The 60th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Conference with the theme “Step Forward” commenced yesterday with a record-breaking attendance of almost 25,000 conferees. The Conference is slated to hold from 26th-29th August. Conference Opening Speech: Cases from inception to Supreme Court should not exceed 12- 15 months – President Muhammadu Buhari, GCF.
The Conference Opening Speech was by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR as ably represented by Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice-President of Nigeria. In the speech, Prof. Osinbajo on behalf of the President called for expedited trial of cases in Nigeria Courts. In the speech he said “My question then is why can’t we have a time limit for criminal cases? Why can’t we have a rule that will say a criminal trial all the way to the Supreme Court must not exceed 12 months? And why can’t we do the same for civil cases? Even if we say that civil cases should not go beyond between 12 and 15 months. I think
that for me will be stepping forward.”
Conference Keynote Speech: NBA has the power of influence at every level – Mrs Ibukun Awosika
The Conference Keynote Speech was delivered by Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, the Chairman of First Bank Nigeria. She congratulated the noble profession for its achievements so far. Alluding to the NBA’s knowledge and expertise as well as
number, she affirmed her believe that the NBA has a major role to play in the nation building. In her words, NBA has “the strength of number, we have the capacity through knowledge. We have the power of influence at every level.”
The importance and relevance of lawyers in economic growth was also a touchpoint in the goodwill message of the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Conference special feature: Rule of law and technology are essential for a Country’s development – Mr. Tony Blair
There was also a Conference special feature in form of a conversation with Mr. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of UK and Executive Chairman of Tony Blair Institute for Global Change moderated by Mo Abudu. Mr. Tony Blair noted that for a 3rd world country to move into developed country, factors such as infrastructure, rule of law and technology must be in place.
Other significant events included a session titled ‘Executive Order and
Democratic Governance’ where there was an intellectual discourse regarding the constitutionality or otherwise of an Executive Order in democratic settings. There were very also engaging breakout sessions titled: Of Layoffs, Furloughs and Redundancy; A Dialogue on Insolvency and Economic Recovery; Youths, Step Forward! where discussants did justice to the topics under review.
The day-2 of the NBA AGC was surely an interesting and eventful one! It was turbo-packed! Several erudite discussants drove home their points and conferees have several issues to ruminate on for some time to come. One thing that rang through the Day 2 of the Conference is the need to harness technology to step forward.
SHIFTING THE PARADIGM: THE VIRTUAL JUDICIARY AGE
Words on Marble: ‘Video conferencing and virtual hearing are the new normal’ (paraphrased)- Lord Angus Glennie, QC
‘Arbitrators and Institutions have embraced virtual hearings’- Paula Hodges. ‘There is the need to digitize our court processes through E-registry’ – Chief (Mrs.) A. J. Offiah, SAN
‘Law should be accessible to everyone at all times that is the role of technology. Virtual Courts is here to stay!’- Mr. Damola Solanke ‘In Kenya, interlocutory matters do not require physical presence at Court. You just file your processes at the registry and you get an email notifying you that your
ruling is ready’- Prof. Githu Muigai
These quotes and many more were the fulcrum of the discussion of the eminent panelists on this session as they navigated the adaptability of the judiciary in the delivery and administration of justice in the virtual age. They are pointers to the fact that videoconferencing/ virtual hearing has come to stay in Nigeria and indeed, the world over.
BREAKOUT SESSIONS 1
The 1st set of breakout sessions were very engaging and intriguing as panelists talked about ‘WHO IS A NIGERIAN; A DEBATE ON NATIONAL IDENTITY’, a session where issues such as legal framework of citizenship, the nature of Federal Character as well as the difference(s) between indigeneship and citizenship were discussed; ‘RISE AND SHINE’ where young lawyers were charged on how to build a successful practice; and ‘SECURITY AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS’ a session where the prevalent extra judicial killings, impunity of the security agents and other security challenges in the Country were discussed.
BREAK OUT SESSION 2: OUR NEW WORLD – THE DIGITAL
As panelists discussed the realities and the impact of living in a new digital age and economy, below are some of the words of wisdom from this session: “Virtual meetings as opposed to physical meetings are the new norm and companies need to adapt to the 4th digital revolution” – Dr. George Donkor
“We cannot have a digital economy without infrastructure”- Omobola Johnson
“There is a need to link Africa to the global economy”- Olugbenga Agboola
“There is an obvious limit to what human professionals can do in rendering their services hence the need to digitize such services” Mr Uzoma Dozie
Other compelling topics that ran concurrently during the second break out session are: NO MEANS NO- a session that dealt with gender-based violence and the scourge of rape and sexual harassment; and THE EQUALITY GAP- a session aimed at discussing how to Change the Status Quo against Stereotypes in the Legal Profession.
THE RULE OF LAW SYMPOSIUM
This grand symposium features global perspectives on the Rule of Law. The
panelists laid emphasis on the unwavering, immutable element of the rule of law which is that laws be applied to evenly to everyone. Justice must be delivered by an independent, competent authority. Also, that justice be accessible and affordable. The challenges facing the application of the rule of law were also identified to include infrastructure deficit, high cost of governance, poor management of states and citizen’s relationships, lack of allegiance to the fundamental law i.e. the constitution and dichotomy of religion among others.
