From August 25 to September 1, 2023, lawyers from all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria will converge in the nation’s capital, Abuja, for the Annual General Conference (AGC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Unarguably, this is the world’s largest gathering of lawyers. This year, NBA’s flagship event holds at the M. K. O Abiola National Stadium in Abuja. Already, over 14,000 lawyers have registered, and many more are expected to register onsite at the Conference venue. The Chairman and Co-Chairman of the AGC Planning Committee, past NBA General Secretary, Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN and Mrs. Oyinkansola Badejo-Okunsanya speak on their level of preparedness for the upcoming conference



The Conference theme, ‘Getting it Right, Charting the Course for Nigeria’s Nation Building’ appears quite broad and encompassing. There doesn’t seem to be much law in it. What informed this year’s Conference theme? Kindly, speak to the theme

The Nigerian Bar Association strongly believes that ineffective leadership, lack of vision and fidelity to the achieving the objectives of government, are the bane of development in Nigeria.

The NBA believes that if we do things in all spheres of our National life, Nigeria will attain its pride of place in the comity of nations. If the country tackles its security challenges, eliminates waste in government, tackles corruption and stabilises the economy, it will be a beautiful bride that all will want to do business with. The quality of life of its people, will also be greatly improved.

NBA agrees that strong, effective, transparent, and accountable institutions are essential for sustainable development, and critical for governments to deliver services to their citizens. Thus, strong institutions are important for economic development and performance. The questions often arise, how do we build strong institutions? How do we strengthen existing institutions? How do we build institutions that will ensure Nigerians citizens enjoy good governance? We will do this by ensuring that our leaders do what they promised to do, and the citizens give them the requisite support.

Good governance brings about social development. It is essential for social development. Good governance does not end only with economic development. The result of development, ensures that every class of people in society enjoys the basis of fairness. It is believed that Lawyers are essential for the protection of human rights, rule of law, access to justice and general advocacy for good governance, and so, it became expedient to focus the theme of this year’s Conference on conversations of how we can get it right as a country, while touch lighting the essential role of Lawyers in that regard. The relationship of good governance with political development, is quite important. If the political leaders of a country are not active in establishing good governance, then its establishment in that country is not possible. Its success depends largely on the sincerity of the political leadership, and adherence to the rules and regulations of the political establishment.

What resonates across all religious, tribal, political and demographic divides, is the desire for good, purposeful leadership to bring us to the nation that we have the potential to become. Against this backdrop, the theme of this year’s Conference: “Getting it Right – Charting the Course for Nigeria’s Nation Building”, is most apposite. It is a carefully thought-out theme, that reflects our current realities. We are on the cusp of a new administration, and demands are stringent for our leaders to get it right in all areas of our national development. And the role of the legal profession in the quest for getting it right, will be central to discussions at the Conference. We must therefore get it right.

The NBA President announced last week that over 14,000 delegates have already registered. Does your Committee have the capacity to handle this humongous number of delegates? Where is the venue of the Conference?

We are proud to say that over 14,000 delegates have registered for the Conference. This number has informed the choice of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, as the venue for this year’s Conference and we daresay, delegates will not be disappointed.

From the religious services to kick off the event, the golf and football tournaments, the health walks, the plenary and breakout sessions, to the ever-vibrant Friendship Centre and Mammy market, the bustling Exhibition Hall, the ‘Unbarred’ concert and the President’s Dinner, the Annual General Conference has always provided something for everyone, and this year will be no exception!

The Conference Planning Committee (CPC) is single-minded in its determination to successfully deliver on the task entrusted to it. At this point, you will be right to say that we are already dotting our Is and crossing our Ts. We have confirmed the readiness of Conference materials, like the bags. We have seen in times past, that this has always been a major problem. Learning from that, we have ensured we finalise arrangements on materials like this, so we do not have issues of inability to deliver during the Conference.

It is important at this point, to salute the enthusiasm our colleagues have towards the Conference, because having that number of persons register for the Conference tells you that there is readiness on their part to participate in the Conference, and the expectations are high. As a Committee whose membership comprises of persons who have, over time, displayed leadership capacity in different areas of our endeavour, I believe we have the capacity to deliver an exciting Conference. I say this bearing in mind the fact that the level of preparation thus far has been successfully executed, because of the efforts put in by every member of the CPC.

The NBA is the largest professional body in Africa. Given your lead position, does your Committee have any plan to invite members of the Law Associations of some other African countries?

The Nigerian Bar Association prides itself in building strong and sustainable partnerships, with relevant law associations and professional bodies within and outside Africa. We sure do have plans, and we have extended an invitation to our sister law associations and professional bodies within and outside Africa. Bodies like the Cameroon Bar Association, International Bar Association, African Bar Association, American Bar Association, Nigerian Medial Association, inter alia, have been invited for this year’s Conference.

