Communiqué Issued By The Nigerian Bar Association At The Close Of Her 57th Annual General Conference
Posted: 04/Oct/2017

 The 57th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA with the theme AFRICAN BUSINESS: PENETRATING THROUGH INSTITUTION BUILDING held at the Landmark Events Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria from August 21 to 24, 2017.

The Annual General Conference of the NBA is a veritable platform for Lawyers, Judges, Academics, and other stakeholders within and outside the legal profession, in Nigeria and other countries, to learn, exchange ideas, reflect upon and proffer solutionswhich is to be the vanguard for the promotion and defence of the rule of law, legal institutions, good governance, social justice and the dignity of all persons.

The Conference is traditionally preceded by pre-conference meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to review preparation for the conference in addition to addressing any pressing issues affecting the Association and to prepare for the Annual General Meeting of the Association which usually holds on the last day of the Conference. Both the pre-conference NEC meeting and the Annual General Meeting took place as scheduled on Sunday 20th August and Thursday 24th August respectively.

The theme of the 57th Annual General Conference of the NBA hoped to draw attention on the critical role of institutions in the development of the country and indeed of the Continent. It is a theme that speaks to the dilemma of both Africa’s public and private sector institutions but also that of the legal profession in Nigeria. Africa’s public and private sectors lack robust and resilient institutions capable of creating stable governance environment, ensuring political stability, social protection and economic prosperity. The legal profession in Nigeria, and indeed much of Africa has remained largely poorly developed and fragmented and generally incapable of providing the much needed legal support for that have essentially remained weak and unable to propel the continent’s prosperity in a highly competitive globalized economy.

The NBA upon review of conference deliberations is fully persuaded of the need to continue and further stimulate the conversation around the building of strong institutional frameworks, which will engender social justice, macro-economic stability and usher in economic prosperity for our country and the African continent.

Pre-Conference Activities

The formal activities of the conference begun at the Nigeria Stock Exchange, one of Africa’s leading stock exchange. The President of the Nigeria Bar Association led a team of senior lawyers to the closing bell ceremony on Thursday, 17th August, 2017. The NBA President remarked that the Ceremony was symbolic and marked NBA’s recognition of the exchanges role in the development of Nigeria’s capital market but also hoped will further strengthen the partnership between the two organisations. The ringing of the bell was a first for any NBA President, and

underscored the importance of strong institutions as a catalyst for capital formation and channeling to deserving sectors of the economy.

The pre-conference activities continued on Friday 18th August, 2017 with the Jumuat prayer at the Lagos Central Mosque attended by the NBA President in the company of many senior lawyers. The Deputy Chief Imam of the Central Mosque and the Baba Adini of Lagos offered special prayers for the success of the conference. On Saturday 19th August, the President led many lawyers to the Palace of Oba of Lagos on a special courtesy visit to pay homage and also seek Royal support and blessings of the Oba. On Sunday 20th August the 1st Vice President Mr. Caleb Dajan, in company of the Chairman, Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP); Prof. Konyinsola Ajaji SAN participated in Sunday Service at the Cathedral at Marina. Special prayers were also offered for the success of the conference.

Conference Structure

The conference with 11, 000 registered delegates and 142 speakers, was held at Landmark Event Centre, a viewing centre, at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, and watched live on Channel 197 created especially for the Conference by DSTV. Proceedings were through knowledge exchange, a debate, discussions, and knowledge sharing, structured around six plenary sessions, and 28 breakout sessions. There were also five showcase sessions by Lagos State, Rivers State, Kano State, Ondo State and Bauchi State to promote investment opportunities in their respective States.

Tristate Cardiovascular Associates Limited, a partner to the Conference provided health screening services as well as emergency health support throughout the Conference period. A total of 1738 delegates were screened for various health conditions including hypertension, diabetes and other stress related conditions. The Tristate team also made several presentations throughout the conference days on various health related issues, including sleep disorders, cardiovascular health and work-live balance and life style changes for healthy living.

