PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Professor Oluyemisi Adefunke Bamgbose, SAN
First woman Professor of Law in Nigeria to be conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria
By Rahma Abdul-Rahman
Professor Oluyemisi Adefunke Bamgbose, SAN is a Nigerian Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Human Rights at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan. Nigeria. She was born on June 26, 1961, in Ibadan to the late Chief A.A.K. Degun, CON, the first secretary to the military government and Head of Service in Ogun State in Nigeria, and Otunba (Mrs) C.M. Degun of Ijebu Ode. Professor Oluyemisi, SAN began her primary education at the University of Ife Staff School, Ibadan Branch, now the Polytechnic Ibadan Staff School. From there she attended Queens School, Apata, Ibadan. She began her A-Levels at Comprehensive High School Ayetoro but completed at Adeola Odutola College, Ijebu-Ode. Prof. Oluyemisi was subsequently admitted to the University of Lagos where she earned her law degree in 1983. She proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos for her Bachelor of Law (BL) and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984. In 1990, Professor Oluyemisi obtained a Master of Law degree (LLM) from the University of Lagos, where she graduated as the Best Overall Student.
After completing her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program at the DPP section of the Oyo State Ministry of Justice. Oluyemisi accepted a Senior State counsel position at the Ministry of Justice, where she worked from 1985 to 1987 then got married and relocated to Ibadan with her husband, the Honourable Justice Olatokunbo John Bamgbose, a jurist and author of the Digest of the Judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Once in Ibadan, Oluyemisi began work as an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Ibadan. Rising through the ranks, Oluyemisi became the first female Head of Department in the Faculty of Law and served two tenures between 1997 and 2003. She became a professor in 2003 and by 2009, Oluyemisi was the Dean of Faculty of Law at the University, a position she held until 2014. In 2021, she was appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, University of Ibadan.
Oluyemisi’s passion for mentoring and teaching has kept her in academia to this day. She has lectured widely at universities in Nigeria and in the United States, and has supervised students ranging from undergraduate to doctoral candidates. Oluyemisi has completed over five research topics, and published articles and books in both Nigerian and international forums. In an administrative capacity, Oluyemisi served as Acting Warden of Queen Elizabeth 11 Hall at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, as well as Sub-Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
The seasoned professor holds membership and leadership positions at a number of organizations: the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigerian Association of Law Teachers (NALT), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the West African Research Association (WARA) and the West African Research and Innovation Management Association (WARIMA). She is also a member of the National Committee on the Reform of Discriminatory Laws against Women, the Board of the Educational Advancement Centre, the Governing Council at the University of Ibadan, and the Governing Council at Chrisland University, Owode, Abeokuta. She is a member of the Visitation Panel at Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, as well as the Council at Chrisland University, Abeokuta Ogun State.
In terms of leadership positions, Oluyemisi is the Director of the Women’s Law Clinic at the University of Ibadan. She serves as a chairperson for the National Study Group on Death Penalty, the Constitutional Review Committee for Oyo State Nigeria, and the Nigerian Bar Association Women Forum (NBAWF). Finally, she is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCArb).
Professor Oluyemisi, SAN, has a strong interest in issues affecting women and children. In an interview with the Nigerian Tribune, she intimated speaking out as a means of addressing violence against women. Oluyemisi has done this herself in a number of scholarly publications including, “Female Inheritance Struggle of Biblical Days: The Manifestation in Present Nigerian Inheritance Rights,” “Characteristics of Juvenile Delinquents in Remand Homes in Lagos State,”“Women and the Prison System in Nigeria,” and “The Old and the New Wine: Introducing Reproductive Health and Rights in the Curriculum of the Law Faculty in the University of Ibadan.”
Professor Oluyemisi’s unwavering dedication to the field has earned her countless accolades, including the 2013 Teslim Elias Gold Medal Award of Excellence for outstanding merit and significant contribution to the profession of teaching and law, the 2018 Outstanding Female Personality, Oyo State Official Wives Association Award and the 2019 Golden Jubilee Distinguished University of Lagos Alumni Award. She was also the guest speaker at the 2008 Celebration of 100 years of Women in Law at Saint Louis University, Missouri, USA.
Most notably, Professor Oluyemisi was the only female recipient of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria Award in 2018. She was also the first female academic or Professor of Law in Nigeria to be conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Professor Oluyemisi has stated that in addition to holding a leadership position in the university, becoming the first female Head of Department in the Faculty of Law, and her husband becoming a judge, becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria marked a defining moment in her life. She credits her success to God, discipline, sacrifice, and the support and patience of her husband and three children, all of whom followed in their parents’ footsteps as legal practitioners.
Professor Oluyemisi is a trailblazer, and living proof that there is a place for women in both law and academia. She truly is an inspiration to women all over, and the epitome of a pioneer woman in law worthy of commendation.