For the very first time in the history of the NBA, we are witnessing materials including bags being prepared and distributed to Conferees way ahead of time. How was this been achieved? Was this method devised to avoid the fiasco of last year, where Conference materials were looted from the venue by Lawyers?

Issues around making sure that Conference materials are readily available ahead of Conference, I believe, are all a product of the level of preparation put into the Conference. The distribution of the bags ahead of the Conference, indicates how prepared the Committee is to ensure that the Conference is a huge success and a seamless one.

The members of the Committee understand the need to rewrite the history of the stress experienced by our members, while getting their conference materials. From our experience, we realised that beyond awarding the production contract, there was need to have a good follow-up system, which is what helped us to keep the contractors in check for them to deliver on time. With this development, we are now hopeful that issues like looting of Conference materials will not happen.

What is the level of involvement and participation of Government and policy makers in this Conference?

The reality of today’s Nigeria is that we cannot completely have the conversation around how well we have done as a country, and what is to be done without involving Government personnel and policy makers, to drive home these conversations on how far we have come as a country, and making projections for the future. It is in this light that we have decided to invite some Government personnel and policy makers, to also share their thoughts on the conversations around the theme for this year’s Conference. We have also involved the Government agencies like the Police and relevant agencies to provide adequate security during the course of the Conference, as the importance of security cannot be overemphasised.

How will you ensure that the outcome of this Conference will not just be a mere talk shop, so that the outcomes will be impactful?

Our major concern during the Conference as a Committee, is to ensure that every Lawyer who registered to be a part of the Conference will definitely have an impactful experience. In achieving this, we have carefully ensured that the activities are tailored to develop our colleagues professionally. Beyond the conversations that will happen during the Conference, we are also determined to ensure that resolutions are reached and steps are taken to actualise them, by communicating same to relevant agencies.

We believe that the advocacy for good governance is one of the cardinal reasons why the Nigerian Bar Association exists, and as such, we will utilise the opportunity of the Conference to also live up to expectations in that regard.

We have also lined up social activities, that will give our colleagues the opportunity to ease off the stress of legal practice. In all, we are committed to making sure that this year’s Conference is impactful on our colleagues, and Nigeria at large.



Putting together a Conference of this magnitude, must necessarily come with its peculiar challenges. What are those challenges, and how are you tackling them?

Thank you. There is no task that is insurmountable once you break it down into smaller, manageable components. That is what project management is all about. And, the Annual General Conference is definitely a project. A humongous one at that, and it must be properly managed to be successful. Teamwork is critical to managing a project of any magnitude really. The cliché that teamwork makes the dream work is true, and this, I would say, is the major tool we have deployed in the Conference Planning Committee to tackle these challenges you refer to.

The first thing that the Chairman of the CPC, Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN did, was to divide the CPC into sub-committees. We have sub-committees for Finance & Fundraising; Content, Entertainment; Administration; Media & Publicity; Monitoring & Evaluation; and Logistics, which I chair. Through the sub-committees, we have been able to handle the myriad of tasks required, to put this huge project together. It’s daunting, no doubt, but with the help of God we are getting it right!

What are the highlights of the Conference? Who will deliver the Keynote Address? Who are some of the other Speakers Lawyers should expect, and what are some of the topics they will be speaking on? What are the topics of some of the breakout sessions?

The highlights of the Conference, keynote speaker and other speakers – watch this space! Our theme, Getting it Right is so apposite for a time like this in our national development, that it has generated tremendous interest. Fitting all the proposed topics and eager speakers and resource persons into the limited number of sessions is a challenge. The Content Sub-Committee have had their work cut out for them, but they have been able to come up with a sterling faculty and very soon, we shall begin to share details with the delegates and the public.

Many young Lawyers have complained about the Conference registration fee, which they say is astronomical. For new wigs less than five years at the Bar, shouldn’t there be a considerable discount to enable them to afford the cost to attend? What concessions have you made to make the Conference more affordable for young Lawyers? Hotel discounts etc?

Transport arrangements? I would be very surprised, to hear that young lawyers are complaining about Conference fees. Let’s face it, our conferences are expensive to organise, because of the sheer number of delegates. Last year, we had over 14,000 registered delegates. This year, we have hit that mark, and the figure is still climbing. At the close of early bird registration, we had almost 12,000 registered delegates.

Now, this is a week-long Conference that starts on a Friday, with a Jumat service and ends the following Thursday, with the AGM. We serve a full lunch every day to all delegates on the three active Conference days, (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). We give out top quality conference bags, with a jotter and a pen included. There is at least one plenary session per day, with at least five breakout sessions happening simultaneously, at least twice a day. We provide virtual Conference facilities, and the supporting multimedia and audio visual facilities at the Conference to ensure that virtual attendees have a seamless experience. We have a world class Exhibition Hall, the like of which you will find at international conferences like the International Bar Association conference. We run a Friendship Centre for the entire duration of the Conference, where Lawyers relax after the day’s sessions with daily entertainment. This year we are introducing for the first time, a Karaoke Lounge. We hold sports competitions.

