“I started my career in litigation practice. There were times I spent the entire day in court and, yet, my case would not be heard. The poor remuneration and unsound governance structure in litigation practice made me realise that I would be better off in the more competitive and organized corporate counsel space,” says Ayoko.
Eventually, it was a combination of strategic decisions and fate that influenced his career path.
“I knew my long-term aspirations were in the corporate legal space, hence my constant search for opportunities in that direction. The first corporate role I got, I jumped!”
This was to PanAfrican Capital Plc (Formerly Spring Capital Plc, the capital arm of the former Spring Bank).
Thereafter, he joined the boutique law firm of LPC Solicitors where the practice focused on legal advisory and company secretarial services.
“I spoke with the Managing Partner, Shade Ogundare, and insisted that I practice in both units to hone my skill set without losing focus on either of the practice areas.”
Eventually, Ayoko joined First Bank and later First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Holdings Plc (FBNHoldings) as one of the pioneer staff. Subsequently, he was appointed as the Company Secretary to three of FBN Holdings’ subsidiaries focused on insurance. Two of the firms were co-owned by FBN Holdings and Sanlam of South Africa.
“I approached the roles, not like that of a seconded employee, but like a full employee. I quickly became heavily involved, overseeing the entire gamut of the respective company’s’ legal and company secretarial operations.”
He occupied these roles for nine years cumulatively before joining Berger Paints Nigeria Plc in 2018. His current role has been a great experience, and, he says, he is grateful for the support and appreciation of the Board.
“A highlight of my recent employment was the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Berger Paints Nigeria Plc, where I was commended by the shareholders for accessibility to the secretariat and by the Board for my role in the improved year-end financial results and transformation initiatives of the company. After the meeting, the representatives of the auditors, board appraisers and former directors commended the quality of the AGM, which was a testament to months of intensive preparations.”
Where anything goes wrong in a company, he says, it would be unusual for a Company Secretary/Legal Adviser to be absolved of blame. “This is because this role is to be the ‘Board’s eye’ when it is not sitting.”
Berger Paints Nigeria Plc was the first paint and coating company to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), and, he says, is working to contribute its bit towards a green and sustainable environment in Nigeria.
Ayoko says that Berger Paints, as a public limited company, ensures that its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are aligned with that of the NSE, where the protection of the environment is one of the key considerations.
He obtained his law degree from the University of Ibadan and is currently undertaking a postgraduate programme with the University of South Wales. In addition to being a member of the Nigeria Bar Association, he is a member of the International Bar Association and the Society for Corporate Governance Nigeria.
Earlier this month, Ayoko was one of the 40 Under 40 awardees at the ESQ Nigeria Legal Awards 2019. “I know there are other lawyers doing great things in the profession, but I am glad my willingness to take up challenges and break new frontiers aided my award recognition.”
In his downtime, he has a love for video games and surfing social media. To young lawyers, Ayoko advises, that their focus should be on networking, building their capacity, being ambitious, and driving themselves towards excellence.