Egbiri Egbiri, a principal legal counsel with the African Development Bank (AfDB), spoke to Ife Ogunbufunmi about his key role in the finance division of the General Counsel and Legal Services Department.
Egbiri’s journey to becoming an in-house counsel began when he practised law with top commercial firms in Lagos and the United States. It was in the latter that he obtained his LLM - at the NYU School of Law as an Arthur T. Vanderbilt Scholar.
Over the years he built experience within the capital markets and finance teams of Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Templars Law and Punuka Attorneys (all in Lagos), and Sidney Austin LLP in New York as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC. He reminisces about his years at Olaniwun Ajayi LP.
“I had role models who believed in my ability and entrusted top-notch and complex assignments to me. This helped me develop legal skills and ability to take up more tasks and deliver,” he says.
Egbiri has been a Principal Legal Counsel with the AfDB, headquartered in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, since October 2018. In this capacity, he advises and supports the Bank’s Treasury on borrowings in the international and local capital and money markets, as well as on negotiation and documentation of derivatives and other risk management transactions. He also supports the AfDB’s Resource Mobilization and Partnerships Department in establishing trust funds, special funds and other resource mobilization efforts.
“In most of the transactions, I am involved from the very beginning and guide the operational departments in negotiating term sheets.”
At work, Egbiri has built a reputation for attention to detail and has gained the trust of his colleagues.
“I would always insist on looking at a document and calling back or sending emails to ensure no important details are missed. As a lawyer, you must understand there is a great risk in shabby review of contractual documents and advice. I always have to err on the part of “delay” for proper review, than succumbing to pressures that might cost the AfDB”.
He admits that working for an international organization like the AfDB has its challenges.
“Ingenious ways around a situation may be created for a counterparty, to ensure there is a fair compromise that does not undercut AfDB’s immunities and privileges as an organisation.
“But, as with most conservative entities, the Bank will usually fall back to its establishing agreements in all matters affecting it.”
Interestingly, the AfDB’s legal team, comprising about 40 lawyers, handles almost every legal issue affecting its clients. External counsels are only engaged in peculiar circumstances.
“For instance, when we need to establish a local debt issuance facility (borrowing programme) in one of AfDB’s regional member countries. Because we are not versed in the relevant local law, local firms are engaged to advise on legal and regulatory issues affecting the establishment and drawdowns on the programme.”
Egbiri has wise words for young lawyers considering the same path.
“I recommend going out of your way to show you are available to work and happy to do so. Develop your oral and written communication, analytical reasoning, time management and understanding of the business organisation you want to work for. Be humble and you would be surprised at the extent to which your supervisors will give you opportunities to prove yourself.”
Generally, Egbiri follows local and international politics, watches historical movies and documentaries and enjoys a good football game.
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