NBA-SBL Chairman, Mr. Seni Adio SAN giving his address at the Opening Ceremony

EXPERTS CHART BUSINESS CONTINUITY COURSE AT NBA-SBL e-CONFERENCE

The 14th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) has come and gone but its memories will linger for a long time. Held on July 16 and 17, 2020 the e-conference had as its theme, “Business unusual: Digital acceleration for growth in a new world.” In this piece, THEODORA KIO-LAWSON, Chair, Media & Publicity, Conference Planning Committee chronicles events on Day One of the well-attended conference.

The 14th annual e-conference themed ‘Business Unusual’ began with an opening remark by the CPC Chairman – Ozofu ‘Latunde Ogiemudia and was declared opened by Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria. Remarks were also given by Seni Adio, SAN, Chairman NBASBL, Paul Usoro, SAN President, NBA; goodwill messages by H.E Babajide Sanwo-Olu, H.E Seyi Makinde; and keynote address was by Senator William “Mo” Cowan, President, Global Government Affairs and Policy GAP) and Developed Markets for GE.

Day one was characterized by two plenary sessions, three breakout sessions and a fireside chat. The first plenary session, Disrupting the Status Quo: Charting the Path for an Alliance involved a thorough discussion between entrepreneurs and policy makers on forging a new alliance under which Nigerian businesses can flourish considering the global economic crisis presented by COVID-19 pandemic. This session featured the Hon. Minister of Mines and Steel Development. It was noted that Nigeria has seen significant attrition in both FPIs and FDIs since the pandemic began, and the government is working on putting in place policies to avoid depression, although recession may be unavoidable. These policies include an extra 2.3trillion budget to revive the economy into priority sectors – agriculture, public housing and power sector; a strategy to employ 774000 people– 1000 employees from the 774 LGs in the country; creation of gold ecosystem – solar power and internet is being taken to the off-grids so that they won’t be left behind, and a downstream policy to eliminate export of raw oil.

During the second session, themed, “Business Unusual: Continuity in times of Crisis” the panelists recognised that uncertainty is more eminent and may remain for a longtime. Despite this, businesses must explore creative ways to ensure continuity, and technology must be embraced to ensure ease of doing business at this crisis time. Businesses must stay communicative across their customer base and keep talent pools together while accelerating a digital transformation process. To solve financial problems, businesses should offer solutions to larger businesses to get capital, as staying liquid is key while it was recommended that small businesses should be encouraged with strong regulations to help them survive.

During the fireside chat themed, Changes on the Horizon: The Future of Company Law in Nigeria reference was made to the Companies and Allied Matters Bill that was passed by the National Assembly. The Bill covers a wide range of measures which, once it receives Presidential Assent, would see significant operational and legislative changes to company law, impacting new and existing businesses. In this brief Fireside Chat, the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission discussed the forthcoming changes to Company Law in Nigeria including the introduction of a mailing system and e-filing that enables documentations and signature, filling during change of directors, registration, change of name, and submission of financial statement to be done electronically. The CAC has in plan to start issuing e-certificate. This will come to fruition before the end of the year. It was said that this will help the commission integrity and we will subsequently publish for clients to see.

This first breakout session, Banking through the crisis explored how the banking sector and fintech solutions can navigate through the unprecedented times. It also accessed how banks manage to service their customers in the pandemic as well as outlook of things post covid-19. Interswitch stated that whatever affects the banks affects fintech organization. There was a huge spike in the use of cards at the peak of the pandemic but with fear of job loss, people became conscious of their spending. It was envisaged that fraudsters would take advantage of the operation, with support from the CBN, things were kept in check. The fintech industry experienced a deep in May, and recovery in June – v-shaped, but as things have stabilized they industry is taking a hopeful view.

In the second breakout session, Fossilized: End of the Oil and Gas Industry as we know it?, the plunging demand for oil brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, combined with a savage price war, has presented the oil industry with the gravest challenge in its 100-year history. What will be the short- and longer-term impacts for the oil industry? Going forward, this season would affect the balance on the supply sides and prices might remain low for a while. It might trigger struggle for market share and might damage the market the more, thus affecting tax ad investment. Also, issues of social inclusiveness such as sustainability must be emphasized.

