Tsema Okoye , Lawyer, Nigeria

Training case study: Tsema Okoye

These trainings make a significant impact on your career as a lawyer. I went in with a need to learn how I can expand my knowledge base, I left with a need to do more … I’m excited about what the future has for my work on rights in Nigeria.”

Tsema Okoye has been practicing law for 12 years and works in development and litigation with focus on human rights. She runs the Zuriel Chambers law firm in Nigeria and attended the West Africa Digital Rights and Freedom of Expression workshop MLDI ran in Lagos in September 2018.

Tsema found out about the training from the Afrikpro Facebook page. She said: “I was immediately interested because Nigeria had recently begun an unfair clampdown on online bloggers and social media influencers who were critical of leadership in the States and the Federal government.”

She points to the country’s history to explain the current attitudes towards journalists, bloggers, and other online media: “Our history of military rule has a huge impact on freedom of expression. Our leaders, in politics and otherwise, are not accustomed to receiving criticism and accepting that dissenting voices exist and are necessary for democracy to thrive. Our history of colonialism does not help either.”

Tsema most wanted to learn about how to use regional human rights instruments and courts in litigating freedom of expression topics. She especially enjoyed the interactive nature of the sessions – including the moot court – and found the surgery enriching in multiple ways.

“The biggest take away for me is that justice is accessible, citizens just need to be guided on the available remedies”

“The biggest take away for me is that justice is accessible, citizens just need to be guided on the available remedies,” said Tsema. “The use of regional instruments for the protection of freedom of expression in Africa has become imperative.”

The course has already had an impact on Tsema’s career: since attending the training, she has begun taking bold steps to improve access to justice. She explains: “My practice has already begun to change, I am currently in the process of starting a coalition of lawyers who will take on litigation of digital rights pro bono, in order to set judicial precedence on freedom of expression and digital rights as a whole.”

To any lawyers considering attending, she is unequivocal: “Please, go ahead and do it, there is so much you can learn. These trainings make a significant impact on your career as a lawyer. I went in with a need to learn how I can expand my knowledge base, I left with a need to do more … I’m excited about what the future has for my work on rights in Nigeria.”

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