BY Samuel Okpo, Imaobong Mfon
There is a saying that “the journey of a thousand miles always begins with a step”. As a matter of fact, what started as a joke in the academic pursuit of a legendary educationist has turned out to be a celebrated adventure of a man whose historical academic journey on earth has recorded tremendous positive impacts in education sector not only in Nigeria but, the world in general.
Precisely on the 29th January, 1960 at Mbiaobong Edem Edik, in the current Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, a baby boy was born into the world with primary assignment by God to make a history in contributing towards the development of education in this part of globe. As he grew up, his parents taught him the tenets of Christian faith.I believe he might have been enjoined to always reference God in all his endeavours, while seeing himself as a Servant leader. After many years of endless struggles in achieving excellent in his chosen carrier, today, the people of Ibiono Ibom, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and indeed the world at bulky are rolling out drums in camaraderie of a man who has distinguished himself in the legal practice. By the special grace of God, he has successfully emerged a trail blazer and a legal hero in the 21st century. Indeed people in the global spectrum views him as a source of inspiration and a pace-setter for generation of young legal luminaries in Nigeria.This exemplary leader is a fountain of wisdom which people comes from far and near to tap from his long standing wealth experience, just as it happened in King Solomom’s days. The character in the picture is no mean a personality but, the current fifth Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Uyo, Prof Enefiok Effiong Essien. As a man whose desire was to achieve greatness in his academic pursuit, the erudite Prof. Enefiok Essien attended Ibiono Ibom community high school in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area, in 1974 – 1978, and proceeded to school of journalism and television, Berkshire England, in 1978-1979. On October, 1980-1984 Prof.Essein attended the University of Calabar Nigeria, before he moved to the Nigerian law school, Lagos between the span of 1984-1985. Being a man who seen the future in academic advancement, the educationist got admitted into the University of Lagos for his LLM, and graduated in 1988 and later proceeded to the University of Birmingham England, where he obtained his Ph.D, as a Doctor of Philosophy of Law in 1998. Accordingly, in 2001, Prof.EnefiokEffiongEssein,became a Professor of Property and Commercial Law. In line with the word ofWinston Churchill,who said “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” Prof. Essien,has gathered vast experience in the process of his legal practice while working in reputable legal firms and universities in and outside the country.During his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), EnefiokEssien was alecturer in the Faculty of Law,University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. He had practiced as a lawyer in S. JOfoluwa and Co, still in Rivers State, between1985 to 1986, in 1986, Prof. Essein was a lecturer II, Faculty of Law in the University of Cross River state, Uyo, and equally served as a legal adviser to Itu Local Government Council, AkwaIbom state, before he became lecturer 1 in the same University in 1990-1992. Considering his intimidated academic profile, Prof.Essein, was promoted to the position of a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law in the current University of Uyo, before he was appointed Acting Head of Department in the department of Private Law in 1990-1995, and later got promoted into an enviable position of the Vice Dean, faculty of Law in Uniuyo, having held the two offices simultaneously. A saying goes that (all works without play made Jack a doll boy). Prof. Enefiok Effiong Essein took a study leave to England for his PHD degree in 1995-1998. Upon his returned from England, he rose to the position of an Associate Professor of Law in the University of Uyo, from 1998-2001. Based on his intellectual ability and meaningful contributions to legal education in Nigeria and beyond, Enefiok Effiong Essein became a Professor of Law in the University of Uyo since 2001 till date. Within the period of 2000-2009 Essien, became dean, Faculty of Law in Uniuyo, in addition, he was reappointed into the same office in 2012 to November 2015 before his elevation to the apex position as Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Uyo, Nigeria. It is pertinent to emphasis here that, before the emergence of Prof. Enefiok Essien, as the VC on November 2015, he had rendered outstanding services within the University community. In 1989, he was appointed member, Appointment and Promotion committee, electoral office, Ikot Asura campus UNICROSS, member, University research committee, member, senate appeals committee, chairman investigation panel of Burglary of senior staff club and Geography department, member senate committee on policy on transfer by students, member, business committee of senate, member, panel on allocation of grave misconduct in academy affairs; member, ASSU-UUB constitution review committee; member, on assault occasioning harm on miss Fedelia Opera, member, sub-committee on convocation lecture, honorary degrees and addresses, member, central budget committee, permanent member of senate, University of Uyo.
Because of his quest for excellence service in the University, Prof. Essien, Enefiok was appointed chairman committee of Deans (Dean of Deans), member of management UNIUYO, member, committee on staff development matters, member, Governing council of the University of Uyo, member, committee Appraise part-time programs in UNIUYO, member investigation panel on disturbances by students, member, Senior staff disciplinary committee, member, capital projects an services committee, member, committee on strategic economic partnerships; member, Board of school of continuing education, member, selection panel for the appointment of bursar, member, interview panel for regulation of academic staff on temporary appointments, associates editor, ASSU- UNIUYO Journal, member, committee on propose guideline for the assessment of staff of fresh applicants for professorial Appointments in the University of Uyo. Prof. Essien, had served in intellectual property an technology transfer committee; Member, Governing board of center for gender and women studies, Member committee to sort out issues and cases to be handled at faculty level and senate, Member, committee on labour relations, Acting Vice Chancellor, University of Uyo, before his elevation as vice Chancellor of University Uyo.
