In this edition of the “Law Student of the Week”, we feature Oliver Gift Chukkol, a final year student of law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria and the Northwest Zonal Director of the Law Students Association of Nigeria (LAWSAN) Directorate of Policies, Programs and Projects. He is also an avid writer and researcher. He hopes to change the current narrative of Northern law students; making them more competitive in the legal market. Our full chat can be read below.
Kindly introduce yourself.
My name is Oliver Gift Chukkol, a 500 level student of Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria – Kaduna State. I am from Adamawa State. I finished my secondary school in 2009 but could not clear my O. Level result till 2014. Meanwhile I did IJMB (an A-level program) at Adamawa State Polytechnic, Yola from 2012 to 2013 before joining ABU, Zaria in 2015.
I am an enthusiast of commercial disputes resolution/litigation; oil and gas law; corporate law; constitutional law and maritime law.
Why did you choose to study Law?
Well, typical of secondary school students, my initial dream was to be a medical doctor. But then after my secondary school I realized that I did not have the necessary subjects (Chemistry and Physics) required for medicine in my O. Level result. Not that I failed the subjects, I never did them throughout my secondary school days because such subjects were not taught in my school. I had to change my mind for arts and the course I came up with was law.
I chose law for many reasons: the prestige in the profession. Lawyers are held in high esteem. Secondly, it is my belief that the field cannot leave person financially stranded. One way or the other, one must earn. I was given Direct Entry admission by ABU in 2014 to study CRS but I declined.
I do not have an alternative to law. If not law, then nothing else.
Can you describe your journey so far as a law student in few words?
I cannot say that it has been a smooth sail all through, but my journey has actually been the way I want and I must say that I am enjoying it. I love my field of study, I love it!
You’re a very prolific writer. What sparked the fire of Legal Writing?
What triggered me to start writing was my burning desire to not only bare my mind on trending issues, but to also contribute to the field of law. To me, it is not enough to be a law student or a lawyer, one has to contribute to the development of law too. I feel whatever my position is, be it a student or a lawyer, I should have something to offer to the profession and honestly I am enjoying writing.
I am glad that I have authored over 30 articles published in Nigerian Legal Journals/magazines and various online platforms. I appreciate Law Companion for awarding me the Distinguished Writer of the year in October 2018.
In the area of Legal Writing, who do you consider as a source of inspiration?
Though I started writing before I knew Joseph Onele, however, I must confess that he has been an inspiration to me. Joseph Onele is a corporate, commercial law, energy, and dispute resolution specialist at Bloomfield Law Practice. His dexterity in research is superb. I hope to meet him one day!
What extracurriculars are you most involved in and how have they aided your entire development as a law student?
I am deep into extracurricular activities. Among them is clinical activities. Law Clinic is my constituency in ABU, Zaria. I have been into it from my 100 level days to date. In my 200 Level I was appointed as the Chief Librarian of the Clinic; in my 300 level I was appointed the Deputy Director of Litigation; in my 400 level, I was appointed the Director of Litigation and I have been retained in the position in my final year. My stay in the clinic has been very rewarding because it has enormously exposed me to the practical aspect of the law. I settle disputes among people across Kaduna State; I secure bail for deserving suspects from police stations; I participate in awareness campaigns; I draft the necessary and relevant originating processes for our clients. Thanks to ABU Law Clinic for presenting me a Humanitarian Award in 2018.
I am also deeply into Mooting. I cannot count the number of my moot appearances. In August, 2019 I led ABU team for the Dr. Wole Olufon National Moot Court competition which held at the Clasfon Annual National Conference, Lokoja, Kogi State and we won. In July 2019 I also led the ABU team that won the 2019 Law Students Association of Nigeria (LAWSAN) National Moot Competition. In October, 2018 I was among the counsel that represented my chambers (Liberty Chambers) and we won the Annual ABU Faculty of Law Moot Court Competition. In 2017 I was awarded the Second Best Counsel/Oralist by Amnesty International at its annual Interschool Moot Court Competition at Baze University, Abuja. I also emerged as the best Oralist at the Moot Court competition between Adamawa State Law Students and Nasarawa State Law Students that same 2017 among others.
