Undoubtedly, these are busy times for MTN Nigeria. In May 2019, the company became the first telecommunications network provider to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Premium Board, a listing segment for an elite group of issuers that meet the Exchange’s most stringent corporate governance and listing standards. This board features organizations like Dangote Cement PLC, Lafarge Africa PLC and Access Bank PLC.
To manage its statutory obligations, abide by regulations and deal with the inevitable day-to-day legal issues that crop up in an organization of this nature, MTN Nigeria has an in-house legal team of more than 15 attorneys led by the General Counsel, Ifeoma Utah.
Ajuluchukwu is a Commercial Legal Advisor to the company and specialises in dispute resolution and intellectual property. He joined MTN Nigeria in 2017 from Olajide Oyewole LLP (a DLA Piper Africa Firm), where he practiced as a senior counsel and was head of business development for Nigeria.
His move was motivated by a yearning to apply his skills within a more complex multi-jurisdictional environment and a desire to plough a different professional pathway. The transition was also easier, as he had mentors like Tony Rapu, Sandra Oyewole, Ifeoma Utah and Emeka Etiaba SAN.
Working for MTN Nigeria means working within multiple teams and providing legal advice on a host of issues. These could be complex litigation matters involving State and Federal regulatory agencies, to complicated multi-jurisdictional contracts.
What this means is that life is a daily juggle of priorities.
“I have learnt to constantly prioritise and manage expectations,” says Ajuluchukwu.
“One has to continually make judgment calls (after consulting with a team’s management) to see how to manage tasks from different parts of the organisation.”
Most corporates with in-house legal teams engage external counsel where specialised legal knowledge is required.
“Typically, at MTN Nigeria, external counsel would be engaged, for example, in instances involving dispute resolution, which in-house counsel is precluded from handling themselves. Our parameters for engaging external counsel includes: diligence, in terms of work delivery, the ability to think outside the box, as well as expertise in the particular subject in question. Once all these are considered, the decision to go with external counsel would be at the professional discretion of management, the general counsel and/or the executive in charge of the division.”
This Lagos State University alumni was inspired to become a lawyer because of his family, his love for old legal TV shows like Boston Legal and Matlock, and a conversation with his mother – in which she emphasised the beauties of practicing law.
To young lawyers looking to venture in-house he says the advantages are many. They include a different experience pathway that can lead to exciting experiences, a more predictable work schedule, working closely with the business team and interfacing directly with upper level management.
On a personal note, he says young lawyers must develop a plan for their lives. “Life can be rough when you are at sea, but a plan pulls up the sails and steadies your course. Be disciplined!’’
When Ajuluchukwu isn’t “making it rain” at MTN, he is spending time with his three and one-year-old daughters. He is an avid runner and regularly takes part in marathons. He says he’s off to Cape Town and Beirut later this year “marathoning”!