In this session, themed, “AfCFTA: Dead or Alive?”, as countries look to localise supply chains and protect their national interests, the question of the status and possible implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement remain. On Mon July 8, 2019, Nigeria signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which aims to increase trade between African countries. Though the country aimed to ratify in July the pandemic has affected the process. Many countries have closed their borders for exports; 42 borders have been closed, either partially or fully. This will make AFCTA less difficult from country to country because of the difference legal frame work is different. To ensure free trade agreement establishment across countries in Africa, nations must ensure the use of standard business and market negotiation, instituting neutral bodies to address standards, and to ensure border barriers are removed.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

SIGHTS AND SIGHTS OF NBA-SBL e-CONFERENCE 2020

The 14th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) has come and gone but its memories will linger for a long time. Held on July 16 and 17, 2020 the e-conference had as its theme, “Business unusual: Digital acceleration for growth in a new world.” 

Below are some of the images at the pace-setting virtual conference.

 

L-R, Christine Sijuwade, Chair, Venue & Accommodation, Adeola Ajayi, Secretary, CPC, Seni Adio, SAN, Chairman, NBA-SBL, Theodora Kio-Lawson, Chair, Media & Publicity, Ozofu Ogiemudia, Chair, Conference Planning Committee.
L-R, Christine Sijuwade, Chair, Venue & Accommodation, Adeola Ajayi, Secretary, CPC, Seni Adio, SAN, Chairman, NBA-SBL, Theodora Kio-Lawson, Chair, Media & Publicity, Ozofu Ogiemudia, Chair, Conference Planning Committee.

‘POSTPONE NBA ELECTIONS NOW,’ BAR LEADERS, SBL, EX-YLF CHAIR TELL ECNBA

  • SAY NBA ICT TEAM IS MANIPULATING VERIFICATION PROCESS

  • ASK ELECTORAL C’TE TO WAIVE VERIFICATION, BRANCH DUES

  • WORRY ABOUT NON-DISCLOSURE OF VOTING FRAMEWORK

BY EMEKA NWADIOKE

A major twist has emerged in the run-up to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) National Officers Elections as some Bar leaders and the NBA Section on Business Law have asked the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) to postpone the elections in order to secure its credibility.

In a letter to the ECNBA Chairman, Mr. Tawo Tawo SAN dated 6th July, 2020 and obtained by CITY LAWYER, the Bar Leaders listed several challenges besetting preparations for the elections, warning that unless these issues are tackled, the NBA may witness another controversial election as was the case in 2016 and 2018.
Titled “Urgent concerns regarding the upcoming 2020 NBA Elections,” the letter was personally signed by frontline Bar Leader, Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh, SAN; Mr. Ayuli Jemide, Vice-Chairman, NBA Section on Business Law; Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, Co-Convener, Open Bar Initiative, and Ms. Barbara Omosun, Chairman, NBA Young Lawyers Forum (2014-2016).

Noting that the ECNBA has “a sacred duty which may have been marred by faulty starts,” the Bar leaders said: “We think with all sense of responsibility and to the extent that the NBA constitution allows, the ECNBA may consider requesting the NBA for a short postponement of elections to enable it to discharge its duties creditably.”

They urged the electoral committee to “take these issues raised very seriously to avoid a dent on the image of the ECNBA, the NBA, and all Nigerian lawyers,” adding: “We are rested in the fact that you understand that if the NBA which is a known bastion of governance fails to conduct credible elections, it will be a travesty of untold proportions unfolding under your watch.”

ECNBA_LETTER

The petitioners hinged their quest for a postponement on several factors, listing the issues under headings such as ‘Missing Names on Voters List,’ ‘Voters List Verification,’ ‘Voter Eligibility,’ ‘Verification and Transparent Process for Voting.’

Noting that “It is with all sense of responsibility as lawyers and members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) that we have decided to formally record our concerns about the upcoming NBA elections,” the Bar Leaders chronicled the background to their request for a postponement, adding that “The NBA elections in 2018 was fraught with electoral glitches that raised questions for many members of the profession and interested Nigerians as to its credibility, rightly or wrongly.”

Stating that the ECNBA “must consider it a sacred duty to ensure that the 2020 elections redeem the dent on the NBA’s image arising from the questions raised about the conduct of the 2018 elections,” the Bar Leaders said that the call is for the ECNBA to “ensure that the playing field is level and the NBA can on the back of the 2020 elections regain its pride of place as a credible voice for governance and rule of law in Nigeria.”