BUILDING A DIGITALLY FIT BUSINESS
Mr Olusola Adewole, Partner, Price Waterhouse Coopers identified how digital disruption is impacting law firms in the areas of AI- prediction, analytics, automated document production and analysis, among others. He stressed further that to build a digitally fit business, one must device new ways of working and new skills as going digital is about finding new ways to solve problems, creating unique experiences for customer and employees and accelerating business performance.
THE PCL COVID FRAMEWORK: MANAGING EMPLOYEE WELLBEING IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY
This session was facilitated by Nwaji Jibunoh, head of training, Philips Consulting and the MD of Philips Consulting, Rob Taiwo. According to him, organizations need to be in the exploit space (existing products) and the explore space (check in what the next curve is going to be) which is calculated yet uncalculated because of the uncertainty and investments should be focused on both. He emphasized that the role of technology in all these is indispensable. He said digitization is not easy especially in the reception of same by employers and employees but it is the way to go.
The last day of the 60th NBA AGC and it was an epoch event. One of the feats of the event is the whooping number of Conferees – about 25,000 people connecting from different parts of the world! The success of the Conference, no doubt, points to the many possibilities that abound when technology is harnessed.
NBA SECTION ON BUSINESS LAW (SBL) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The session was anchored by Seni Adio, SAN (the outgoing Chairman of the section on business law). The major highlights of the AGM include the adoption of the financial report of the Section which was read by the Auditor of the Section, Mr Friday. The financial report of the section was approved by the Abax & Ossa (an auditing firm).
The incoming council which include; Ayuli Jemide as the new chairman of the section on business law, Dr. Adeoye Adefulu the vice chairman, Ozofu Latunde Ogiemudia the secretary & Isaiah Bozimo as the treasurer, according to the outgoing chairman, are a representation that will allow for gender balance and proper representation from the six geo-political zones, were sworn in and were congratulated by all attendees of the section on business law.
NBA SECTION ON PUBLIC INTEREST AND DEVELOPMENT LAW
(SPIDEL) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The session was anchored by Paul Ananaba SAN (Chairman of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development). The Chairman gave a recap of the activities of the section for the year under review which includes a conference, a webinar on COVID-19 pandemic and the Public Interest and a special Interview with Damilola Ojo on Covid-19 and the Legal Practitioners, collaborating with the Swiss embassy to engage in public interest actions. The main highlight of the AGM was focused on deliberations concerning the forthcoming conference of the section which was slated to be held in Ibadan. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, physical conference will not be feasible this year, so it was rescheduled to the first quarter of 2021, between February and March to enable physical collaboration. Intending members of the section are urged to pick up a membership form from the section’s website.
NBA SECTION ON LEGAL PRACTICE AGM
The meeting was anchored by the Chairman of the Section, Oluseun Abimbola. In his address, the Chairman stated that the NBA submitted a proposal to the DG of the Nigerian Law School towards establishing a mentorship programme for the students of the School aimed at deepening their knowledge and equipping them with the skills required to be successful in the profession. However, the COVID-19 halted the plans of the Section and up until the present meeting; the proposal had not been implemented because the Section was yet to receive the modified calendar of the NLS.
The Chairman also informed members that during the lock down necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the section held a number of webinars in response to the pandemic.
In highlighting its activities for the year under review, the Chairman noted that the Section established international collaboration with an international law firm, Al-Tamimi & Co, to establish an international internship program between the NBA and Al-Tamimi that offers young lawyers in Nigeria the opportunity of a 3-month internship at the Dubai office of the firm.
NBA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The Annual General Meeting of the NBA was led by the outgoing President, Paul Usoro, SAN. The main high spot of the AGM includes the President’s address during which the President appreciated every member of the bar, particularly the over 25,000 registrants of this conference. The President highlighted some of the success of the Paul Usoro-led administration to include leaving over 600million in the Asssociation’s account- something that has never happened in the history of the NBA; completion of the NBA National Secretariat in Abuja; giving COVID-19 Palliative to your lawyers in partnership with LawPavilion and payment of 10,000 each to about 8,000 lawyers within 1-4 years post call.
Amidst glitz and glamour, the outgoing President, Paul Usoro, SAN, inaugurated the incoming NBA President Mr. Olumide Akpata, who in turn, swore in the other members of his administration.
In his Speech, Olumide Akpata reiterated his promises to the bar as contained in his manifesto chief among which is the welfare of lawyers. He also promised to set up an NBA task force to determine the scope of legal work that is the statutory preserve of lawyers and put modalities in place to ensure that only members of the association get to carry out such work. This, he said will prevent the brazen encroachment of other professionals in areas that are the exclusive preserve of the lawyers and warned that ‘It is no longer business as usual!’
It was on this note that the 60th NBA AGC, the first ever virtual Conference of the NBA came to a successful close amidst joy and funfare.