Bear in mind that, our Conference is the largest annual gathering of Lawyers anywhere in the world. This year we are preparing for 18,000 delegates, based on historical data. You and I know there is no existing purpose built conference facility in Nigeria, that can accommodate this number of conferees. So, for the last few years the NBA has had to build a Conference village, sometimes from scratch. In 2017, the Landmark Event Centre in Lagos was used, with marquees built around it and across the road. In 2021, the Conference village was built around the stadium in Port Harcourt, and last year the Conference village was built from scratch at Eko Atlantic City, Lagos. It was only the Opening Ceremony that was held at Eko Hotel. This year we are using the M.K.O Abiola National Stadium, and the expense involved in getting that venue conference ready and fit for purpose, is better imagined. Just as a sampler, imagine the cost of diesel required to power the conference venue for at least seven days. Juxtapose all I have said with Early bird conference fees as low as N7,500.00 for young Lawyers that meet the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) threshold, and N15,000.00 for those that don’t, and no higher than N40,000.00 for late registration or N60,000.00 for on-site registration, and you will begin to understand why I’m saying I would be surprised to hear that any young Lawyer is saying that the Conference fees are astronomical. The most that any young Lawyer will pay to attend the Conference is N60,000.00, and that is only if that young Lawyer decides at the very last minute to attend. If they choose to attend virtually, all they pay is N5,000. So, there is no cause to complain at all. I haven’t heard any complaints, and like I said, I would be surprised to. As a matter of fact, if any Lawyers should be complaining, it is the more senior Lawyers, who have to pay much more to cushion the effects of the concession given to young Lawyers.

Regarding, hotel and transportation, the CPC has been intentional about helping to bring delegates’ hotel and transportation costs down, as much possible. We deliberately appointed three different logistics companies – Aishaba Logistics, Aura by Transcorp Hilton and NACO Logistics, to drive and keep down the cost. And, they are now competing to give delegates the best possible rates. We haven’t stopped there. We are still exploring other partnerships, all in a bid to ensure that delegates enjoy the benefit of volume discounts across board.

For those who would prefer to attend virtually, will they be entitled to conference bags and other conference materials? If so, how will they be able to access these materials?

There is no immediate plan to do that, no. But, if we have any bags left over after all registered physical delegates have collected their bags, we may discuss offering them to virtual delegates after the Conference on a first pay first served basis, at an additional fee to cover the cost of the bag and dispatch to the virtual attendee. But, this is something that is not yet on the table, and we will very likely only consider it when, or if the circumstances I referred to arise.

Kindly share with us some of the side attractions that this year’s Conference has to offer, especially for the teeming young members of the Association

I am not sure I subscribe to this emphasis on young or younger members of the Bar. The NBA is for every Lawyer – young, not so young, the old, the elderly and Lawyers with disabilities, alike. The President of the NBA, Mr. Y. C. Maikyau, OON, SAN, FCIArb, has made that very clear, and the CPC is following suit. So, some of our innovations have taken this into consideration. As you know, every year the NBA Conference also hosts football and golf competitions. This year we are introducing table tennis, which was first suggested by a senior member of the Bar, Mr. Olusegun Fabunmi, SAN, himself an avid table tennis player. He has also offered to sponsor the table tennis tournaments, both male and female, for which we are very grateful.

The sports innovation I am most excited about though, is the Wheelchair table tennis, which we will be featuring for the very first time at any NBA Conference . This, as I said, is in furtherance of the NBA President’s deliberate intention for the NBA to be much more inclusive, and the CPC has been running with this vision. Equally exciting, is the fact that Google is partnering with the NBA Conference for the first time this year, and is sponsoring the Wheelchair Table tennis tournament. Google is also setting up an experiential booth to give Lawyers with disabilities the opportunity to experience the latest accessibility products, services and features by Google with interactive displays and demonstrations. They will also conduct a digital skills training session, to teach attendees digital skills hands-on.

These are just a few of the exciting things we have planned for all, not just young, Conference delegates this year.

I must commend the efforts of all the active members of the CPC, for their sacrifice and dedication. They bring so much energy into the room, and their commitment is exemplary. We are also enjoying tremendous support from NBA Secretariat staff and the NBA National Officers. The Chair of the CPC, Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN and I are fortunate to be working with such dedicated colleagues to midwife this Conference. We have promised a ‘Best-Ever’ Conference, and by God’s grace we will get it right, and we will deliver!

How many Continuous Legal Education Points would Conferees be entitled to from attending this Conference?

Certainly! Points are calculated at 1 CLE point for each hour of sessions attended. When the programme is finalised the number of CLE hours will be determined, and all registered delegates will get the points. It’s been a pleasure talking to, thank you.

Thank you both.

CREDIT: This interview was conducted by Onikepo Braithwaite and Jude Igbanoi and originally published in THISDAY LAWYER.

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