Prince Uwemedimoh Ekpo Essien, LL.N. (Hons.) BL., MNIM, AICMC.

By Abasifreke Effiong

Prince Uwemedimoh Ekpo Essien, one of the Who is Who in the Nigerian Petroleum industry, a former Group General Manager, Legal Services Division, and Company Secretary, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation clocked 82 years on April 14, less than a fortnight ago. His family, friends, associates and community are making elaborate plans to celebrate this refined solicitor, father husband, grandfather and fan of jazz music, on Friday 29th April.

The birthday bash which will hold at the Emerald event centre, Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, will feature public presentation of two books written by Prince Uwemedimoh Essien. The celebration will get to a culmination on Sunday, 1st May, when Prince Essien and his family will worship God in thanksgiving at the prestigious Qua Iboe Church, Nung Oku Ekanem, ONNA local government area.

The life of this refined Solicitor and martinet, his exploits and contributions to law profession and practice, judicial reforms in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and the defunct South-Eastern State have etched the name, Prince Uwemedimoh Essien on the golden, honour’s roll of Who is Who in Law profession in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria and beyond.

Born on April 14, 1940 in Nung Oku Ekanem, Awa, in the present day Onna local government area, Akwa Ibom State, Prince Uwem Essien as he is fondly attended Lutheran School, Nung Oku Ekanem, in January, 1948, from where he left for Mbioto Town School in 1949. He proceeded to Mbioto Central School in 1951 and completed that session of education in 1955 with the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC). In March 1956, he was admitted into Aquinas Secondary School, Christiansburg, Accra, where he obtained his West African School Certificate (WAEC) in June, 1960. The same year, 1960, he gained admission into the famous Achimota College, Accra, where he obtained his General Certificate in Education (GCE), Advance Level Papers in June 1962.

While in the secondary and higher schools in Accra, Ghana, Prince Essien made his services available to the schools and his fellow students by functioning as a member, Students Council, Aquinas College, Accra, and Dormitory Prefect, Achimota College, Accra. In those days, it meant so much to be selected for such offices.

After his higher school studies in Achimota College, Prince Essien taught English Literature at the New Era Secondary School, Accra, between1962-63. He was also the school’s Games Master. He utilized the intervening period between his secondary and higher school studies in Accra effectively by teaching during holidays at Menso Commercial School, Accra, and also worked as a Clerk at the Census Office, Accra, in 1960.

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In 1963, Prince Essien returned to Nigeria and took up an appointment as a Clerk in the Lands Registry Division of the then Ministry of Lagos Affairs. His first encounter with the law was when the Land Registry was transferred from the Ministry of Lagos Affairs to the High Court of Justice, Lagos and the Registrar of Titles assigned him to work in the Law Library.

Called to Bar as Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on June 16, 1972, Prince Essien, this proud alumnus of the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria, have created for himself distinctive imprints in leadership, mentorship, and philanthropy.
At ABU, Prince Essien served as National Treasurer of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS). During his tenure in the NUNS, he organised the first ever Association of Commonwealth Students Conference, which was held in Kano and was attended by students from 29 countries. He was also actively involved in the activities of the NUNS, which resulted in the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1971. He was also elected President of the prestigious Alpha club, Institute of Administration, ABU in 1970, because of his dedication, commitment towards improving the welfare of the students.

The longest episode of Prince Essien’s has life revolved around his profession. He talks about nothing without chipping in the Law. He loves the Law. In fact he is a martinet of the Law. After his call to the Bar in 1972, he took up an appointment as Pupil State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice in June 1972 in the newly created South-Eastern State. He first served in the Customary Court Division and helped to develop and reform Customary Courts as they now exist in the Cross River and Akwa Ibom States. He was later transferred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions where at various times, he was the State Counsel-in-Charge of Uyo and Ikot Ekpene Judicial Divisions.

During his stint in the Ministry of Justice, Prince Essien handled many civil and sensational criminal cases in the Magistrate Courts, High Courts, Armed Robbery Tribunals, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Through dint of hard work and devotion to duty, Prince Essien rose from Pupil State Counsel in 1972 to the position of Deputy Solicitor General (Law Research) in 1981, when he left the Ministry of Justice, Calabar to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Lagos, on secondment.

