COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION AT THE CLOSE OF HER 57th ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE, PRE-CONFERENCE NEC & ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING HELD FROM 18 TO 24 AUGUST 2017 AT THE LANDMARK EVENTS CENTRE, VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS, LAGOS STATE OF NIGERIA
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 State of Nigeria from August 18 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, Nigeria and other countries in the legal profession to learn, exchange ideas, retool, reflect upon and proffer solutions within the context of the Conceptual Definition of the NBA, which is to be the vanguard for the promotion and defence of the rule of law, good governance, social justice and the dignity of all persons.
The period of the Conference was also utilized to consider pressing issues within the legal profession and the Nigerian Bar Association under the auspices of the Pre-conference NEC and the Annual General Meeting.
The theme of the 57th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA): “African Business: Penetrating through Institution Building”, was carefully chosen to underscore the challenge of doing business in the African continent and designed to respond to the challenge of the dearth of strong and resilient institutions, which has characterised African public and private sectors leading to little or no investment in the continent. The theme of the Conference also flows out of the #Brave New Bar vision of the current NBA leadership with the stated objective that no other profession has the vantage position to lead the transformative journey inti a Nigeria than the legal profession.
The decline in the continent’s economic fortunes in the last few years has exacerbated tensions along our traditional fault lines whilst unmasking new ones, making the task of nation building seem even more daunting.
On the global arena, especially in recent years, data emanating from studies conducted by world bodies have continued to demonstrate the intricate connection between the existence of strong governance institutions on the one hand and the engendering of sustainable socio-economic development on the other.
The NBA therefore, being fully persuaded of the need to stimulate a conversation around the building of strong institutional frameworks, which will engender macro-economic stability and usher in economic prosperity for our country and the African continent, made the choice of the theme of this conference.
Nigerian Stock Exchange Visit – Ringing the Bell
On Thursday the 17th day of August 2017, national officers and key staff of the association, the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP), Senior lawyers, key staff of the Association and I paid a visit to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos during which visit, I had the distinct honour of ringing the bell, a first for any NBA President, to signal the beginning of the trading day on the floor of the Stock Exchange.
On Friday, the 18th day of August 2017, Jumat Prayers dedicated to the NBA Conference took place at the Lagos Central Mosque, Tinubu, Lagos with Many lawyers in attendance including myself.
NBA Novelty Match, Welcome Cocktail, Opening of Conference Market Place, LOC Welcome Party
On Saturday, 19th day of August 2017, the NBA novelty match, welcome cocktail, opening of conference market place and LOC welcome party took place.
Thanksgiving Church Service
On Sunday, the 20th day of August 2017, a thanksgiving service dedicated to the NBA Conference held at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina Lagos with the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) and many lawyers in attendance.
Pre-Conference NEC Meeting And Opening Of Friendship Centre
Also, on the same day, 2017, the Pre-Conference National Executive Committee meeting of the NBA held at the Main Auditorium, Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos, followed thereafter by the official opening of the NBA Friendship Centre.
The conference was formally declared open on Sunday 20 August 2017, 7pm by the Vice President of Nigeria Prof. Yemi Osibanjo SAN represented by Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, the Hon. Minister of Power, Works and Housing. In attendance were the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen GCON, the Solicitor-General Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, Esq representing the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Honourable Chief Judges and Judges, State Governors, Senators, Federal and State Parliamentarians, Clergy, the Oba of Lagos, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Lawyers and Members of the Public, including the Press.
At the opening Ceremony, there was a welcome address by the Chairman of the TCCP, Prof. Koyinsola Ajayi, SAN followed by the Keynote speech of the President of the NBA as well as good will messages from the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Governor of Lagos State.