In view of his unprecedented prowess in the academic society in Nigeria, Prof. Enefiok Essien had been appointed External examiner in the Under listed Universities, River State University of science and technology, port Harcourt; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Ebonyi State University Abakaliki, Ebonyi State; University of Calabar, Cross River State; Abia State University Oturu; Abia State; Delta State University, Benue State University, Makurdi; Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State; Ambros Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State; University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos; Nnamndi Azikiwe University, Awka; Imo State University, Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State; amongst others.
The Vice chancellor had been professorial External Assessor for the Law faculties of Ibinedion University, Akada, Edo State; amongst other Universities in the country earlier mentioned. Prof. Enefiok Essen had supervised, examined theses for some of the candidates for PHD degrees; including two senior advocates of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Alexander AigbeIzinyon, SAN, Amechi Nwaiwu, SAN amongst numerous others.
In the area of National Assignments/appointment, The Vice chancellor, Essien, Enefiok Effiong was a member in the following reputable bodies, national Universities commission Accreditation panel to evaluate Law degree programs in the Universities in the western zone of Nigeria, in 2006. In 1998, he was appointed member, NUC Accreditation panel to assess Law degree programs in all the Universities in Northern zone of the country, apart from being member, NUC mop-up acridities panel evaluate Law programmes in Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State.
Prof. Essien between 2000- 2009, was made member, Governing Council of Legal education in Nigeria (CLE); Mmber, Nigerian institute of advanced legal studies Governing council, Appointments and promotion committee (LCE) and member, board of studies Council of Legal Education (CLE) etc.
During the Senate retreat on review of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Held at Delta convention center Asaba in Delta State in 2012, Prof. Essien was one of the credible resource persons/panelists.
He was chairman of session, National Security Dynamics: The Role of the Legislature, at the 3rd conference of presiding officer of Nigeria legislatures, organized by clerkof the National Assembly, at Lemeridian Hotel, Uyo, on October, 2008.
Again, in 2007, the registrar- General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja, appointed Prof. Enefiok Essien, as the Chairman, Editorial Board of the Nigerian company Law reports in recognition of his expertise in this aspect of the Law and his quantum contributions towards the development of companies. Accordingly, Nigerian Bar Association having considered his sterling quality and successful Blue print in the Bar, saddled Prof Essien with the following responsibilities;chairman workshop session of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), lkot Ekpene Branch, 2004 Bar week celebrations, Ekukinam Hall, lkotEkpene, chairman, general practices session of the NBA Eket branch, at 2004 Bar week celebration at Royalty Hotel, Eket, Chairman NBA UyoBranch 2008 Bar week opening ceremonies, held at Judiciary Multi- Purpose Hall, Uyo; chairman, Continuing Legal Education Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, Uyo branch since 2009 to date, chairman, joint NBA Uyo-Ikot Ekpene-Eket committee on seminar on new High Court (civil procedure) Rules of Akwa Ibom State at the Governor’s office Annex, Uyo; chairman of the editorial/Uyo bar journal committee, and paper presenter on ‘Lawyers and professional ethics’, at the NBA Uyo branch Bar week on 10 December, 2007.
Prof. Enefiok Effiong Essien is a member of many professional bodies including; Nigerian Bar Association, commonwealth SFP Alumni Association, the Honorable society of the inner temple (England) and Nigerian institute of management.
Within the span of 1985-1993, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof. Essien, had gathered enormous experience in Legal practice in the following legal firms; S.J. Ofoluwa& Co (legal practitioner) 16 Abonnemawhart road, port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mfon M Inam & associates(Legal practitioners),No 1, Aba Road, Ikot Ekpene, AkwaIbom State; Alhaji Noibi& Co.(Legal practitioners) No. 17 Bode Thomas street, Lagos.
He was appointed Notary public for Nigeria by the chief Justice of Nigeria, and since 1992 to date; He is principal partner, prospect chambers &Co. (Legal Practitioners and the Notary public), No. 93 Udo Umana Street, Uyo, AkwaIbom State.
Prof. Essien, Enefiok has received several awards, honors and prizes from around the world. He has bagged Commonwealth Study fellowship award, 2nd Development in Nigeria Education Merit Award, Africa AGE International Achievers Gold Award, Grant Legends in Africa Gold Award, Teslim Elias Excellence Award by National Association of Law Teachers, Award of honor by Niger Delta youth Alliance for Change, 4th Distinguished Nation Builders Merit Award; seal of Excellence Award, as Distinguished Law Educationist, by Institute of Cooperate Administration of Nigeria, Award of Excellence By NBA, Excellence Award by Lion Club (District 404A), outstanding Lecturer Award, by Law students Association of Nigeria, Education Ambassador. Sincerely speaking, Prof. Enefiok Essien had received no fewer than thirty four outstanding awards from reputable organizations in and outside the shore of Nigeria. He has presented papers in over 40 conferences/ seminars/workshops in the country and beyond, and published over 105 books, journals and articles that won him the professorship in the university community.
Therefore, as Prof. Enefiok Effiong Essien celebrates one year in office as the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Uyo, it is imperative for his family, the academic community in Nigeria, the Churches of Christ, friends and indeed the general public to thank God for His many blessings upon his and also pray God to continue to guide and give him more wisdom to contribute towards the advancement of education for benefit of humanity in general.