1.1 OPENING CEREMONY

The Conference was formally declared open at 7pm on Sunday the 20th day of August, 2017, by the Vice President of Nigeria Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON represented by the Hon. Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN. In attendance were the Chief Justice of Nigeria Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen GCON, President of the NBA, National Officers, Senior Lawyers ,Justices of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judges of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, Chief Judges of Kogi and Ondo States, representative of Chief Judge of Kano and other High Court Judges, the Solicitor-General Ministry of Justice, DayoApata, Esq representing the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami SAN; State Governors, Senators, Federal and State Parliamentarians, Heads of government agencies, Clergy, the Oba of Lagos, HRH Oba RilwanAkiolu and Members of the Public. There were several international guests including the former Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. NikaGilauri, representatives of Law Societies of Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia as well as England and Wales.

1.2The President of the Nigerian Bar Association delivered a welcome address explaining the significance of the 2017 NBA annual conference and the background to the choice of the Conference theme. He stated the commitment of

the NBA to the development of strong and robust institutions not only in Nigeria but across the continent. He emphasized the need to pursue urgent regulatory reform of the legal profession in Nigeria to equip the profession better to play its role in national development. The Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Governor of Lagos State and the Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Justice all read speeches around the conference theme and welcoming guests to the conference. In His address the Vice President welcomed the choice of the conference theme and emphasized the role of the strong institutions in guaranteeing good governanceand creating economic prosperity. He formally declared the Conference open. The following key issues emerged at opening:

That:

  1. Building and sustaining strong institutions requires the collective commitment of all citizens and government.

 

  1. There is urgent need for the Nigerian government to build and empower business institutions for greater effectiveness and credibility. In this regard, government should be committed to supporting private institutions by creating the enabling environment for business growth.
  1. The existence of checks and balances is a necessary component of institution building. Government should therefore respect the provision of the Constitution on the separation of powers and checks and balances.
  1. There is need for an urgent and in-depth review of the legal framework for regulation of businesses in Nigeria and Africa at large.
  1. The Federal Government of Nigeria must fashion out and unwaveringly implement and streamline pro-growth policies to ease up the doing of business in Nigeria.
  1. The Nigerian government must live and lead by example, eschew corruption within its ranks and ensure a more conducive environment for doing business.
  1. There is need for greater transparency, accountability and fiscal discipline in designing and implementing budgets in Nigeria.
  1. The increasingly loud call for devolution of power from the Federal Government of Nigeria to the federating units, and the guarantee of fiscal autonomy to these federating units is one which should be given every consideration as devolution of powers to the federating units will help fashion stronger institutions.
  1. The Federation of Nigeria is better off as one strong united nation.
  1. Nigerian governments and all stakeholders should invest in succession and sustainable transitioning of businesses from one generation to the next.
  1. The anti-corruption agencies must conduct the war against corruption within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law and the Constitution.

2.0. Conference resolutions and recommendations

2.1 The first plenary session tagged conversation with the Vice President at 10.00am Monday 21st August was anchored by Zein Asher, a CNN anchor that was specifically invited for the purpose. The following themes and recommendations emerged:

