“The highlight of my career was when Sefton Fross won the bid to act as Counsel to the Debt Management Office (DMO) on its debut N100 Billion Sukuk.”
Olayemi Anyanechi is the founder and Managing Partner of Sefton Fross, a leading law firm in Nigeria. She began her career at the then MBC International Bank Limited, from where she left to study for an LLM in corporate and commercial law at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge as a Chevening Scholar and won a Pegasus Trust scholarship while in Cambridge. On returning to Nigeria, Olayemi joined the law firm, Olaniwun Ajayi; she left to become the General Counsel of the Sahara Energy Group of Companies in 2005. She joined Templars as a Partner in 2006 where she headed the Banking & Finance Practice until she left in 2013 to found Sefton Fross. Under her leadership, Sefton Fross has won several awards including “Energy Team of the Year” and “Oil and Gas Team of the Year” ( ESQ Legal Awards) in 2014 & 2015 respectively. Sefton Frost was also included in BusinessDay’s “Top 100 Fastest-Growing SMEs in Nigeria” in 2018. Olayemi is currently the regional representative (Africa) of the International Bar Association’s power law committee and the chairman of the Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate Re-Organisations Committee of the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, amongst others. She has been consistently recognised as one of the leading finance and energy and infrastructure lawyers in Nigeria by Legal 500, IFLR1000, Who’s Who Legal, and Chambers and Partners.
University, science or arts?
I studied Law at the University of Ibadan. I also did a Masters at the University of Cambridge, with a focus on corporate and commercial law. That determined my path because I found the courses so interesting. I actually got into university to study Chemistry. Sciences were my favourite subjects at St. Loius Secondary School, Ondo. However, after 2 years studying chemistry, I switched to law because I felt a little short changed. It was clear that the facility we had for studying chemistry wasn’t cutting edge. So, without telling my parents, I switched to law and I haven’t regretted it. I felt it would always be a relevant discipline.
Your first job?
I worked in a bank. It was called MBC International Bank Limited (it is now part of First Bank). Frankly, I took the banking job for the money because law firms weren’t paying nearly as well as banks then. But after my second year in the bank, I was beginning to find it a bit monotonous. I went for a Master’s degree and came back to work for a law firm called Olaniwun Ajayi.
Who was the bigger influence: mum or dad?
I was a daddy’s girl but both parents influenced me in different ways. My dad was a workaholic and he taught me to work hard, to be punctual and have integrity. He was the Government Printer of the Ondo State Government Press. My mother taught me to believe in myself and stand up for what I believe in. She was a teacher.
Any teacher you remember?
My math teacher in secondary school, Reverend Sister Frances McManus taught me that no matter how good you are, you can make mistakes. This has influenced me to be meticulous and pay great attention to detail.
Your best boss ever?
I would say Oghogho Akpata, my managing partner at Templars. In a world where women struggle to be recognized and compensated for what they can bring to the table, Oghogho gave me my due for the value I brought to the Firm. Gender wasn’t an issue. He also taught me to keep my eye on the bigger picture when building a business and not get bogged down with the little things. He is a good entrepreneur and working with him prepared me to take the plunge later on.
What’s the highlight of your career…so far?
The highlight of my career was when Sefton Fross won the bid to act as Counsel to the Debt Management Office (DMO) on its debut N100 Billion Sukuk in the domestic market in 2017. This was very significant because we won it purely on merit, without any influence peddling in our favour during the entire bidding process. I was later told we were selected because our proposal was comparable to that from leading international law firms. This gave me faith in Nigeria, that you can make it through sheer hard work and dedication.
What type of music do you like?
Everything. It really depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to listen to hip-hop. Other times, I like some good oldies, like Ebenezer Obey. Sometimes, I just want to listen to solemn hymns. I love to dance and would dance to any music with a good rhythm. Some hits that I enjoyed growing up include “Heat of the Moment” by After 7. I enjoyed dancing the “running man” step to that one back in the day.
Who are your favourite authors?
I am an avid reader of diverse books. I enjoy fiction and great stories, especially science fiction, epic fantasies and suspense. I enjoy losing myself in an alternate world. Authors I have enjoyed reading include George R. Martin and Robin Hobb. I had read The Song of Ice and Fire years before Game of Thrones hit the screens, and trust me, the books are always nicer than the TV or movie adaptations. Because I spend so much time reading heavy material because of my job, I like to “get away” when I read for leisure.
So what are you reading now?
A book titled “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss. I would say it’s about enduring great loss and rising out of the ashes to do something worthwhile for mankind. It’s the first book of a trilogy so there is still a long way to go.
What’s the most expensive fashion accessory that you have purchased?
A Rolex Lady-Date watch. I bought it in the US in 2008. I still wear it once in a while, But these days I am more likely to use my phone to tell the time.
What’s your take on wealth?
I am a capitalist. I believe in getting rewarded for solving problems for people and society. However, I believe that wealth should not drive you. It is a tool and should not be a life goal. There should be a point where you draw the line in the pursuit of wealth.
What Nigerian brand to you like?
I like Ebeano. A Nigerian brand that has proved to be a great place to get groceries.
What’s your favourite place to go in Nigeria and abroad?
In Nigeria, I like Lagos, because it’s my home, although I spend most of it at work or in my house. Abroad, I like London. I like that things work. The transport system is very predictable and I like that about the city. I like to be able to plan my day even when on vacation.
Best use of money ever for you.
Mine and my children’s education
What are your indulgences?
Shoes. Again I like a lot of brands. I have a few Jimmy Choo, some Valentino, for example but I can’t say I am loyal to any brand.
Jewelry. Do you prefer gold or silver?
I am more of a pearls person.
Tea or coffee?
Ginger and peppermint tea
If you found Buhari sitting next to you at a restaurant what would be your biggest policy ask?
Policies that promote foreign direct investment.
On ideology, are you to the left or the right?
I told you I am a capitalist. Also in terms of social questions, I am to the right. I believe in traditional values. But I know when to compromise.
Where do you see Nigeria in 10 years?
We are blessed with human and material resources. We just need to fix infrastructure and I think it’s possible in 10 years.
Do you think Nigeria should be modeled after India or China?
History has shown us that we are different. We need to carve out something that works for us.
Thanks a lot for your time.
The Lunch Hour was at:
Marcopolo Chinese Restaurant, Lekki
Special fried rice
Sweet and sour Chicken sauce