1. Conference Structure
The structure of the 57th Conference of the NBA consisted of:
- A Pre-Conference NEC
- An opening ceremony
- Annual General Meeting and
- Six plenary sessions, enriched by the innovative contributions of technocrats and experts from within and outside Nigeria, lawyers in private and public sectors, Ministers of the Federal Government and high ranking government functionaries including State Governors in Nigeria and Justices of various hierarchies of Courts, on the following subjects:
i. Conversation with the Acting President
ii. Institutionalising African Investment
iii. The Great Debate: ‘We need help to grow’
iv. NBA – UN Forum
v. Governors’ Forum
vi. Trans-boundary Infrastructure Development
They were also five (5) sets of break-out sessions comprising twenty-six (26) parallel sessions on different areas and interests, and five show case sessions organised by the following:
i. Lagos State
ii. Rivers State
iii. Kano State
iv. Ondo State
v. Bauchi State
In addition, there were free medical screenings, health talks and psychometric tests in addition to sessions anchored by two of the three major sections of the NBA, namely; the Section on Legal Practice (SLP) and the Section on Business Law (SBL). They were also other fora and committee meetings; and several receptions, luncheons, dinners, theatre and musical extravaganza most notably Saro: The Musical.
1.1. Keynote Addresses
On the first day of the Conference, the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Acting President) Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, GCON, through his representative Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN (Minister of Power, Works and Housing) delivered a thought-provoking keynote address.
2.0. Thematic presentations
Inclusive of the welcome address by the President of the NBA, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud SAN, keynote address and goodwill messages aforementioned; and the Annual General Meeting of the Association, there were about one hundred (100) commissioned papers and lectures woven around the theme of conference.
3.0. Resolutions and Recommendations
The Annual General Conference, upon due consideration of, and deliberation on all the issues aforesaid, unanimously resolved as follows:
3.1 From the Opening Ceremony:
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.
2. The Federal Government of Nigeria must fashion out and unwaveringly implement pro-growth policies and streamline those policies to make for ease of doing business in Nigeria.
3. There is urgent need for the Nigerian government to build and empower business institutions for greater effectiveness and credibility.
4. Government must be committed to supporting private institutions, especially by creating the enabling environment for business growth.
5. The NBA supports the increasingly-louder call for devolution of power by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the federating units; and the guarantee of fiscal autonomy of those federating units.
6. Nigerian governments and all stakeholders should invest in owner/founder transitioning of businesses so as to sustain businesses and prevent them from dying with their owners/founders.
7. 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.
8. Building and sustaining strong institutions requires the collective commitment of all citizens and government.
9. NBA further resolves that as Africa does not require strong men but strong institutions, government needs to build institutions that outlive the people who them.
10. The Nigerian government must live and lead by example, eschew corruption within its ranks and ensure a more conducive environment for doing business.
11. The NBA supports the fight against corruption and reiterates that the anti-corruption agencies must conduct this war within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law and the Constitution.
12. That there is need for greater transparency, accountability and fiscal discipline in designing and implementing budgets in Nigeria.
3.2 From the Plenary Session 1: Conversation with the Acting President
13. Necessary in the battle against corruption is the need to outsource and privatise government projects, reduce state owned enterprises using various formula- PPP Project, PPP Fund, privatization; as well as the use of technology to automate operation and reduce discretion.
14. To build strong and credible institutions, government should ensure meritocracy in employment and appointments and add to meritocracy, the payment of competitive salaries.
15. NBA resolves that for the building of strong business institutions and the economy, taxes must be reduced and in particular place simple taxes for SMEs at no more than 2 per cent.
16. There is need for government to establish specialized courts to try corruption related cases. (SUBJECT TO YOUR APPROVAL).
17. The judiciary is enjoined to embrace and appreciate its roles as a vital component in economic development through speedy and qualitative dispensation of justice.
18. Government should provide enhanced incentives and support for revenue generating agencies like the FIRS and Customs to enhance performance and efficiency.
19. Government needs to increase capital expenditure in Agriculture, Infrastructure (e.g. railway and power).
20. There is need for the government to increase investment in domestic agricultural market and value added export.
3.3 From The Plenary Session 2: Institutionalizing African Investment
21. For investment in Africa to grow, it is not enough to have good policies, those polices need to be implemented and the implementation will require good leaders, good teams and strong institutions.
22. That political and business certainty are key for the free flow of investment into Africa.
23. There is need to restructure the legal framework of governing investments in Nigeria by ensuring appropriate and quick dispute resolution mechanisms are in place.