  1. Africa requires strong institutions; strong leaders and governments must thus commit to building strong and resilient institutions.
  1. Political and business certainty are key for free flow of investment into Africa, which can be catalysed only through strong institutions, good policies, good leaders and enforcement of Codes of corporate governance.
  1. Success in the fight against corruption can be enhanced through proper outsourcing and transparent privatization of state owned enterprises and well-structured Private Public Partnerships (PPPs). Use of technology in government business could enhance transparency and minimise human discretion and reduce opportunities for corruption.
  2. Government should establish specialised courts to try corruption-related cases. And the role of lawyers in the war against corruption, and building of strong institutions cannot be over emphasised.
  1. Recognising that the efficient dispute resolution contributes to the development of African business environment and investment climate, the judiciary should embrace and appreciate its role as a vital component in economic development and ensure speedy, cost effective and qualitative resolution of commercial disputes including the establishment of specialised ADR Courts.
  1. To build strong and credible institutions, governments should ensure merit appointments to public offices and ensure public servants are properly remunerated. Governments should also promote transparency and accountability in both private and public institutions and encourage adherence to due process and ethics in governance.
  1. Lawyers are called upon to live up to their responsibilities and public expectation and be ready to defend the course of good governance, institution building and the rule of law ,recognising the fact that lawyers, which traditionally and globally, form an important part of the nucleus to build and stabilise society by guarantying rule of law, due administration of justice, law and order, and thereby create the framework for economic growth, sustainable development, and eradication of poverty and other societal ills including corruption, and a culture of impunity.
  1. For the building of strong business institutions and the economy, taxes should be reduced and simplified particularly for small businesses. Simple taxes for SMEs placed at no more than two per centum (2%) could promote rapid growth and formalisation of many small businesses currently operating in the informal sector. Furthermore, government should provide enhanced incentives and support for revenue generating agencies like the FIRS and Customs, to enhance performance and efficiency.
  1. Government should revive other non – oil sector of the economy and support industries such as the textile, palm oil, leather, goods industries etc. and in particular increase investment and capital expenditure on Rail Transport and Power.
  1. In institutionalising African investment and promoting African businesses, governments should invest in infrastructure and ease travelling within the Continent by improving immigration policies which promote regional integration and investments in Africa. Governments must also establish a proper African union on monetary and customs policy for better integration in the continent.
  1. Infrastructure being key to promoting the ease of doing business in Africa, African governments should pay close attention to developing infrastructure in the

continent especially ICT infrastructure and in that regard ensure that the procurement process for infrastructural development is transparent and merit based and adequate funding and financing is provided to match the risks involved in infrastructure funding. Governments must also develop a robust long term plan for infrastructural development and carry out technical and commercial due diligence before embarking on projects. This will de-risk infrastructure funding.