At NNPC, he was appointed Deputy Legal Officer from which position he rose to become the Group General Manager, Legal Division/Secretary to the Corporation in 1993. A reorganization and the splitting of Corporate Secretariat and Legal in 1997, saw him appointed, Secretary to the Corporation (NNPC), a position he held until his retirement in July, 1999, after about 36 years of meritorious service to the nation.

During his sojourn in NNPC, Prince Essien touched many lives positively. In addition to his functions as Head of Legal Division and Secretary to the Corporation, Prince Essien served in various capacities, some of which were member, NNPC Group Tenders Board: President, NNPC Table Tennis Club; Chairman, NNPC Staff Home Ownership Scheme Committee; and member, NNPC Pensions Board. He is a member of many professional organizations, including Academy of American & International Law, the Nigerian Bar Association, American Bar Association, Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, Petroleum and Mining Law Association of Nigeria, International Bar Association, Nigerian Institute of Management (MNIM), Associate member, Institutes of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (AICMC).

Prince Essien has remained fastidious about his profession. He talks about it, still practices and teaches the Law 22 years after his retirement. Currently, he is the Managing Partner of the Law Firm of Essien, John & Associates with offices in Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Uyo and Eket. He is also a Director in many companies, including Baywood Continental Limited (an oil servicing company), Rexes International Nigeria Limited, Drake Oil Limited and Rexes Farms.

Beyond his Law profession, the other wonderful allures of Prince Essien’s life are travelling, community service and church planting. He has traveled to 25 countries for official duties and private engagements, including, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, France, Switzerland, Singapore, the Netherlands, Bermuda, Lebanon, Dubai – UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Cameroun and Ghana.

During his stay in Lagos from 1963 to 1972 and 1981 to 1997, Prince Essien was active in various churches, social and community services groups. He founded/established Cosmopolitan Star (Football) Club, Apapa, Lagos; South Eastern State Youths Association, Lagos; Qua Iboe Church, Apapa Branch, Lagos, 1964; Nung Oku Itinna Development Union, Lagos, 1987; Awa Area Development Association, Lagos, 1987.

He was also active in the then Cross River State and later, Akwa Ibom State Community in Lagos. While in Calabar in 1972, the young community development enthusiast co-founded Awa Area Development Association, Calabar. This organisation spearheaded many of the development projects, which are evident in Awa, today. During the troubled days in Awa Clan, particularly in the 80s, Prince Essien who had demonstrated uncommon passion for community development contributed immensely to the restoration of peace and unity in the Clan. That leading, mediatory role was perhaps the reason he was conferred with the Chieftaincy title of Obong Emem Awa by the Onna traditional rulers council.

Prince Essien loves his people and his community. He does not hesitate to mobilise, contribute and lead processes that will bring development to his community. On a personal note, the Obong Emem Awa founded the Prince Foundation for Youth and Children Development, a philanthropic non-governmental organization. The organization has been at the vanguard of giving scholarships, instructional materials and books to schools and students across the State. It has consistently endowed the coveted Prince Uwem Essien Prize in Criminal Law, and Home Economics in the University of Uyo, as well as the prizes for three secondary schools in Awa Clan. This is in addition to sponsorship of leadership seminars for teachers and students, and end-of-year, unity football competition in Onna.

A life member of the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International and recipient of numerous awards, including International Biography Centre Cambridge 21st Century Award for Achievement in the Field of Petroleum Law and Community Development; Honorary member of International Biographical Centre Advisory Council, Marquis Who’s Who in the World, and holder of Merit Award by the Law Society, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. He holds the prestigious chieftaincy title of Obong Ifiok (King of Wisdom) of ONNA; Obong Ifiok Use Offot, Uyo; Obong Ifiok of Mbioto II, Etinan Local Government Area and Obong Unwam of Ikwe village in ONNA Local Government Area.

Prince Essien is happily married with children. He enjoys listening to gospel music, African music, jazz and reading. He engages in social, religious and philanthropic activities.

Happy 82nd birthday to a fine story-teller, mentor, fount of knowledge and humanist, Obong Prince Uwemedimoh Ekpo Essien, LL.N. (Hons.) BL., MNIM, AICMC.

This spotlight was written with inputs from the citation of Obong Prince Essien.