The Commercial Law Research Network Nigeria (CLRNN) is privileged to announce a series of interviews with Professor Paul Oboarenegbe Idornigie, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chartered Secretary, Chartered Arbitrator, Notary Public for Nigeria and an author, on the law and policy of Commercial Law Reform in Nigeria.
The first interview of the series examines the challenges of commercial law reform in Nigeria, taking the recent reform of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, as its point of reference. The second interview examines the constitutional challenges of commercial law reform in Nigeria and uses the ongoing quest to reform the Nigerian Arbitration & Conciliation Act as its point of reference. The third and final interview discusses various practical issues that have affected the modernisation of commercial law in Nigeria and uses the quest to privatize/commercialise/reform public enterprises as its focal point.
Prof Idornigie SAN has been an active participant in the reform and modernisation of commercial law in Nigeria. Thus, CLRNN commences the series with some insight into the life and work of this unsung contributor to Commercial Law reform in Nigeria.
Prof Idornigie SAN was born on 24th February 1951 at a village called Ayogwiri-Uzairue, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria to the family of Mr & Mrs Ikozi Idornigie of Ughiadi Quarters. He was the 11th of 12 children born to his parents, both of whom were farmers.
His childhood was filled with fond memories of village life, with stories by the moonlight and football games in the dirt road leading to the village. The family was hardworking, with almost daily trips to the farm at which they sometimes passed the night. The farm was equipped with a functional hut in which the family slept. With no refrigerator for food preservation, every meal had to be fully consumed on the day it was cooked. Thus, Prof Idornigie SAN fondly remembers the daily pots of fresh soup in the farm.
Professor Idornigie SAN attended St Paul’s Anglican Primary School, Ayogwiri (1956-1962); St Paul’s Anglican Secondary Modern School, Jattu (1963-1965); and St Peter’s Commercial College, Onitsha/Benin (1966-68).
Prof Idornigie SAN was in the public service from March 1970 till November 2020, when he retired from public service. His incredible journey has been filled with several twists and turns. As a young man, his dream was to qualify as a Chartered Secretary. He later added to that dream, the desire to become a legal practitioner, so that he could become a Legal Adviser/Company Secretary. His dreams fed his rise to the peak of three professions – Law, Chartered-secretaryship, and Arbitration. In turn his dreams and grit have contributed enormously to commercial law reform in Nigeria.
In March 1970, Prof Idornigie SAN was employed as a Typist Grade III at the Judicial Department, High Court of Justice, Benin and then posted to Auchi High Court (1970-1974). He rose to the level of Stenographer at Auchi High Court and was hailed by the moniker ‘Lord Obingo of the High Court’; though, at that time, he had no inkling that he would ever study law.
Recognizing that he urgently needed to improve his education to progress in public service, he left the High Court to take the post of Stenographer at the University of Benin in August 1974. By September 1974 he had registered for an Evening Programme at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), Benin. In 1976, he was awarded WASC, Division I, Aggregate 11. He went on to register for the Higher School Certificate (HSC), which he completed in 1978, with two papers. He later became a Confidential Secretary at the University of Benin.
In 1976, he bought his first car – Volkswagen Beetle 1500 for less than N3,000.00. He calls the car the present-day Mercedes Benz G-Wagon! In January 1979, he was appointed Personal Secretary to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Jos, Prof (Chief) E U Emovon, who passed on 19th February 2020. In 1981, he bought his second car – Peugeot 504 A/C for less than N7,000.00.
He was granted training leave by the University of Jos in September 1983 to pursue his first dream of becoming a Chartered Secretary. To that end, he travelled to the United Kingdom to study at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK. He returned in 1986, after qualifying as a Chartered Secretary. He was elected Fellow, Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators (FCIS), London in 1998.
