Adapting the Designs of Hybrid Courts in Driving Access to Justice in Transnational Environmental and Climate Change Claims involving Non-state Actors in the Global South
I am a Nigerian citizen, born in the University town of Nsukka, Eastern Nigeria. Shaped by the influences of living in this University community and being attuned to the political development and happenings in my country, made possible by a constant throng of old and new magazines available at home, I developed an interest in political science, governance and law. It was then natural that my interest in becoming a lawyer grew to the point of enrolling into the law program of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, like my father before me. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University in 2016 finishing amongst the top 2% of my class and with a strong legacy in student government. Including serving as the Secretary General of the University of Nigeria Student’s Bar Association (UNSBA) and as Justice of the Student Union Government’s Court of Appeals. For my service, I was awarded a Certificate of Leadership by the University as well as numerous awards from the Student’s Bar. I was also awarded the Nwokike Literary Society’s, “Most Inspiring Writer’s Award” in recognition of my literary contributions. Nwokike is the student arm of Chinua Achebe’s Okike Literary Society of the School of General Studies, University of Nigeria.
Upon completing my undergraduate studies with an original research paper on Nigeria’s new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, I received my LLB Certificate and proceeded to the Nigeria Law School, Bwari Campus, Abuja. While at the Nigeria Law School, I was awarded a Certificate of Leadership by the Council of Legal Education, in recognition of my contributions on the Student Representatives Council. I was called to the Nigeria Bar in December 2017 and was employed by the Law Firm of Aina Blankson Attorneys as a commercial litigation attorney. I rose to become the practice head of the firms Abuja Practice in 2021. Previously, I had interned with a number of top law firms in both Lagos and Abuja including the law firms of Aluko & Oyebode, Ricky Tarfa and Associates amongst others. After years in practice, I became interested in going back to school for graduate studies and the University of Windsor was an immediate favorite.
My interest in pursuing an LLM at the University of Windsor is influenced by the program’s unique design as well as its particular focus on the broad themes of Transnational Law and Access to Justice. My research is on transnational climate change litigation involving corporate actors, and access to climate justice for citizens of the global south. It is informed by my belief in the potential of the law to protect the vulnerable and engineer responsible and responsive policies both nationally, transnationally and internationally. Conducting my research on transnational climate change law in a University as Uwindsor that is particularly interested in transnational law and access to justice is very important to me; not just for the expertise of its faculty but for the specialised interest of the program. My research project is being supervised by Professors Christopher Waters and Patricia Galvao Ferreira.
I have always been keen on utilising law’s nature as an instrument of social engineering to effect policy changes for the positive development of my community and the world at large. It was in recognition of this focus that I was selected to the panel interview of the African Initiative for Governance, an initiative to select candidates to the Blavatnik School of Public Policy at the University of Oxford. The initiative was aimed at proffering public policy solutions to a myriad of challenges facing Africa.
In addition to discussing policies, I also volunteer with the One African Child Foundation for Creative Learning (OACF) to realise the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education. This is in addition to my work with the Legal Aid Council.
My research is borne out of concern that the current international legal regime for climate change generally built on commitments, typical of international law, does not take into consideration the dire challenges posed by climate change. Moreover, the focus on nation states in climate change commitments while largely ignoring the contributions of corporations to climate damage, is a dangerous blindspot in the climate change debate. It is even more concerning when it is noted that countries in the global south without the capacity to mitigate the impact of climate change as their counterparts in the global north bear the most brunt of climate damage. Even as they have and benefit the least from the gains of these corporations causing climate change.
While climate litigation has been deployed to ensure accountability, most of the cases have been before global north courts, with courts in the global south being bogged by challenges of impartiality, weak systems, lack of personnel, issues of enforcement etc. This results in the absence of global south voices in the judicial decisions shaping such an emergent area as climate change jurisprudence. Other issues that obtain in the resolution of transnational law disputes such as conflict of laws, questions of forums etc., also exist, creating a thorny situation. I argue that a Hybrid Court system will be able to address these challenges.
I will like to utilise the findings of my research as well as my graduate education in defining and influencing policies that shape the climate change debate, especially to protect global south countries which are most vulnerable to climate change. As a Nigerian from the oil producing region of Eastern Nigeria, I have seen firsthand the environmental and climate pollution posed by harmful oil prospecting activities of Multinational oil companies. I am interested in policies that address these issues which have real life implications for my people. I am thus particularly excited for the opportunity to be conducting my research and graduate education at the University of Windsor.