo and are smart. Lol), and yes, I’m an advocate against any form of gender-based discrimination. I love being around people who make me laugh and happy.

  1. You are in your final year now. Looking back to the past 4-5 years, how has the journey been? Was life as a law student different from what you had imagined?

Tough, really. In fourth year I took so many decisions that backfired, including loosing an election and then I was scared it was going to affect me and make me fail the most dreaded law course in my penultimate year. But then, I did well in it. Lucky me, lol. I have had my ups and downs, there have been days I’ve cried over my books, over students extracurricular activities dragging me around but it all made me strong. I wasn’t really expecting anything when I was coming in. The only thing on my mind was just to get the admission. Although a family friend had warned me but I’ve never been one to be scared of academics. Point is, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad days as a law student. I don’t regret them, it’s made me who I am.

Chioma (1st from right) representing the University of Nigeria at the 2017 National Tax Debate at UNILAG
  1. You hold several positions in your faculty, including being the Managing Partner of GRET Chambers. How are student chambers structured in your University and what do you do as Managing Partner?

Presently, I hold just about 3 positions at the faculty, if I’m correct: Managing Partner Gret Chambers, Associate Editor, UNN ADR Society Magazine and Secretary General, UNSBA Constitution Drafting Committee. I was more of a jack of positions in my penultimate year. Student Chambers in my school are just prototypes of the typical law firms we see outside who are all under the Nigeria Bar Association. The prototype of the NBA in my school however is the University of Nigeria Students’ Bar Association – UNSBA. All Chambers are under UNSBA. There are 9 Chambers, every law student belongs to a chamber and the Chambers serve as a body to groom its members in the art of legal writing, advocacy legal research and every other skill you can think of which could aid one in becoming an outstanding lawyer. I oversee these activities in my Chambers. Periodical competitions are held between the Chambers and it’s usually very interesting and educating because we try to mimic the real life court, client counselling and arbitration senerios as much as possible. It’s been thrilling being the Managing Patner: teaching those under me what I am passionate about and watching them win (or lose).

  1. Congratulations on recently winning the Maiden Edition of the WIPO Nigeria Essay Competition. What inspired you to participate, and what does it feel like emerging 1st place?

Thank you very much. I love writing and like I said at the beginning, I treasure birthing new ideas or making my life, other lives better, however little. I was not going to write initially because I had lots of work around that period, plus I was down with malaria and I had written some essays that hadn’t “clicked”, yet. Apart from the earlier inspiration I mentioned, Mr. Christian Aniukwu (a lawyer in the IP department of Aluko & Oyebode, and my mentor) sent me the competition flyer and told me to make sure I write. So yes, I started writing, Lol. And then he went on to listen to me discuss all my ideas and writing became more exciting.

Winning? It’s been a surreal feeling. I have been happy, I’ve been bounced around by my Uncles and Aunties with whom I’m with presently, my Mom and Dad won’t stop asking me “how did it happen?” lol. I’m so happy and I cannot thank the WIPO Nigeria Office enough for all I’ve learnt and, I’m looking forward to learning more when I go for the IP study.

  1. Do you consider Intellectual Property an area you would like to practice in the nearest future?

Yes. For me, IP when compared to other practice areas in law has not been fully exploited in Nigeria. It’s an area I want to build on and become an expert in. There is more to intellectual property law than what is obtainable in Nigeria today.

Chioma (2nd row, 2nd from right) during her internship at Aluko & Oyebode, Lagos.
  1. Going into the legal profession, which would you prioritize, a very good pay or work-life balance? Why?

A very good pay. A law firm (or company) with a very good pay and one with the best lawyers are not mutually exclusive. I need an environment where I’m spurred to build my legal career, be the best I can ever be as well as learn in the process. I believe a law firm that pays very well should be able to help me get that.

  1. How best do you think legal institutions and its members (including law students) can fight Nigeria’s endemic corruption?

A lot can be done by legal institutions to fight corruption in Nigeria. They could fight to legislate for a time limit to trying matters relating to corruption, embezzlement and the likes. Corruption drags on in Nigeria because we do not have an effective system to try suspects promptly and convict the guilty ones. When matters drag on, evidence becomes lost or is doctored. Judges in Nigeria should unite and push for a separate funding system for their remuneration. When the federal (state) government pays judges what we have is a case of “he who pays the Piper dictates the tune”. For law students it’s more about writing against it and pointing out how best to curb it and of course doing our best to stand against any form of corruption especially in our actions.

Chioma (middle) at the Youth Leadership Boot camp receiving an award as the winner of the Women and Girls Advancement and Resources Centre (WAGARC) Research Essay Competition, 2019
  1. Seeing Nigeria lacks the adequate capacity for e-learning, do you think opening schools any time soon will be a good idea?

I think opening schools anytime soon is not a bad idea. We cannot be at a standstill forever seeing that nothing can be done online. Let’s look at it this way: what if this pandemic stretches till 2021 or 2023 will we forego education? The answer is obvious. So why can’t we resume now? Five months is enough for the Nigerian educational sector to put in measures to effectively continue physical classes even in the midst of a pandemic. I really hope we resume soon, I am itching to graduate this year.

  1. Any final words for law students and writers like yourself?

For every law student and writer out there, make the best impact the world has ever seen while you are in school. It’s 5 years dears, you could change a whole lot while at it. Write that book, participate in that competition, run for that election, make that movie, release that song, travel the world, make the best grades ever, laugh, be persistent and committed, and above all, be patient with yourself and your growth. Thank you!

Thanks for having us, Susan.