I have been a paralegal in Hassan Bala & Co, a law firm of my lecturer from my 300 level days to date. I actually combine my studies with work in the firm and it has been amazing. He gives me all the privileges and opportunities that a lawyer can be given in a firm. I take briefs; I draft legal documents (originating processes, motions, constitutions, retainer agreements, deeds of assignment, Demand Notices, Recovery of premises Notices and many others); I file cases in court; e.t.c. My boss (Hassan Bala, Esq.) would have given me case file to go to court if he had the power.
I am not into students’ unionism. But I was the legal adviser of Adamawa State Students Union. I am currently the Northwest Zonal Director of Law Students Association of Nigeria, Directorate Of Policies, Programs and Projects; Director of Research of National Association of Adamawa State Law Students; Director of Litigation of ABU Law Clinic; Director of Litigation of International Humanitarian Law Students Association, Secretary General of Zero Tolerance For Corruption Club (an affiliate of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) etc
All these experiences have been grooming me in leadership and career wise.
You currently hold a position in the LAWSAN. In your opinion, what challenges face law students from the Northern part of the nation and how do you intend you provide solutions to that?
I thank Mr. Emmanuel Nwobodo (the president of the Law Students Association of Nigeria) and Mr. Umoh Edet (the National Director of the LAWSAN Directorate of policies, Programs and Projects) for finding me worthy to lead the Northwest under the Directorate.
Among our challenges here in the North is the fact that a lot of us are oblivious of how competitive the legal market has become while others are so complacent. Some of us neither have mentors nor role models. All that we know is that we are in the university studying law and nothing more. Very unfortunate!
I and my cabinet intend to record a high number of webinars to serve as an eye opener for us all. Few days ago we organized one on maritime and Mr. Jibola Salvador (a legal officer in Bellpoint Energy Limited) was our guest speaker. We would be having Mr. Noble of Udo Udoma and Bello-Osagie as our next speaker. We have sent an application to some Arbitration experts in Kaduna to train our members on ADR this coming January. We intend to reach out to some of our alumni for possible working out of internship opportunities for our members.
How would you assess the state of the nation’s judiciary in light of recent electoral petition judgements?
Well, the judiciary seems to be doing its best but we cannot also deny the fact that there is a problem. I have said it times without number that technicalities has already find its root in our administration of criminal justice system. Imagine the Supreme Court of Nigeria voiding the decision of an Election Petition Tribunal simply because one of the members of the tribunal who delivered the judgment was absent during one of the proceedings. Mind you, the Supreme Court is legally correct because there a plethora of judicial authorities on the point including NYESOM v. PETERSIDE & ORS (2016) LPELR-40036(SC), Sokoto State Govt v. Kamdex (Nig) Ltd (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt.1034) 492-493 and the recent one delivered in respect of Osun State governorship elections. However, it is my view that Supreme Court has to reverse itself on this point whenever opportunity presents itself in a similar case. I see no harm in a judge being absent in one proceeding and partaking in judgement delivery in respect of the case. It is a height of technicality.
It appeared funny to the citizenry when Atiku approached Election Petition Tribunal challenging the Victory of President Buhari. The reason is simple! Judiciary has become a toothless bull dock. In fact, the judiciary is now at the mercy of the executive. What do you make of a situation where a citizen of this country is detained for years even when court had ordered for his release? What do you expect when it is the executive that prepares budget for the judiciary? What do you expect when a judge is looking for employment opportunity from a governor for his brother or relative? What do you expect when security agencies can boldly raid the house of a judge in the middle of the night and try him in the media?
All is not well and that has been the position since 1999. Our judiciary of 1960s to 1990s who dared even the military is not the judiciary today. But I think if a change is effected in the manner of appointing judges in this country, the judiciary would be better than it is now. Integrity, passion, competence and courage matters a lot. We need people with such qualities in the judiciary.
Do you have any long term goals mapped out? How do you intend to achieve them?
My goal is to be a notable expert in commercial disputes resolution/litigation; oil and gas law; corporate law; constitutional law and maritime law. I hope to also run a foundation for scholarship opportunities to the less privileged. I know of a lot of persons who have not furthered their education beyond secondary school as a result of financial constraint.
I am making moves to have mentors in my areas of interest and I am doing research on those areas.