24. Enforcing the Code of corporate governance and putting in place a good regulatory framework will put our economy in a better position to receive foreign direct investment.
25. The Government should invest in infrastructure to promote the ease of doing business in Africa.
26. Government ought to pay attention to the correlation between high interest rates, inflation between food prices.
3.4 From the plenary session 3: The great debate: We need help to grow
27. In choosing economic models, a model that offers a bit of protection to young industries whilst at the same time giving free rein to the global market forces of free trade is highly recommended.
28. That both the Government and the private sector must 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 the brain drain in Africa.
29. Government, in policy making should pay attention to data evidence and relevant statistical information that will help it make an informed decision.
30. Trade agreements are critical elements for attracting foreign direct investments and protecting the local industry and in this regard government must ensure that trade agreements are fair, transparent and protective of the people of Nigeria and the environment.
From the plenary session 4: NBA – UN Forum
31. The NBA notes that most states have not yet passed into law the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJA) and calls on them to do so; and further resolves that it is impossible for Nigeria to make the necessary progress without lawyers and judges realising the importance of the justice delivery institution to national development.
From the Plenary session 5: Governor’s forum
32. There must be transparency, accountability and templates for rewards and punishments in our institutions and further resolved that our institutions be insulated from partisan politics for example EFCC, INEC.
From: Plenary session 6: Transboundary infrastructure development
33. NBA resolves that transboundary infrastructural development especially in the area of easy movement of goods and services, transportation and communication, are critical for the development of the African economy. In this regard African countries must work together to remove all barriers to trade.
34. African governments are called upon to:
- ensure coherent and efficient trade policies that encourage local manufacturing and trading of goods and services and participate directly in measures to improve the ease of doing business.
- Improve immigration policies that promote regional integration and investments in Africa
- Establish a proper African union on monetary and customs policy that will lead to better integration in the continent.
From the Breakout session on Military Businesses
35. Government should significantly increase its investment in research and development there is the need for government to invest in research and Development in the defence and security sector.
36. Peace and Security are key to sustainable development. To tackle the insurgency in the North East of Nigeria and other security challenges within Nigeria, the government need a multi-dimensional approach beyond the use of force; this includes addressing the root cause of the insurgency/challenges.
From the Breakout session on Leading Women
37. Women are critical to the development of any society and the training of one woman translates to the training of her children and many others. Therefore, government should prioritise education and economic opportunities for women. In this regard, the NBA calls for legislation on labor, gender and diversity issues in Africa.
38. There is need for inclusiveness to accommodate the rights of women, people with disabilities, children, and other vulnerable groups.
From the Breakout Session on Creating Secondary Markets for Investors
39. All stakeholders (government, private sector and regulators) must ensure that the implementation of the current national economic plan is geared towards positively impacting the capital market.
40. Government should convene a national conference specifically for the capital market and develop a 10-year plan to grow the market.
41. In addition to creating jobs for youth, government should support vocational education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
RESOLUTIONS REACHED AT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION 2017 ON THE 24TH DAY OF AUGUST, 2017
1. That the Acting Chairman of the Abuja Branch of the NBA, Princess Chukwuani and the Secretary Noah Ajare, Esq will continue to act under the supervision of the Vice President 1 of the NBA pending the determination of the court cases regarding the branch election.
2. The NBA notes with joy and satisfaction the decision of Chief J. K. Gadzama, OFR, SAN to withdraw the suit filed against the NBA with regard to the last presidential election of the NBA, in deference to the intervention of the trustees of the Association and appreciates Chief Gadzama for his statemanly response.
3. That in view of the many controversies surrounding some provisions of the 2015 NBA Constitution, a machinery be put in place to review the 2015 with a view to amendment.
4. That lawyers should ensure strict compliance with the ethics and norms of the profession particularly the younger ones.
In conclusion, the NBA thanks all participants at the Conference, the key note speakers, discussants, the sponsors, Chairman and members of the TCCP and 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. The NBA wishes all conferees safe journey back to their destination and looks forward to the 58th Annual General Conference in 2018
A. B. MAHMOUD, OON, SAN OLAGUNJU ISIAKA ABIOLA
PRESIDENT GENERAL SECRETARY