  1. African governments must work together to promote regional integration in order to facilitate trans-boundary infrastructure development by removing all barriers to trade, especially in the area of movement of goods and services, transportation and communication; these being critical to the development of the African economy.
  1. All stakeholders (government, private sector and regulators) must ensure implementation of a national economic plan with a specific time plan geared towards positively impacting their capital markets and creating secondary markets for investors. They must encourage deeper participation of retail investors and boost confidence in the market by ensuring fewer transaction processes, removing double taxes and embracing innovation.
  1. Recognising the fact that Africa needs help to grow and trade agreements which are fair and transparent are critical for attracting foreign direct investments, governments are reminded that growth is achievable through a model which offers protection to young local industries and a liberalised access to the global market.
  1. The development and sustenance of indigenous and local brands and the local production of goods and services will help to grow the African economy. For this to happen, there must be coherent, efficient and consistent trade policies, consistency in governance, training of entrepreneurs, encouragement of the citizenry to purchase home-made products and government creation of banking policies that ensures that Small and Medium Enterprises, manufacturers and entrepreneurs access credit for their home madebusinesses.
  1. In policy making, government should pay attention to evidential data and relevant statistical information for effective planning.
  1. As legislation is a tool for national planning, the executive and legislature are urged to interface more with each other especially on economic and budget planning and special legislative courts should be established to address this issue of interface and adherence to the limits of the powers of the legislature.
  1. Government and the private sector need to make massive investments in human capital development as this is highly essential for the development of strong institutions. In this regard, deliberate policies must be formulated and set in motion to tackle brain drain in Africa.
  1. The future of the legal profession and African institutions lies within its hidden weapon: the younger generation. For sustainability, institutions must embrace new structures which foster innovation, creativity, mentoring and coaching and the inclusion of young people in leadership and governance.
  2. In addition to creating jobs for youths, government should support vocational education and entrepreneurship as a means of managing talent and for succession planning. The private sector itself will need to brace up for the road ahead, a road that only permits travellers fuelled with digital demands of a 21stcentury: flexibility, understanding, empathy, passion and ownership.
  1. Deliberate efforts must be made to educate, build, promote and position the female gender to ensure diversity, equality and inclusion of women in the affairs of the nation. To achieve this, there must be legislation on labour, gender and diversity issues in Nigeria which will help Nigeria emerge as a nation with Leading Women. Legislation must also be put in place to educate and position the physically challenged and other vulnerable groups.
  1. Lawyers and firms need to pay more attention to their personal and professional brand and image with greater emphasis on value and integrity, a realisation of the need to leverage on technology and the development of certain soft and technical skills. This will build a 360 lawyer and create a strong legal brand.
  1. For legal growth and sustainability in the global terrain, the need for specialization and preparation for new and increased opportunities has become evident. In this regard, our educational and work institutions need to make deliberate effort to train lawyers in emerging practice areas notably Information Communication Technology Law, Space Law, mining, Sports Law and Media Law.
  1. Tools to be adopted for growing the legal practice of tomorrow include recognition of the law practice as a business and the adoption of systems and processes, which clearly separate legal practice from operations.Furthermore, lawyers need to be more commercial and entrepreneurial by taking the initiative to connect clients to opportunities in the capital market.
  1. To further position legal institutions for emerging trends in global practice, the maintenance of global standards, awareness and willingness to embrace cross border recruitment, alliances and mergers of institutions are all necessary to fulfil and manage client’s expectations. There is therefore a need for revision of our current regulations on practice and engagement of foreign law firms in Nigeria to strike a balance between positioning the Nigerian Bar as global player in the legal industry and maintaining the independence and sanctity of the Nigeria legal profession.
  1. The NBA encourages her members and law firms to prepare for life after law practice by embracing the provisions of the Pension Retirement Act. The NBA also encourages her members to undertake frequent medical check-ups to ensure that they are in excellent health. The resolution is that the tool of lawyering is a multi-faceted one that allows you to do practically anything. Lawyers are thus enjoined to weave in and out of legal practice. Attention is drawn to early retirees who change profession; those who leave the profession for other skills brought back to practice.
  1. Lawyers, law firms, courts, clients and other institutions need to embrace the reality that we operate in a digital economy and they must utilize the benefits of digitized technology to acquire skills relevant for legal practice and position themselves to service their clients.
  1. In keeping with global trends, our laws must reflect the global pace and realities of the rise of digital economy in the globe. To this end, the NBA calls for a review and adaptation of the provisions of the Legal Practitioners’ Rules of Conduct on advertisement to encourage the growth, competitiveness and branding of law firms in Nigeria.
  1. The Nigerian Evidence Act needs to be revised to allow for electronic evidence, electronic examination of witnesses in our courts and the deployment of digital

operations in our administration of justice system including training of judicial officers.

  1. There is a need to reorientate lawyers and firms on the global importance of protection of clients’ data and proprietary interests through cyber laws, internet policies and privacy rights.
  1. Government must take deliberate steps towards the enforcement of cyber laws and more effort should be dedicated to capacity building of officials in both public and private sectors engaged in the prosecution of cybercrime; including the establishment of the rehabilitation of cybercriminals.
  1. Signalling the cooperation between the Nigerian Bar Association and the United Nations Office For Drugs And Crime (UNODC),there is the need for information sharing, strategic planning and capacity building between the two bodies to strengthen human capacity development through trainings and workshops for lawyers on access to criminal justice, the deployment of strategies which includes the activation of a network for prosecutors; the formation of prosecution volunteer groups to facilitate speedy trial within the justice system; the promotion and implementation of the national legal aid framework and the passage into law of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act by States.
  1. State governments under the Governor’s forum recognised the importance of the independence of institutions within their states and their insulation from partisan politics. Those institutions must be transparent, accountable and develop templates within them which must have clear goals and objectives and promote institutional memory. The NBA in particular, urges African leaders to respect rule of law and institutional processes in governance.
  1. To maintain stability through our financial system, government should formulate import reducing policies and ensure the financial sector is independent and healthy to lend to businesses and households. The financial institutions on their part, must create sound financial conditions that will allow for long-term borrowing at very low rates. Government is also advised to reduce pressure on domestic borrowing with reduction of issuance of gilt edge instruments.
  1. While debt is necessary for bridging the gap between revenue and expenditure and is useful to enable investments in projects requiring large capital outlays, the NBA calls on government to expend borrowed funds judiciously, properly manage same and prevent debt becoming a drag on the nation. There is therefore need for fiscal discipline in Nigeria and credibility, transparency and accountability must be at play in the borrowing and expenditure process.
  1. Whilst the privatization of the energy sector in Nigeria has achieved some growth, the full implementation of the Electric Power Sector Reform Act 2013, improvement in service delivery to consumers, effective metering, proper data gathering of power needs of the nation, trust between the Discos and the consumers and customer remuneration are critical in boosting customer confidence and will ultimately put an end to the power challenges in Nigeria.
  1. Recognizing the link between Military research and development, government is urged to significantly increase its investment in research and technology in the defence and security sectors of the economy – given the outsize impact of such R&D spend on industrialisation and civilian use of military inventions
  1. The directors of all the force services in the country are urged to liaise/partner with the NBA to put in place the legal framework for research and development in

