A few months ago, four members of the mooting society society participated in The Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition. Here Jimi Otitoola, Nelson Iheanacho, Tayo Akinkuolie and Alao Omeiza shone. The memories made and the lessons learnt are indelible in our minds. The participants speak to us.

Q: Why Jessup?
A: Jimi; Out of the several other competitions? I always had interest in international law. I think I even wanted to be an “international lawyer”. I had heard a lot about Jessup since my year 2. How it is the biggest moot competition in the world. This was what really pushed me to do it.

Tayo; Jessup is one of the several other competitions. I enjoy competition a lot as I see it as a platform to learn and get better. So I essentially have tried out for almost every other competition. Jessup just turned out to be one of those I was privileged to compete for.

Omeiza; I always saw Jessup as the ultimate Mooting competition. It is in fact the largest Mooting competition in the world. The opportunity of addressing international law issues drew my attention to it. That and the fact that the issues raised by the moot problem being novel could not be ignored. Frankly speaking, I am still interested in the upcoming Jessup facts as it would raise issues surrounding War Robots and a giant wall. Finally, a very good friend ensured that I participated in the Jessup competition.

Nelson; First, this is a dreaded competition. Due to the bulky nature of the facts and how wide the areas of law covered are. But I noticed that this was interesting and definitely the biggest moot Court competition. It was worth the hype. Secondly, this was my first time actually trying out for a moot competition in the society, so I decided it had to be something that was not as easy as other competitions I have seen because I needed to broaden my knowledge.

Q; Do you think International law is a viable path?
A: Jimi; Yes, it is. It deals with every area of law possible but with on a global level.

Tayo; Definitely not in Nigeria. It is easy to see that Nigeria is not really a juggernaut in international affairs and rarely have avenues for advocacy in that regard. For academia, maybe but in practical advocacy, that will be building castles in the sky with Legos.

Omeiza; Certainly. International law is a very wide area. Thus, there are many areas where people could specialize in and make a career out for themselves. The world is becoming more interconnected, contracts are beyond jurisdiction and states are being dragged into various litigations bordering on state responsibility. There is the area of International Commercial
Arbitration which is also quite interesting.

Nelson; Yes, it is. Most people won’t feel this way as they feel it’s abstract and all. No, international law affects us to a very large extent and a lot of issues transcending borders are covered therein. It is difficult to find an interesting and viable path to align our interests to such as this.

Q: What were your biggest lessons throughout the Jessup journey?
A: Jimi; Teamwork. This is probably the biggest lesson that I’m always being taught. Working together to make collective progress, and not only individual progress. No matter how good you are individually, it may not count if your teammates cannot match up. You qualify based on team
scores.

Tayo; Lessons I learnt from Jessup are beyond what I can say off the dome. However, Jessup definitely made me aware of the competitive gap between Nigerian law students and the world. Here we are taught to assimilate knowledge and be exceptional based on first our memory and
then our analytical mind. The emphasis on the first leg is so great that It dwarfs the relevance of analysis. However, in Jessup and the interaction with students from around the world, I was able to see the way the world works and how it is imperative to be able to be critical in my thinking.
The second is the gap in access to materials. I can remember us having to face a school from Turkey (we beat them by the way) and we were just two handling the issues with our pages torn out from our jotters where as our opponents came in binders, pages of authorities, books, and all
the tech support necessary. The division of labour was intimidating. Whereas we wrote all we had from internet sources. I remember citing a convention and saw my opponent cite the working paper of the group who wrote the convention so as to show the intention of the drafters of the
convention. It was no longer who was smarter but who was most prepared from available resources. I have learnt thus that as a matter of fact, that access to information is the limiter to our ability to compete globally.

Omeiza; Two of them actually. First, would be the depth of research required by the problem. The Jessup problem require lots of research and quick understanding of International rules. The Issue of finding arguments wasn’t made easy by the issue of structure. The second issue was financial concerns. We were always concerned about raising money to sponsor our participation in the competition. Thankfully, both issues were addressed adequately before the competition.