They warned that disenfranchisement of any voter “due to technical glitches or administrative errors on the part of ECNBA cannot be excused. A technical disenfranchisement is still a disenfranchisement,” noting that “Thousands of members have complained that despite having paid their Bar Practising Fees and Branch Dues and armed with receipts, their names are still not on the voters list.”

According to them, the ECNBA “must create a fast track process that addresses these voters as a matter of urgency,” adding that “If these names are on the list of paid members provided by any of the banks, they should be allowed to vote. Some other lawyers have complained that their names had appeared on the list and disappeared at a later date. If these persons have their receipts of payment of Bar Practising Fees, they should not be disenfranchised.”

Turning to the thorny issue of verification, the Bar Leaders observed that “a list of credible voters needs to be obtained with greater simplicity and that every candidate should exercise their rights to review the voters list and its source well ahead of elections. The most credible way to achieve this in our view is to simply procure a bank certified print out of the names of NBA members who have paid their Bar Practising Fees which the candidates may then verify and compare with voters list already circulated by ECNBA.”

In a damning indictment of the verification process, the Bar Leaders said: “The unfortunate news going around on social media about names like ‘Opening Balance’’ being on the Voters List can only be refuted by a transparent process verified by all the candidates as we now suggest.”

On voter eligibility, the petitioners said: “To avoid disenfranchising many eligible voters and to create further simplicity, we suggest to ECNBA that for the 2020 elections the ECBNA should waive the pre-condition that voters must have paid their NBA branch dues. Our reasons are that that it is public knowledge that COVID19 occasioned lifestyle changes in the month of March in many cities (Lagos was most affected) that deterred many NBA members from paying their branch dues before 31st March 2020. Your Committee may wish to note that the first confirmed case of COVID19 in Nigeria was reported on 27th February 2020, and Punch Newspapers of 9th March 2020 reported that Nigeria had its second case of COVID19 and by 24th of March Nigeria had 44 cases, and the lockdown in Lagos and FCT commenced March 29 – which means the 30th and 31st being working days fell into the lock down period. As the ECNBA would know, the payment of branch dues for most branches entails members commuting to branch offices to present tellers to officers and it is characteristic with members to pay within the month of March particularly the last 2 days of the 30th and 31st of March.”

The Bar Leaders noted that the process for online accreditation “is semi manual, cumbersome, and akin to a technical disenfranchisement of thousands of voters. For example, we do not see why a member who has a Supreme Court Number (SCN) should also be required to upload a Call to Bar Certificate.”

Worried that the verification process is allegedly being programmed to rig the polls, the Bar Leaders said: “More so, it takes an average of three days for one to get the email of temporary log-in password instead of an automated process. This has raised suspicions, and rightly so, that persons behind the scenes use these three days to vet and calculatedly refuse certain voters from certain branches accreditation for the benefit of certain candidates.”

They urged the electoral committee to take a “brave decision in the interest of inclusiveness to drop the verification part of the eligibility process. In our view, anybody who has paid his or her Bar Practising Fees is an eligible voter and should not be put through rigours that are reminiscent of the nightmares millions of Nigerians went through to obtain PVC’s during the 2019 general elections. Technology is so advanced that simple algorithms can void a person whose name is not on the bank certified list who happens to gain unlawful access to the voting platform.”

Speaking on what they termed “Transparent Process for Voting,” the Bar Leaders described as “fearsome” the fact that barely three weeks to the elections “the voters and candidates do not know how the election technology works,” saying: “The ECNBA should know that any credible elections include a public briefing of candidates and the electorate on the process for voting. Questions that are being asked by members include: Is there an automatic process for collation of votes? Is that process transparent? What are the transparency features in the server? Which systems are in place to ensure that this server cannot be hacked? Any election that is not transparent is subject to manipulations and consequently subject to slanders which cannot be rebutted. This is the reason why votes are counted in public at polling booths during the Nigerian general elections. All voters are involved in the counting and go home knowing the results.”

The NBA Elections are scheduled to hold on July 29 and 30, 2020 via electronic voting.

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

SBL HOLDS FORUM ON BUSINESS STRATEGY TODAY

The Law Practice Management Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (SBL-LPMC) will today hold a forum in Lagos to educate lawyers on strategies for business realignment.

In a statement by the Chairman of NBA Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Mr. Seni Adio SAN and made available to CITY LAWYER, the organisers stated that the workshop would among others focus on the “critical need for innovation, dynamic change and capacity building in the legal profession.”

Below is the full text of the press statement.

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