Nigeria so that military inventions can be patented to enable the investors as well as the entire nation benefit from same.

  1. Peace and security being key to sustainable development, to tackle the insurgency in the North East and other security challenges within Nigeria, the government needs a multi-dimensional approach, beyond the use of force, which includes addressing the root cause of the insurgency/challenges.
  1. Illegal oil refineries in the Niger-Delta regions should be seen as potentials that should be monitored, harnessed,legalised and upgraded by government.

3.0 RESOLUTIONS REACHED AT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION 2017 ON THE 24TH DAY OF AUGUST, 2017

That:

  1. The meeting noted that the lingering crisis in various branches have been resolved with the exception of that of Abuja Branch. It noted with displeasure the various court cases instituted against the NBA by some of the parties to the crisis. The meeting approved the steps taken by the President to abide by the Court Injunction relating to the conduct of election to the office of Chairman and Secretary of the Branch. The meeting also approved and ratified the appointment of Princess Frank-Chukwuani and Noah Ajare, Esq as the Acting Chairman and Branch Secretary respectively of the, Abuja Branch at the NEC Meeting of Lokoja on the 1st day of June, 2017 to oversee the affairs of the Branch pending the outcome of the court case or the conduct of fresh elections to the office of Chairman and Secretary.
  2. The efforts of the trustees of the NBA in intervening in the amicable resolution of disputes arising out of the 2016 NBA elections, are appreciated.
  3. The AGM approved the appointment of an eleven person committee under the Chairmanship of Mallam Yusuf Ali SAN to review the 2015 NBA constitution to address all areas of concern that have given rise to grievances from various stakeholders and members.
  4. The AGM is gravely concerned about the level of indiscipline among its members and enjoins the leadership to ensure strict observance and adherence to the rules of professional conduct.
  5. The AGM ratifies the decision of the leadership of the Bar to introduce a Personnel Policy Manual, Employees handbook and Financial Regulations at the National Secretariat in accordance with International Best Practices.
  6. The NBA adopts the proposal for the introduction of e-stamps to forestall the delay arising from the production and distribution of the current stamp regime.

4.0 CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the NBA thanks all participants at the Conference, including but not limited to key note speakers, panel discussants, sponsors, partners and donors as well as the chair and members of the TCCP. The recommendations above are building

blocks to institution building and the leadership of the NBA hereby assures that the outcome of the Conference will be properly documented for implementation.

The NBA is grateful to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr.Akinwumi Ambode and the people of Lagos State for their boundless hospitality, and wishes all conferees safe journey back to their destinations while looking forward to the 58th Annual General Conference in 2018.

Dated this 25th day of August, 2017

 

A B. MAHMOUD, OON, SAN

PRESIDENT

OLAGUNJU ISIAKA ABIOLA 

 GENERAL SECRETARY