NBA section on Business Law charts path for Nigeria’s economic growth
IT surely would not be a magnification to say that the 9th annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) was a huge success.
The theme of the conference was: ‘Regulators as catalysts for Economic Growth’. It can aptly be described as one of the biggest gathering of key industry players in Lagos in recent times for the purposes of information acquisition and convivialities.
The list includes commercial lawyers, senior members of the bar, members of the inner bar, national leadership of the bar, members of the bench, industry regulators, business executives, in-house counsels, international facilitators and experts as well as young lawyers.
The event was held between June 7 and 9 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos and was well attended. The idyllic atmosphere, lightening, sitting arrangements, dulcet tones of the music and the security arrangement at the entrance of the two-winged omnibus auditorium were simply charming.
The vice president of the country, Professor Yemi Osinbajo also graced the ocassion. Opening the event at a dinner, he charged lawyers to save Nigeria’s justice system by working in accordance with the ethics of the profession and eschew activities that are inimical to business environment.
His words: “An important feature of the regulatory environment is our system of administration of justice. Somehow, we must get it right.
We simply cannot afford the situation we have today where some cases can take three years. Our court system must respond to the business environment. Courts are a public resort for the fast, efficient and fair resolution of disputes; they are not an end in themselves, they are a means to an end.
We must ask ourselves how to deal with certain tactics of counsel. It appears that regular practice today involves delaying cases deliberately by counsel to ensure that the other side never gets to trial.”
The chairman of the counsel of the NBA-SBL, Asue Ighodalo said the tasks of sustaining meaningful development will continue to prove difficult for Nigeria unless government provides an appropriate environment that would attract high quality investments.
According to him, a country where its regulators are inconsistent, heavy handed, unfair and under capacitated cannot attract high quality internal or foreign investment or sustain meaningful growth. He explained the reason for the theme of the conference.
“We settled on this theme to emphasise the critical role of the regulator in creating an enabling economic and investment environment”. According to him, Nigeria’s extremely poor ranking in the 2014 World Bank “Ease of Doing Business Index” 146th out of 189 countries and the 2015 “Going beyond efficiency report” 170th out of 189 countries, suggest that apart from our other short comings, our Regulators need to step up to the plate and that we must positively and urgently improve our enabling environment.
“In 2008, a World Bank study on Doing Business, published in the World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, by Caroline Freund and Bineswaree Bolaky, using data for 126 economies between 2000 and 2005, found that trade leads to higher living standards in economies with flexible regulatory environments but not in those with rigid,inconsistent regulatory environments.
They showed that of all the imperatives for sustained growth, even handed business regulation and policy consistency are slightlymore important than financial development, higher education enrollment or the rule of law”, he stated.
He pointed out that the draft National Code of Corporate Governance released by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria which seeks to regulate corporate governance in the private and public sectors conflicts with some existing regulations such as the Companies and Allied Matters Act, which is the primary legislation for companies in Nigeria.
Ighodalo consequently suggested that the federal government should in concert with the National Assembly, review and harmonise all of our investment and business laws.
“Government should start with the NIPC Act and the Immigration Act, and thereafter systematically review all of our other investment laws to support the development of an appropriate enabling environment which will create a strong and stable platform for effective diversification of our economy.
The legislature must also be more careful in reviewing Bills and passing them into law without extensive and well publicised industry engagement.
The roles, authority and power of each of our regulators must be clear, transparent, distinct and must not overlap”, he advised. NBA President, Augustine Alegeh (SAN), commended the Chairman and Council members of the SBL for their hard work in organising the conference.
He urged members of the SBL to note the current developments in the NBA such as the payment of practising fees which entitles them to insurance cover provided by Leadway Assurance at no extra cost.
He explained some of his pet projects: “You are also entitled to an Annual Practice license at no cost. We have also introduced an NBA stamp pursuant to the Rules of Professional Conduct and only legal documents embossed with the said stamp are valid legal documents.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria has directed full implementation by all Courts in Nigeria. Green stamps are issued to Lawyers in private practice and Red stamps to lawyers in Public service.”
In his keynote address, the Minister for Trade & Industry, Ghana, Dr. EkwowSpio-Garbrah said the Economic Transformational Agenda of the in-coming Government of Nigeria, which is expected to promote an inclusive and sustainable growth that will provide expanded job creation, bring development and improved living standards to the door steps of Nigerians, will not happen by chance.
According to him, it will require Government to work very hard, in close partnership with the private sector, and especially the legal, legislative, regulatory and judicial systems, to create the conducive environment that would improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Citing the example of his home country, he said: “Ghana has made significant progress in instituting regulatory and institutional reforms which have led to improvement in the ease of doing business as acknowledged by various World Bank Doing Business Reports.
From the rank of 109 in 2007, Ghana has made a steady progress to 62 in 2013. Though we slipped slightly to 69 in the 2014 and 70 in 2015 reports we still fall within the top reformers in Africa. We are committed to reviews and pursuing further efforts to improve our performance.”
According to the Conference Planning Committee chairman, Ayuli Jemide, the conference was information based and not just knowledge based.
It had a total of nine sessions facilitated by different experts. The premium plenary session which is nine had PwC Chief Economist, John Hawksworth take the attendees through highlights of PwC’s ‘World in 2050 report’.
The interesting discourse was followed with renowned panelists and active audience participation. Session chair was the managing director of Total E&P Nigeria, Elisabeth Proust.
It also had outstanding panelists such as the Chief Executive Officers of Oando, Nestle, Guarantee Trust Bank, Wale Tinubu, Dharnesh Gordon, Segun Agbaje and a senior lecturer, Lagos Business School, Dr. Doyin Salami.
Nina Bowyer, partner, global Energy practice in Herbert Smith Freehills and Chijioke Okonkwo of Energy Specialist, Canadian Pacific Consulting Services (CPCS), took the second international session, which was chaired by Engr. Joseph Makoju, honorary adviser to CEO of Dangote group.
It centred on Nigeria’s power privatization process: Learning curves and next steps. The first international session focused on funding of Africa’s growth: The role of Chinese lenders.
It was delivered by Chris Brown of Norton Rose Fulbright and Soji Omisore of Stanbic IBTC among other numerous interesting sessions. The gleeful looks at the faces of everyone at the end of the event say it all about its success as they savour Banky W’s live performance in exhilaration.
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