After returning to Nigeria in 1986, Prof Idornigie SAN decided to pursue a second dream. He registered for an Evening Law Program at the University of Jos in September 1987. He completed his studies in 1992, with Second Class Honours, Upper Division, and as the Best Graduating Student. He went to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos in 1993, at which he again attained a Second Class, Upper Division in the Qualifying Examination and was one of the top six students.
Upon completing his studies and realising his second dream, he returned to the University of Jos, at which he became a Senior Assistant Registrar in the Registry. However, he opted to go into the academic track. Although he was already a Senior Assistant Registrar on salary Grade Level 12 in the Registry, he transferred to the Faculty of Law, University of Jos as an Assistant Lecturer on salary Grade Level 09, after confidential negotiations about his salary.
Always thirsty for more knowledge, Prof Idornigie SAN registered for a master’s degree program in law in January 1994, writing his thesis on ‘The Codification of Directors’ Duties under CAMA’. He notes that Nigeria codified directors’ duties before this step was taken by the United Kingdom in 2006. In April 1995, he became a Personal Assistant to the then Honourable Minister of State, Works & Housing. His appointment required a move to Lagos State, in which he resided till October 1997 when the Federal Executive Council was dissolved.
In 1998, Prof Idornigie returned to more studies, registering this time for a doctorate degree at the University of Jos. His thesis, which he completed in April 2002, was on International Commercial Arbitration. During the period, he traded his position as Assistant Lecturer at the University of Jos for the position of Lecturer Grade I, at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. By 2000, he had become Senior Lecturer.
Combining Law and Company Secretaryship in Public Service:
In October 2002, Professor Idornigie took leave of absence from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja and went to the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) as an Assistant/Deputy Director. In 2004, he became the General Counsel (Legal Adviser). He was subsequently appointed consultant to BPE under the World Bank Privatization Support Programme (PSP) and later under the Department for International Development (DfID, UK) Support to the Privatization Programme till February 2009. Throughout the period spent at BPE (2002 to 2009), he was also Head of Council Secretariat (Company Secretary) and covered all meetings of the National Council on Privatization (NCP) and Management Committee. He thus combined his skills as a lawyer and company secretary to facilitate the privatisation and commercialization of Public Enterprises in Nigeria. Between February 2009 and December 2009, he consulted for the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway Concession as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Legal Consultant.
During his time at BPE, Prof Idornigie SAN was involved in the concession of the Ports in Lagos, Warri, Calabar and Port Harcourt, as well as the drafting of all the lease agreements. He was involved in the liquidation of Steel Rolling Mills in Oshogbo, Katsina and Jos; Nigeria Airways and the Fertilizer Company at Onne. He also drafted the Share Purchase Agreements in respect of Ajaokuta, Itakpe and Delta Steel. He was involved in the sale of NICON Hilton, NICON Insurance, NICON Luxury and the first draft of the Petroleum Industry Bill in 2005-2008. He was also involved in the unbundling of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) into the initial holding company, Power Holding Company of Nigeria PLC) and subsequent transfers to generation, transmission and distribution companies; the privatization of Eleme Petrochemical Limited, and the National Insurance Corporation, amongst several public enterprises.
Prof Idornigie SAN has been involved in the negotiation and drafting of several commercial instruments on behalf of public and private entities – Loan Agreements, Share Purchase Agreement, Shareholders Agreement, Power Purchase Agreement, Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement, Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreement, Concession Agreement, Disclosure Letters, Request for Proposals, Escrow Agreement, Asset Sale Agreement, Pre-contractual documents like Memorandum of Understanding, Heads of Agreements and Term Sheet, among others.
Contributions to Law
Professor Idornigie SAN was appointed Professor of Law at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Abuja on 7 December 2009. He held the SMA Belgore Distinguished Chair at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Abuja. He left NIALS on November 27, 2020, having served as Head of Department, Director of Research (equivalent to Dean of Law) and Acting Director General (equivalent to a Vice-Chancellor). He is now a Professor of Law at the Veritas University, Bwari, Abuja, Nigeria.