Nelson; My biggest lesson was the need to continuously add to yourself and add to the team. Even from a distance in Abuja, I tried all I could to help compile and send the final memorial. Whilst the competition was slated to hold in Abuja, where I live, I had to travel to Lagos to train with my team mates. This wasn’t just all, when I received my preliminary round performance
scores, it wasn’t bad or below 70-75, but I noticed I could get something higher and my final round showed this. Keep adding more to anything, it’s never enough.

Q: What do you think has changed for you after this competition?
A: Jimi; It helped me improve my work ethic and relationship with others. It also made me believe that anything is possible.

Tayo; I have the zeal to arm my self to be globally competitive.

Omeiza; My perception of the International Mooting competition in comparison to the National Moots. At the international rounds, the approach to the competition and the level of competitiveness is at a high level. Then the spirit of the competition is overwhelming. It showed that better approach and preparation would go a long way in improving our chances at the
international stage.

Nelson; My views about myself. Honestly, the local moot attempts I have tried out before now were unimpressive. Jessup gave me the confidence that I was a mooter, a skill so deeply rooted that I just had to practice to get it. It’s cliché, but “never say never” as prior to this, I will do anything not to moot because I felt bad about not being able to do it.

Q: How do you feel about winning the nationals and proceeding to the international rounds?
A: Jimi; For me particularly, I was extremely happy, because I was in last year’s team that lost by 0.4 points in the final round. So when we won this year, it made me really happy.

Tayo; We were confident of progress actually. We had put in the work and were undoubtedly confident that we were winning the national rounds. The international rounds were another ball
game entirely.

Omeiza; It feels (and felt) great winning the national rounds of the competition and if felt like a dream representing the university and country at the International level. The win validated the mooting society’s efforts in producing the best mooters in the country.

Nelson; Honestly, I couldn’t think for a few minutes. While my partner and I did so well in the final round and were sure of winning, the feeling that came when the results were announced was out of this world, especially with the number of runner up positions in my speaking record.
The journey to the international rounds was however short lived due to constraints, but I am glad everything happened the way it did, God’s plan.

Q: What was the experience at the international rounds?
Tayo; It was more or less filled with shaky hand and shaky voices that grew into confident voices. We basically went there with pressure to excel and although we didn’t win, we competed and were 16th best respondent memorial amongst over 150 schools from 90 + countries and in the
top 50 in rankings. So that was major for us. Apart from that we made friends, enjoyed the competition and hoped that we could get another chance to compete.

Omeiza; If I had to discuss the experience at the international rounds, it could be an exposé. Overall, the experience, from the flight to the hotel, the registration, meeting different teams and mooters from different countries, competing against the best of the best from various countries was truly amazing.

Nelson; I couldn’t go due to these constraints. But our team mates who did could not help but paint these experiences and we saw a lot we could have done better.

Q: What do you think the society has to improve on from this experience?

A: Jimi; Research resources and financing

Tayo; I doubt an interview can contain all of that. But majorly, research, training, and more support.

Omeiza; There is always room for improvement. The mooting society needs to improve on preparation. Taking every aspect of every competition serious; the memorial drafting stage, the selection process and very importantly, Logistics. The mooting society also needs to improve on the competitive spirit of its members. Finally, the mooting society would improve greatly if they could take up competitions and establish their research library

Nelson; The society is a fantastic society. The best anyone can associate with in the Faculty. We just need more research and deep discussion of some of the facts. The constraints were not by the society in fact. I am thankful.

Q: What do you have to say to people considering Jessup?

A: Jimi; Please try it. It will definitely be very challenging but it will be worth it.

Tayo; Do it!

Omeiza; Consider it. Attempt it. Try out for it. Compete for it. Go for it and win it. You would do yourself a great disservice if you leave the faculty without attempting the Jessup competition.

Nelson; Honestly, it’s never easy, nothing is. But look at the end result, you can not see the future, but you can make one. When the process drags you down, remember that you can go from only an underrated competitor to the best. Work! Work!! and Work!!! Memorials and good orals won’t be thrown from heaven, someone has to cook them.

That brings the interview to an end, the Jessup team won the national rounds as well as awards for best speaker for many of the rounds, in the international rounds their memorial ranked 16th best out of over 150 schools and they made the top fifty schools ranking. We implore members to try out later this year to be on next year’s team.

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