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My friend’s murder fired my resolve to study Law – Daphne Ekpe, First Class Graduate of the Nigerian Law School

Daphne Ekpe’s love for debating meant Law was a natural choice of study. However, the death of a close friend in 2010 strengthened her resolve to help victims of crime get justice.

Ekpe, a 2016 alumna of the University of Ibadan and a First Class graduate of the Nigerian Law School, shares her story with ROBERT EGBE.

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My name is Daphne Mercy Ekpe. I’m from Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State. I was born and brought up in Lagos State. I work as an Associate Lawyer at the law firm of Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore (SOOB Law). I am passionate about Intellectual Property Law, Entertainment Law and Arbitration.

Family

I belong to a family of five with two siblings. I am proud to be the last born. My dad is a businessman and is into consultancy. My mum was a primary school teacher for years before she retired. I love my family because they complete me.

Writing exam in the sun

I attended Royal Choice Primary School and Sunbeam Secondary School in Lagos State. Both were private schools close to home because my mum wanted her children close to her. One memorable experience I can never forget was the general punishment during the mock exam organised by my school in preparation for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) exam. Some of my classmates back then were reluctant to do the test but they gave the wrong impression that it was the entire class’ uniform decision. Our principal decided to punish us in a way we would not forget. He told us to move our tables and chairs to the field and we wrote the mock exam under the scorching sun. I was so pained then because I was never a part of the people who revolted against the mock exam but I suffered the consequences.

Choice of Law

My choice of law was initially inspired by my debating skills as a child. An unfortunate incident further deepened my interest in law and the justice system. My classmate and friend was murdered but nothing was done to bring her killer to book. The suspect walked away freely simply because she was an orphan. I was convinced that it had to be law.

Suicide or murder?

The incident happened in November 2010 when we were seeking university admission. She was an orphan and in an abusive relationship. That evening, they found her body hanging in her boyfriend’s house, looking like she committed suicide. She was naked, (her neck) hanging from a rope tied to the ceiling. The door was locked from inside. But the house had a ceiling and the police found an opening in the ceiling through which someone could have escaped. Her body also had marks suggestive of beatings. But the police and the people around said from the way her tongue stuck out, it didn’t look like someone that was murdered. The story all over the media was that she committed suicide after a disagreement with her boyfriend. But someone later came out to confess that the suspect told him she was killed after a disagreement, that the killer beat her up until she was unconscious. When he realised that she was no longer breathing, the suspect ran to his house – there was a canal nearby and the suspect asked him whether he could assist her to carry the body and throw it in the canal. But he refused; he said he could not partake in it. So, it appeared that the suspect hung her body to make it appear as if she committed suicide. The case remains unsolved. May her soul rest in peace.

Challenge of cramming

I attended the prestigious University of Ibadan, the first and the best and I obtained my LL.B in 2016. Studying law had always been my passion since I liked debating as a child. However, I got to realise that Law is not just about the advocacy part. The challenge I had initially was that I had to cram lots of laws and cases but I got used to it in the long run. My best memory was the What Next programme organised for my set after we were done with our final law exams. It remains my happy day because the hard work of five years in the University was crowned with success. I was finally becoming a lawyer, dream come true!

Call to Bar party

My family is my best support system and they wanted nothing but the best for me. After I bagged a First Class, their joy knew no bounds and they threw me a grand party in Lagos where we reside. My friends were also present to celebrate with me. Shout out to my family and friends for being amazing!

Conquering fear at Law School

I heard so many scary stories about law school especially the grading system. Honestly, I didn’t find it difficult because Law School was more of practice than just theory. It was a different approach from university and I eased into it. The only issue was that the curriculum was bulky and we had a short time to learn all. In dealing with my fear, I learnt to trust God. I am a Christian and my guiding scripture was Jeremiah 29:11 which gave me peace of mind all through the process. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Making First Class

The day I saw my law school grade – a First Class – I screamed for joy! The feeling is unexplainable, I shed tears of joy. Law school was one year of intensity and the First Class grade made it worth it. I also received the Director-General’s award for attaining a First Class. All glory to God! Nothing really changed except that it gave me the platform to keep pushing and aiming for the best.

First court appearance

My first day in a courtroom is different from my first appearance. I had been going to court as an intern, so the first time I wore the wig and gown in court was with a senior, I was happy. But my first appearance happened in a funny way. I went to the Federal High Court to watch brief not to handle the case. The counsel handling the matter stepped out briefly to settle some mix-up and because the matter was called, I had to announce my appearance. I did that confidently and had to move a housekeeping motion. I felt so proud of myself.

Law school grading system unfair

The grading system is not a fair one because your performance is determined by your lowest grade as opposed to the cumulative grade system. My advice is that law school students should focus on achieving excellent grades in the five courses rather than worry about the grading system that they cannot change. We can only hope that the system is changed for the better.

I love the wig and gown

I am indifferent about whether it should be scrapped or not. Funny thing is that I love the wig and gown because it makes us stand out even though it can be uncomfortable.

Judge, Professor or SAN?

I am not really eager to have any. I just want to establish my Intellectual Property Practice and Arbitration. However, if I have to pick one, it will be SAN because of the prestige associated with the office and the privileges as well. Nobody likes to spend the entire day in court, so becoming a SAN would mean that I can call my matter out of turn and leave the court on time!

Advice to students eyeing First Class

I will like to encourage every law school student to keep pushing and working hard because better is the end of a matter than the beginning thereof. I wish them the very best in their forthcoming bar finals exams and may God crown their efforts with success.

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