Prof Idornigie SAN has taught ADR processes, Corporate Law, International Economic Law, Investment Law, Corporate Governance, Company Secretarial Practice and Law/Procedure of Meetings. He is the author of Commercial Arbitration Law and Practice in Nigeria (LawLords Publications, Abuja, 2015). He has written/co-written over 100 articles and book chapters. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences and round-table events.
In 2015, he was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He became a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb), UK in 2015, and Chartered Arbitrator (C.Arb) in 2016. He was also placed on the Approved Faculty List (APL) [Tutor and Assessor) of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, United Kingdom. He is a Member of London Court of Arbitration, Nigerian Bar Association, International Bar Association, Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Nigerian Association of Law Teachers and African Arbitration Association. He is presently the 2nd National Vice-Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), Nigeria Branch. He is on the Panel of Neutrals at the Abuja and Asaba Multi-door Courthouses; Lagos Court of Arbitration; Arbitrators at the Lagos Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, Lagos, Nigeria; Nigerian Communications Commission, Abuja, Nigeria. He is a Member, Governing Board, Jinada International Commercial Arbitration & Mediation Centre, Abuja, Nigeria. He is a Member of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on International Investment Agreements (IIAs, Nigeria).
Prof Idornigie SAN has handled several commercial arbitration and investment treaty arbitrations as a Counsel or Arbitrator. Out of the five (5) Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) executed with the International Oil Companies (IOCs) in 1993 that resulted in arbitration, he was involved in two of them as a Party-Appointed Arbitrator. Similarly, he was a Counsel in the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Arbitration involving the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) and Shell Nigeria Ultra Deep Limited (SNUD) – the OPL 245 – Malabu Dispute.
Contributions to Commercial Law Reform in Nigeria
Prof Idornigie SAN has contributed assiduously to the modernisation of the Nigerian Commercial Law. He was actively involved in the drafting of the Federal Competition Commission and Consumer Protection Bill, which has now been passed. As General Counsel, BPE, he vetted and reviewed the Mines and Minerals Bill, the National Transport Commission Bill, the Ports and Harbours Bill, the Petroleum Industry Bill, the Nigerian Inland Waterways Bill, the Nigerian Railway Corporation Bill, the Federal Roads Authority Bill and Postal Sector Reform Bill.
In 2015, Prof Idornigie SAN led a committee (the ‘Idornigie Committee’) to undertake a comprehensive review of the business regulatory environment in Nigeria. The Idornigie committee presented its final report ‘Comprehensive Review of the Institutional, Regulatory, Legislative & Associated Instruments Affecting Businesses in Nigeria’ in 2016. The finding of this report led to the enactment of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 (CAMA 2020), as well as the enactment of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council Act (FCCPA) 2019, the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act, 2017 (otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act) and the Credit Reporting Act, 2017.
Other bills influenced by the work of the Idornigie committee include the Electronic Transaction Bill, the Payments System Bill, the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (Establishment) Bill, the National Fertilizer Bill, the National Agricultural Seed Council Bill and the Plant Variety Protection Bill.
Prof Idornigie SAN was also a member of the ‘National Committee on the Reform and Harmonization of Arbitration and ADR Laws in Nigeria’ chaired by Hon. Dr J.Olakunle Orojo C.O.N., O.F.R., FCI.Arb and tasked with the comprehensive review of Nigeria’s laws on arbitration and other ADR mechanisms. The findings of this committee led to the drafting of the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill.
Prof Idornigie SAN is on the advisory council of the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER).
In August 1976, Prof Idornigie SAN met his wife, a charming, highly spiritual, and vivacious young lady, whom he could not resist. Influenced by an adage in pidgin language ‘who dey cry dey see’, he realised quickly that he needed such a lady to live with for the rest of his life, whilst remaining firmly focused on his education and professional development. The lovebirds got married in December 1977. He considers his marriage to her one of the best decisions of his life and as he says, res ipsa loquitur.
