PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Ifeoma Enemo, Ph.D.
First Woman Dean, Faculty of Law, Enugu Campus (Nigeria)
By Chisa Onyejekwe
Ifeoma Enemo was born in Umuahia Abia State (southeast Nigeria) on 29th January 1959, into a legal family where her father and aunt were lawyers, and four out of her five siblings are lawyers. Her father was a barrister while her mother was an educationist. Her paternal aunt Mrs. Phoebe Chiadikaobi Ajayi-Obe Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is the 1st female SAN of Igbo ethnicity. The great attributes of her father and aunt attracted and set the foundation for her legal career.
Enemo’s primary education was at the All Saints Cathedral Primary School, Onitsha, and finished in 1970. Her secondary school education was at Queen’s School, Enugu, from 1971 to 1975. Professor Enemo’s legal career started by studying law in the first and oldest indigenous University in Nigeria, the University of Nigeria. She graduated in 1980, and immediately proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, in Lagos. From the law school, she obtained her Barrister at Law (BL) certificate and was called to the Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1981. After the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) with the Nigerian Air Force, Lagos in 1982, Enemo worked in her father’s Law Chambers at Onitsha before proceeding to the prestigious University of Lagos where she obtained her Master of Laws Degree (LL.M), in 1984. She further obtained a Doctorate Degree (Ph.D.) in International Law from the University of Nigeria where she was awarded the prize for the Best Graduating Postgraduate of the Faculty of Law, for the 1995/96 academic session.
In 1985, Enemo joined the services of the University of Nigeria, as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of International Law and Jurisprudence of the Faculty of Law. She steadily progressed to her present rank of Professor of International Law. She held the positions of Acting/Substantive Head of Department of International Law and Jurisprudence, Associate Dean of Faculty of Law, and Dean of Faculty of Law. Her research and publication interests are in various aspects of International Law, Conflict Management and Resolution, Family Law, Women and Children’s Rights, and Climate Change. She has published many articles in reputable journals and written two books. Her Inaugural Lecture titled, “Dangerous Families in Nigerian Law: A National Albatross?” was the first by her Department and was delivered in 2014.
In 2007, she was appointed the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Law and thereafter was promoted to Professor and became full Dean of the Faculty. As an active member of the Faculty and its first female Dean since its establishment in 1960, she had a great task and challenge ahead. One of these great challenges was getting the Faculty accredited. Earlier in 2010, the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) accredited the Faculty of Law, which was critical to its continued existence. That critical period was a huge challenge ensuring that the Faculty was successful in order to regain its lost glory, and reputation as the first law faculty and save the entire University from embarrassment.
In 2005, the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, lost NUC accreditation and as a result, the Council of Legal Education reduced the quota of students from over 300 to 180. The implication was that the University could not admit first-year students into the Faculty that academic session and beyond until the accreditation was restored. The adverse consequences of this outcome to the University of Nigeria were huge. It was the topic of discussion at major gatherings and was very embarrassing and painful to both staff and students of the Faculty of Law. This made the administration take urgent and necessary steps to ensure that accreditation was restored. Thus in 2007, the Faculty faced another NUC accreditation and this time the Faculty was given a reprieve with an interim accreditation. This was short-lived as another accreditation was looming in 2010 but this failure to gain full accreditation resulted in the closure of the Faculty according to NUC regulations.
It was during these turbulent times that the first woman was at the helm of the Faculty since its inception in 1965. This was one of the major challenges Enemo faced as the new Dean, in a field still male-dominated. With grossly inadequate infrastructural facilities, a major lack of funds, a lack of staff and only one professor in the faculty, inadequate library holdings and internet facilities, no faculty vehicles, amongst other deficiencies it was not an easy task for her to overcome. Understandably, she was scared and nervous considering that the Faculty already had a serious accreditation issue. However, she was determined that the faculty would not fail under her watch.
To achieve this, she realized that it must be a team effort and every member of the faculty had to be involved to achieve accreditation. One of the things they agreed on was to host a homecoming celebration and utilising all professional and personal relationships to achieve their goal. Students, alumni, and university administration were not left out. Committees were tasked with specific assignments to cover all vital areas for the accreditation. Members of the Committee that would oversee the Alumni Homecoming were carefully selected because the committee was strategic for fundraising, as there was a need for funds to meet the accreditation requirements. The committees pursued their assignments aggressively, especially the fundraising and contact committees. They reached out to all alumni and alumnae and, to their amazement, the ones contacted reached out to others located outside the country, pleading that their Alma Mater that nurtured them must not be allowed to die—the strategy worked. The Homecoming was a huge success as the alumni/alumnae response to the plea was amazing. From the proceeds of the event and further donations thereafter, the faculty was able to show a visible turnaround.
As Dean of Law, Enemo achieved a lot which includes but is not limited to the following:
i. Introduction of the Clinical Legal Education and a Legal Clinic run by the Faculty to provide legal aid for students and people of Enugu.
ii. Created a website for the Faculty.
iii. Infrastructural turn around; a massive Mary Odili Moot Court/ Multi-Purpose Hall with staff offices.
iv. Renovation of the Coscharis Lecture Theatre with many classrooms.
v. Negotiated and received approval for a magnificent faculty building to be built by TET Fund.
vi. Up to date Law library holding with internet facilities.
vii. Staff welfare: promotion of staff and employing young and fresh academics without bias, adequate staffing; faculty vehicles amongst others
In June 2015, when the NUC accreditation team arrived, they were impressed with the progress and granted full accreditation to the faculty. From the words of her staff, this was only possible through transparency and accountability under the leadership of Enemo. “As Dean of Law, she turned around the Faculty, inspired hope to staff who were facing job loss with a failed accreditation. She led the Faculty with integrity and dignity. As an academic, Enemo was firm and possessed excellent skills at passing across information to students. Her mentoring mirrored the value of hard work and strength of the woman figure in academia”. (Handover notes, 2015).
She instilled in her staff/colleagues never to leave anything to chance, but to always work together with focus and commitment and that good leadership irrespective of one's gender will result in success. Consequently, leadership qualities which include amongst other things, clarity of vision and mission, transparency and accountability, team spirit, strength, hard work, commitment, and dedication are the prerequisites for anybody who desires the successful accomplishment of any task. Besides her role as Dean in academia, Enemo contributed to not only the profession and law but society at large. At the University of Nigeria-Nsukka, (UNN), she has served as a member or Chairperson of several University/Faculty Committees and sub- committees including the Senate and Governing Council of the University. Beyond this, she renders services to other faculties of law in various universities as an external assessor and examiner at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She contributed further to the development of the nation by services to some government parastatals, such as the National Universities Commission (NUC), where she served as a member of the Board and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TET Fund). She also served as a member of the Council of Legal Education of the Nigerian Law School.
Enemo was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, from 2011-2016. She is an alumna of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru Jos; and Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI) Israel. A practicing Christian, she is presently the Deputy Chancellor, Diocese of Nsukka, Anglican Communion and Chairman, Chapel of Redemption in Enugu Campus of the University.
Culturally, she is active in women’s meetings and organizations in the village where she has successfully mentored women towards either successful academic or business ventures leading to her being honored in her village (Okija) by an association of graduates. Her achievements will be chronicled in the 100 Anambra Achievers commemoration of International Achievers Day in Onitsha Anambra State Nigeria in March 2020. Breaking into a role that has been traditionally occupied by men in a patriarchal region of Nigeria, Enemo, through her role, set the pace for other female academics to become Deans of Law in universities in southeast Nigeria. She exemplified the possibility that women can be mothers, wives and have a successful career building up other women. Enemo has inspired many young women both academically and personally.