Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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Kate Nkechi Okoh
Kate Nkechi Okoh has always been fascinated by the law practice, even from a young age. She is from a legal background because her dad was a High court judge, while her mum – a retired permanent secretary, went ahead to study law in her old age and 5 out of her 6 siblings are lawyers. Kate’s desire to study law can be traced back to her childhood when she watched her father decide the fate of people whilst lawyers
display their legal ingenuity. At the beginning, it was infatuation – it was the smart skirts the ladies wore and the men dapper in their suits that impressed her but as she took more interest in following her father to court, she saw that it was not only the smart attire, but the presentation of their arguments were equally smart and persuasive – reflecting certain logic, deep reflection and considerable research on an issue they were arguing for or against. It was the courtroom experiences that shaped her worldview.

According to Kate, “I discovered that an effective legal system is a foundation to a safe society, and to this end, law is important to everyone because the legal system is at the heart of every society and it creates order while ensuring vulnerable people are protected. It was my childhood fascination that turned into a strong desire to study law, practice law and reach the pinnacle of the legal practice.”

Kate at UCL
After completing High School as the best graduating student in the Arts, Kate proceeded to study law at the University of Benin, Nigeria, in 2005 - graduating with a Second class upper division in 2010 and also graduated with a second upper division from the Nigerian Law School in 2011. Her scholarly grades earned her the John Carr Scholarship during her LLM studies at the University College London (UCL) for students from Africa and Caribbean in 2013. She then participated in an Intensive Course on Arbitration, organized by the International Chamber of Commerce and International Court of Arbitration in Paris – based also on academic merit.

On returning to Nigeria, she took up employment with TRLPLAW, a boutique law firm and one of the fastest growing commercial law firms in Nigeria, recognized for providing bespoke legal advisory services on cutting edge deals in energy and infrastructure development by International Financial Law Review (IFLR1000). She actively engaged in Litigation and Transaction practice where she advised clients on various energy and power related issues.

Recognizing her dedication to work, the firm sponsored her to the UN 2015 Conference on Women’s rights in New York, which motivated her to write an article on “The Human Rights of Women for Equitable Growth and Sustainable Development”. According to Kate, “I developed great interest in my practice areas – most especially the transactions aspect because of my exposure to some exciting concepts which, I feel if utilized will bring about transformation in Africa. I also realized that a lot of people can benefit from my growing experience, if I harmonise my ideas and legal opinions about a particular legal concept, into writing and publish it. That way people all over the world can read about the challenges and opportunities in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.

Kate’s  first article, on Crowdfunding:the Future of Finance’, was published by the International Law Office (ILO), London. It was widely appraised by the Nigerian and International legal community as an eye-opener to alternative modes of financing SMEs in Nigeria through an online crowdfunding platform.

Kate, and other panelists, at ABLFA, London
To further develop this new area of financing in Nigeria and provide an effective legal and regulatory architecture for crowdfunding, Kate prepared a draft regulation which will be proposed to the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) for the regulation of Crowdfunding activities in Nigeria and to build investor confidence in the scheme. Impressively, some international figures have indicated their intention to begin crowdfunding operations in Nigeria and her article in this regard has provided substantial insight particularly as to the regulatory dimension Nigeria may adopt.

Kate at Harvard
Kate’s engagement as transaction adviser in drafting Concession agreements, and the realization that Public Private Partnerships (PPP) require a great deal of negotiation between the public sector and private investors, made her decide to proceed to the Harvard Law School, Boston, where she bagged a Certificate in Negotiation from the Harvard Negotiating Institute in 2015. The training, which has impacted her law practice tremendously, has imbued her with negotiating skills, particularly for PPPs.

Kate says that of all her articles, the article onPPPs: an Emerging Tool forInfrastructure Development’ published by the ILO in 2016, stands out because of her passion for Power and Infrastructure and more so, because these concepts are extremely key to the growth and sustainable development of the African economy. 

According to Kate, “I analyzed the alternative procedure of initiating PPPs via a private investor submitting an solicited Proposal in Nigeria. Although, the unsolicited proposal does not grant the private investor exclusive development rights because the PPP project is subjected to a public procurement process which encourages transparency, competition and a fair chance to the general public to win the tender, wherein a preferred bidder emerges; the private investor (also referred to as the first project proponent) has the right of first refusal to counter match the preferred bidder’s bid and this procedure is called the Swiss challenge system.

Kate at ICC, Paris.
“I made a recommendation in this article, that to ensure the rights of the private investor who submitted the unsolicited proposal is well protected; the procedure for unsolicited proposals must be contained in the Public Procurement Act (PPA) or the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act which are legal enactments for PPPs in Nigeria and have binding force. As opposed to the investor’s rights only been contained in the PPP Toolkit, which is a mere guide for implementing unsolicited proposal in Nigeria. The benefits of unsolicited proposals cannot be overstated as it encourages ingenuity and more private sector participation in commencing PPPs in Nigeria.”

In June 2016, Kate was invited by the African Business Law firms Association (ABLFA) to speak on PPPs in Africa at their inaugural conference titled 'Structuring Successful Deals in Africa' where she had the privilege to share the podium at the Pullman Hotel in London - with partners from top-tier law firms and financial institutions around the world. She stated that the public procurement process in PPPs is indicative of the genuine commitment on the part of the government to adopt strategies and implement policies that will curb corruption in Nigeria as opposed to the statement by the British Prime Minister that Nigeria is “fantastically corrupt”. She also made a case for the hardworking, ingenious and diligent people in Nigeria, willing to make an honest living – stating that for the sake of these persons, it will be unfair to generalize corruption in Nigeria, when in fact Nigeria is not more corrupt than any country as all countries have elements of corruption.
Kate at ABLFA

Kate said, “I am very passionate about the Nigerian electricity industry, wherein have acted as  legal adviser to the Association of Power Generation Companies and advocated for the use of embedded generation, the building and rehabilitation of more transmission networks via PPPs to reduce the technical challenges faced at the transmission end in the industry – beyond the commercial challenges inherent therein. I hope my next article will be on the challenges inherent in the electricity industry in Nigeria and the need for drastic reforms.”

In all of these, Kate Okoh is simple but diligent, hardworking and above all God fearing. She believes in the biblical teaching that says, “seeth a man diligent in his work, he will sit amongst kings and not mere men,” thus she preaches that “whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might because you never know how God intends to bless you.” She further said, “Particularly, as a female Christian, I believe strongly in the possibility of having a happy and peaceful home as well as an excellent career because both are not mutually exclusive of the other as succinctly put in Proverbs 31: 10-31.”

Kate currently resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

Her other articles include Representations and warranties in M&A deals, among others.

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