The couple has been blessed with 4 wonderful children. Their first daughter, Emosioriame (Emo), was born in September 1978. She is now Dr Emo Idornigie-Pearce, having recently concluded her PhD studies at Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury Kent, UK, where she also teaches. Their first son, Oboarenegbe (Obo), was born in February 1980. Obo is a Vice President (Sub-Saharan Africa) in Welligence Energy Analytics, a US-based Energy, Finance and Artificial Intelligence outfit. Their second daughter, Emesomake (Emeso), was born in April 1982. Now Dr (Engr) (Mrs) Emeso Beckley Ojo, she is presently a Senior Research Scientist at CloudCycle, a Cutting-Edge Tech Company based in London and on leave of absence from the Nigerian Building & Road Research Institute, Abuja where she is Chief Research Officer. Their fourth child, Imoudu, was born in 1984. Imoudu had a Master’s degree from the University of Liverpool and is currently undertaking a Master’s degree program in Supply Chain Management at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford England.
Prof Idornigie SAN also has additional, non-biological children. Amongst these, he counts Mrs Idornigie’s nephew, Anthony (Tony), who lived with them upon their return to Nigeria in 1986. He also speaks fondly of his spiritual, academic, and professional family.
Though retired from active public service, Prof Idornigie SAN is still actively at work as an academic, consultant and writer. His indefatigable work ethic is attributable to his upbringing, as well as the influence of his father. He states that he was prepared for life in the city by his life in the village. The family and other villagers would typically head for the farm by 7am, to return, on days that they did, after 4pm. He considers his father a strong model. His father would advise the family to simply start their work, and not waste time considering the size of the task. He would often say:
‘Work does not kill!’
‘Hard work pays!’
Sadly, his father died when he was only 14 years old. Prof Idornigie SAN thus knew quite early that his life was in his hands. Nevertheless, he looked up to God for his divine guidance and protection and believes that he owes all his achievements to God.
He has also been helped along his journey by several people who played key roles at pivotal moments of his life. His late Uncle, Chief James O Iluebbey, was instrumental to getting his first job and late Mrs Evarista Ivowi, was a facilitator. It was his brother, Chief James O K Idornigie, who prompted him to leave Auchi to pursue his higher education. Mike Egwakhide, Esq, former Deputy Registrar, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma played a major role in getting his job as Stenographer. Prof (Chief) Epiphany Azinge, OON, SAN, LLD., the Okailolo of Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria inspired him to apply for the professorship and elevation to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. There have been several others along his journey to whom he is grateful.
Unknown to many, Prof Idornigie SAN is an avid dancer. He keeps up with all the latest dance styles, reeling out names such as Zanku, Gbese, and Carry body. He was an avid James Brown fan and can still do the ‘camel walk’ and glide both ways. In this regard, he was fondly referred to as ‘Mike Brown’, brother of James Brown.
He also likes music, which he gets from his mum, who was a musician. He worked as a part time DJ at the Staff Club, University of Jos. In another life, he may have taken a career path in music. He enjoys lawn tennis and football. He is a fan of Raphael Nadal, the tennis player, and supporter of Arsenal Football Club.
Join us through the month of September as we uncover and celebrate the remarkable contributions of Prof Paul Oboarenegbe Idornigie SAN, PhD, C.Arb to commercial law reform in Nigeria.
 ZANKU is a dance introduced by the Nigerian artist Omoniyi Raphael, who goes by the name Zlatan Ibile. It was introduced through the video of his track, ‘Ibile (Leg work)’. The name is actually an acronym that stands for ‘Zlatan, Abeg No Kill Us’.
 Used interchangeably with ‘carry body’. This dance was also introduced by Zlatan. It was popularised by the track titled ‘Killing Dem’ – a song by the Grammy award winning Nigerian artist, Damini Ogulu, who goes by the name Burna Boy, featuring Zlatan.