Cameroonian attorney NJ Ayuk is the CEO of the Centurion Law Group, a pan-African law firm. To date, he’s worked with some of the largest firms worldwide, advising on everything from corporate structure to investment to tax strategy. As a tireless litigator, he’s played a critical role in advancing Africa’s energy sector, as evidenced by his role as executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber.
Throughout his career, he’s amassed a client base across key energy strongholds on the continent, including Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, Uganda, Angola, the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Senegal. NJ Ayuk has become a master of the finer points that govern corporate law in the industrial sector. Whether applied to mergers, operations, or finances, he leans into his insight and education to streamline the experience for his clients. His reputation for accuracy and expertise is unparalleled, due to the ways he’s mastered the art of negotiation, due process, and contract law, including such subjects as exploration and production sharing agreements and judgments of acquittal.
Since its inception, the Centurion Law Group has handled a number of high-profile transactions. Most famously, it dealt with the distribution and sales of liquified natural gas to over 15 African countries. The firm was also enlisted to help with a variety of official organizations, including the Ministry of Petroleum and Energies in Senegal, the Ministry of Petroleum in South Sudan, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons in Equatorial Guinea, and the African Energy Chamber.
NJ Ayuk was instrumental in launching the offshore gas mega hub in Equatorial Guinea. This unique project was widely publicized worldwide for being the first of its kind on the continent, and it was Centurion Law Group that was behind the sharing agreement that made it possible. Ayuk has been in his field long enough to know the potential prosperity that the energy sector can bring to his homeland, and he’s respected for doing everything he can to facilitate its rise. under his leadership Centurion grew to 160 lawyers and set up a Lawyer on Demand program and was listed on the Düsseldorf Stock Exchange, marking the only listing of African-focused services firm in Germany.
In addition to helping shape the energy economy in Africa, NJ Ayuk is using his experience and expertise to train African judges and lawyers pro bono. He’s worked with the United Nations, and he’s an active participant, speaker, and moderator at numerous trade seminars and conferences. His dynamic personality and sincere enthusiasm for his country have earned him accolades across the board.
In recognition, he’s been featured in countless blogs and journals, including Forbes magazine and Who’s Who Legal. He’s also authored several bestsellers in his industry, including Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity. In his book, he argues against the perception of corruption in Africa in the energy sector. He lays out the facts and explains the complexities that drive the continent’s reputation.
NJ Ayuk has a degree from the University of Maryland at College Park and his JD from William Mitchell College of Law, both in the United States. He has an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology, and he serves as an active member of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, the Institute for Energy Law, and the Petroleum Joint Venture Association.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I basically have two jobs, Chair of the African Energy Chamber and the CEO of Centurion Law Group, which is one of Africa’s largest energy law firm.
My day often starts rather early in order to communicate with international offices. Then I am also busy with calls and emails to clients and colleagues across the continent.
I have meetings with clients as well imparting advice on various legal issues.
If I have some spare time in the morning, I conduct research in order to stay up-to-date on industry news, policies, and legislature which could affect our business. I also participate on daily media discussions about energy. I basically have to navigate from meetings to legal and energy discussions and also doing business development for the company. A lot of work is also done on the road. My travel schedule is very hectic.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I always believe that there is going to be someone trying to knock us out of the business. Therefore, I fully encourage innovation. I have done a good job at creating teams that support innovation and welcome creativity, everyone can be involved in generating ideas, improving those ideas and implementing the best ideas. My approach has always been to lead by using the change approach and spend much time motivating employees to get the job done.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The role of women in energy and the comeback of Natural Gas. With the discussion around clean energy, Oil may be the most popular way to power our lives, but it’s not without its problems. It takes a lot of energy and resources to extract oil from the ground – so much that in some cases we’re even burning fossil fuels just for access! There is hope on the horizon though- natural gas has been making waves lately as an alternative source of fuel with less harmful effects than other sources like coal or petrol.
For Africa where energy poverty is real, natural gas emits about half as many greenhouse gases per megawatt hour compared to petroleum products such as gasoline or diesel which means it’s more sustainable and environmentally friendly too because fewer emissions are released into the air when using this resource rather than others. African countries turn to have greater access these days since they’ve opened but financing continues to be a huddle. I am excited about this trend and the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am more strategic in my approach and I avoid distractions. This is what makes me productive as a CEO and Executive Chairman.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be bold and pursue your dreams. No one owes us anything. embrace your trials and shortcomings for they teach you to be a better person and lawyer. Spend wisely even when you think you have arrived where you need to be. Always think there is more and stay hungry,
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I keep it simple when it comes to message discipline and I stick to my narrative over and over and over. I have always believe in personal responsibility and better message discipline as keys for me to run our business. Being able to clearly and consistently communicates our law firm or even the energy chamber’s position that is relevant to their target demographic. The public knows what we stand for, and why that position is good for customers.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think I failed in my ability to win over some of my strongest critics in the beginning. Made a boneheaded mistake to think that I can accomplish a lot by myself and not reaching out to the so many smart people out there. Running a business isn’t just about smartness and being tough. I hate to admit but I had to go ask for help from some of my most ardent critics. You will be surprised that they helped me in turning around the business and growing it tremendously.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Technology is going to help Africa leapfrog to the future. That’s going to be the big money maker in the future.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Taking my wife to dinner. Sitting with her and talking about a lot of things made me realize how much I still have to learn and grow. But she gave me big ideas about podcasting and how to think about women and energy.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires” by Dennis Kimbro.
What is your favorite quote?
“No man is an island entirely of itself. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” John Donne,
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.