A new crop of global lawyers are emerging and he is most definitely one to reckon with. He holds a Master’s degree in Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law, and is studying the risks of deploying e-health applications in cloud computing for his Ph.D. His name is Iheanyi Nwankwo, aka Chambers, and he was something of a legend during his undergraduate days in the Law faculty of the University of Nigeria. From the shores of Germany, Iheanyi shares his experiences and thoughts on the Nigerian legal system. If you are in a bind [as I was] at the thought of a Lawyer deciphering the ‘risks of deploying e-health applications in cloud computing’, then you need to read this!
KA: Chambers, Chambers, Chambers! I need to know, do people still refer to you as Chambers?
Iheanyi: Yes of course. In fact I am sure most of my undergraduate classmates still do not know my name.
KA: Let’s backtrack a little. Tell me about Iheanyi Nwankwo. What is your ethnicity? Who are your parents?
Iheanyi: Iheanyichukwu is my full name. The name actually describes the circumstances of my birth as the only boy in my family and the last of six children. My parents longed for a male child till I came and they named me Iheanyichukwu, meaning “There is nothing impossible for God to do.” My English name Samuel is also reflective of that. I am from the eastern part of Nigeria, Imo State precisely. My parents are both late – Mr and Mrs Patrick and Roseline Nwankwo.
KA: May their souls continue to rest in peace, Amen. Do tell us about growing up; what experiences stand out in your growing years? Did they make or mar you?
Iheanyi: I grew up in Aba, Abia State. In fact, it is the city of my birth. Looking back down the road, one could compare it with the biblical city of Nazareth where it was once asked, “Will any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Though there was not much to look up to where I grew up, I was surrounded by the love of my mother and siblings. Above all, I had a vision. My mum had the greatest impact on me; she encouraged me a lot to take my studies seriously. She showered me with so much love and prayed for my success at all times. I would say I ended up on the quiet side. I am glad they gave me a lot to get to where I am today.
KA: Has it always been Law for you? Did you ever consider not studying Law?
Iheanyi: Ironically, my mother wanted me to study Medicine or Engineering. I chose Law myself, and have never regretted it.
KA: I know you are an alumni of the University of Nigeria; some say it is a shadow of its glory days. What is your take?
Iheanyi: Based on the standard in Nigeria, UNN is still a great institution. I cherish some of my undergraduate moments at the institution. But they need to step up the game presently in order to meet international standards. A lot has changed since its establishment, and I believe, it will still maintain its value if it could incorporate some of the modern approaches of teaching and learning such as online platforms of teaching, and international collaborations.
KA: What are the most challenging things[s] about the study of Law with particular reference to Nigerian universities?
Iheanyi: For me, a lot of theories are incorporated into the Nigerian law studies, and students are meant to cram a lot. There should be more room for practical demonstrations. For instance, it is only when you get to the Nigerian Law School, that you do the court and chambers attachments. It is too far a time for a law student to start appreciating the tools of his profession. Such practical exposure should be incorporated right from the undergraduate years of studies at the university. Similarly, experts from the field are not usually brought into the teaching system. Imagine the practical experience that will be brought to bear if a Supreme Court judge or a Justice of the Court of Appeal is brought to teach a course on the appellate jurisdiction of the court.
KA: Any mentors along the line? Any role models you aspire to meet and even surpass?
Iheanyi: I was greatly inspired by a friend Benson Olugbuo, who is also a lawyer and a graduate of UNN. As a student, Professor B.O. Okere had inspired me very much in his teaching style.
KA: So how did you come to be known in so many circles and for so many years as ‘Chambers’?
Iheanyi: It was a classmate and colleague, Gomiluk Otokwala that gave me that name when we were roommates in first year. I was coincidentally the oldest among my roommates and they accorded me that respect by making me the leader. In fact, because of all the “bookish” people in our room then, the room was regarded as a law chambers, and I was referred to as the leader. I drew a lot of inspiration from them all.
KA: As a Law Student, did you ever consider not jumping into the heat of things with core litigation after graduation?
Iheanyi: Yes. I longed to teach in fact.
KA: Do share your thoughts concerning the Nigerian legal terrain. How favourable is it to young lawyers?
Iheanyi: To me, the system is rather too hostile to young lawyers and truly discouraging. Except for few law firms, it is usually so disheartening to discuss what these young lawyers get in the name of salaries at the end of the month. And yet, many times, they are also owed months in arrears.
KA: Is the Nigerian Bar Association doing enough to protect its members in your opinion?
Iheanyi: In terms of the young ones, I don’t think so.
KA: So what is ‘Chambers’ organising these days? You have concluded your Master’s degree right?
Iheanyi: I am still studying. I did my LLM in Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law at the Institut für Rechtsinformatik, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany. I continued afterwards with my Ph.D. where I am looking at the risks of deploying e-health applications in cloud computing. I am also a research assistant at the Institute and I occasionally, hold a summer school class on the Legal Aspect of Information Security and Cloud Computing.
KA: Layman terms please! What is cloud computing?
Iheanyi: In a layman’s understanding, cloud computing represents a business model where the traditional IT solutions of enterprises are outsourced to cloud service providers. In this model, organisations do not need to purchase IT equipment such as servers, software, storage facilities, and even maintenance services. These are outsourced to dedicated IT outfits that specialise in such services, thereby allowing organisations to deal with their core business objectives. Examples of cloud service providers include Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace, Google, etc
KA: What is the intended impact of the e-health applications in society?
Iheanyi: The modern day healthcare delivery is complex and the use of ICTs has helped in solving some of this complexities. These range from recording health information in electronic formats, making such record available at any time and place, to seamlessly interoperating the various applications used in healthcare. Cloud computing appears well suited in bringing e-health to the next level because of its alignment with e-health needs such as interoperability of ICT facilities, seamless integration of data, high compute capabilities, cost reduction, availability of service, etc. This certainly will improve healthcare delivery and hopefully reduce the cost as well.
KA: And why is a lawyer talking some heavy computer/health jargon?
Iheanyi: I would say it is very important to have some legal input in the scenario described above, because of the sensitive nature of health data. It is important to know the ethical and regulatory framework upon which this can be done, in view of the data protection and security issues involved in cloud computing.
KA: What was your study experience in comparison to the Nigerian landscape?
Iheanyi: I would say I have had a different experience studying in Germany and Sweden. Here, teaching is ‘offered as a service’, and like it is said in consumerism, ‘the student is the king’. The class is not as huge as we have it in Nigeria, and student participation is very essential.
KA: I sincerely hope there is a plan to return to Africa in the cards for you?
Iheanyi: Sure. I hope to bring my experiences home and organize some courses in the field of ICT and Law.
KA: Inspire an African youth with one sentence.
Iheanyi: It does not matter where or how you started, once your eye is on your vision, you will definitely achieve it.
KA: Thank you so much for a stimulating chat.
Iheanyi: It was my pleasure!