If Oghor Okhai-Akhigbe had more time on her hands, she would work towards becoming a hyperrealism artist, she says. She studied art in secondary school and used to be a fairly decent pencil artist, although she has not done a drawing in years. Instead, she became renowned for her commercially astute and evidence-backed legal advice.
Okhai-Akhigbe has been working behind the scenes in a role she shadowed prior to its existence, by displaying leadership and technical abilities to her colleagues and managers, thereby gaining their trust. When the announcement of her promotion at ALSF was made, it brought with it a sense of fulfilment.
“As a child, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I have been quite fortunate to experience the coincidence of opportunity and preparation,” she commented.
Okhai-Akhigbe’s legal foundation was built at Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (UUBO) where she created a niche for herself while being exposed to a wide range of transactions. Although she was educated and experienced in petroleum law, her passion lay in transactions related to impact and infrastructure finance.
In preparation for an opportunity with that focus, Okhai-Akhigbe acquired a Masters in Finance, an essential tool for her subsequent role as Head of Legal at Chapel Hill Denham, Nigeria’s premier indigenous investment bank. “Building upon my education, the experience gained from both roles prepared me for my current role at the ALSF, satisfying my passions for infrastructure finance and having measurable impact.”
Motivating her along the journey that led to her becoming the Head of Extractives and Natural Resources was a band of mentors. She named her colleagues at UUBO – Dan Agbor, Aniekan Ukpanah and Folake Adebowale – along with Bolaji Balogun at Chapel Hill Denham and Thierno Olory-Togbe at ALSF among those who played an important role in ensuring her success.
Fortunate to have worked at organisations that promote equity, Okhai-Akhigbe noted that nowadays men are taking proactive measures and, more importantly, women in leading positions are being active in holding the ladder in place to ensure more females climb the ranks.
Commenting on mining investment and growth in Africa, Okhai-Akhigbe said she believed a well-considered fiscal regime would create an attractive investment environment while ensuring adequate revenue for the government.
“At the Investing in African Mining Indaba 2022, the ALSF (in conjunction with the World Bank) is launching the Fiscal Regime Guiding Template of the African Mining Legislation Atlas (AMLA). This drafting toolkit contains advice and the steps countries should consider when developing fiscal regimes beneficial to both the government and mining companies,” she explained.
Okhai-Akhigbe’s advice to young lawyers is to build a strong basic legal foundation.
“A contract is a contract, whether it is for a property lease or mining licence. Learn to ask the right questions and capture the best interest of your client in an equitable manner. Additionally, build a strong technical background by reading relevant texts and taking tailored courses where available. The ALSF Academy offers courses in various sectors including extractives, it would be a good start for any young lawyer. Finally, endeavour to keep informed of the developments in the sector as they unfold. With these, when an opportunity presents itself, you will be ready,” she concluded.
Oghor Okhai-Akhigbe will be speaking at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Thursday, 12 May 2022.
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