NJ Ayuk, a Cameroonian, is the managing partner of Centurion Law Group, an international law firm headquartered in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The pan-African corporate law organization focuses on the financial, extractive, and energy industries. Centurion has offices throughout the continent. NJ Ayuk, a 38-year-old attorney who runs one of Africa’s most successful law conglomerates, shares some insights into what it means to be an African lawyer today from the perspective of a man who is a managing partner of a multinational firm. He believes that African lawyers are like their developed-world counterparts.
Ayuk has considerable expertise advising local and foreign firms and governments and has been actively involved in the conceptualization, negotiation, and implementation of natural resource projects throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Ayuk has been involved in some of the largest natural resource transactions in emerging Africa and has worked with major international firms advising on Africa’s resources.
In the recent acquisition of four important oil blocks in the Niger Republic, one of Africa’s leading oil exploration businesses, Oranto Petroleum, advised the Niger Republic in its negotiations. Ayuk was regarded as central to the deal and actively drafted and implemented all key documentation for the acquisition. He has advised on billions of dollars worth of natural resource transactions across Africa, covering oil, gas, infrastructure, power, steel, and manufacturing industries.
Ayuk’s activities go beyond advising international investors on natural resources. He has participated in many infrastructure projects across sub-Saharan Africa, such as airports, roads, railroads, and port development. At his young age, he’s among the most prolific African lawyers in the region.
Ayuk’s expertise is not limited to Africa. Ayuk has been a part of many major resource projects worldwide and has advised clients on various international transactions. He states that his interest in law started from a young age, which he says was influenced by his university teachers. He was mentored by Dr. Ron Walters, who shaped his belief in justice.
Ayuk states that several factors make an African lawyer successful. Firstly, it is a mindset. His attitude toward life has helped him develop his professional skills and made it easier for him to thrive in a challenging environment.
Ayuk talks about the waste of Africa’s resources and the need for better utilization of resources by Africans. He says that Africans’ lack of training and education puts them at a disadvantage. Ayuk admits that it is challenging to work as a lawyer in Africa because of the unprofessional attitude of many Africans, but he believes that this gives him an advantage. Many Africans do not value legal education and are firm in the advice of friends and family members, which shows the potential for professional growth.
He has built the Centurion Law Group to be among the most successful Pan-African commercial law practices. The group’s membership includes a diverse group of high-profile clients in all African countries and is growing rapidly while maintaining strong ties with U.S. corporate counsel. And all this despite a challenging, often hostile regulatory environment that has made pursuing growth difficult in many countries.
Ayuk believes the key to success is getting people to see the big picture, which involves understanding people. He believes this is most often the reason for African lawyers’ failure.