• Prof. Ajayi is not a paid consultant

There are strong indications that the inability of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP) to agree on the rate for international delegates at its last meeting in Lagos is delaying official release of the fees for the 2019 Annual General Conference (AGC).

An impeccable source within the TCCP told CITY LAWYER at the weekend that the need to attract more international delegates to the conference has necessitated more brainstorming on the matter.

“We want to attract more African delegates to the conference,” he said. “Some stakeholders are of the view that the proposed $500 rate is rather high and may discourage international participants. So, we are still consulting on the appropriate rate. That is why we cannot release the AGC rates now.”

Given that $300 is now the advertised rate for international delegates, it was unclear at press time whether the debacle over the fee for this category of participants has now been resolved.

According to the ranking TCCP member, other rates have however been agreed upon by the committee. “The committee resolved to address the fears of lawyers,” he said. “This led to very lively brainstorming among committee members and made the meeting to be long drawn.” NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN had while inaugurating the committee assured delegates of a “pocket-friendly” conference.

CITY LAWYER had reported that there was anxiety among the legal community on a possible hike in AGC fees as the committee met last Thursday.

The TCCP member however told CITY LAWYER that the committee would retain the 2018 rates, even as 25% discount has been extended to 1-10 years post-call lawyers on early bird rates to allay fears of a prohibitive AGC fees regime. The advertised rates on the 2019 AGC website are as follows:
1-5 years – ₦20,000.00
6-10 Years – ₦30,000.00
11-15 Years – ₦40,000.00
16-20 Years – ₦60,000.00
Above 20 Years – ₦100,000.00
Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Honourable Attorneys General, Benchers – ₦200,000.00
Magistrates – ₦50,000.00
Honorable Justices, Honorable Judges, Grand Khadis, Khadis – ₦75,000.00
Senior Citizens (Lawyers age 75 years and above) – ₦50,000.00
Non-Lawyers – ₦100,000.00
International Delegates – $300.00

When discounted for the early bird window, lawyers of 1-5 years post-call will pay N15,000 while those with 6-10 years post-call will pay N22,500.

Asked whether the rates are commensurate with the AGC package, the committee member answered in the affirmative. He said that apart from the huge overhead cost in delivering a world-class conference, each delegate would be given a “convertible, all-purpose” conference bag containing flash drive, charger, calendar “and other freebies.” CITY LAWYER also gathered that the committee is negotiating with some manufacturers and outlets to avail delegates with shopping vouchers with which to purchase items at discounted rates. “We want the delegates to have a feel of this year’s conference,” he emphasized. “But I can tell you that tablets are gone for good.”

“This is the first TCCP that has two chairmen,” he added. “This is informed by the need to deliver a world-class conference and ensure that members do not have any complaints whatsoever.” It is recalled that former NBA Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) Chairman, Mr. Olumide Apata was recently co-opted into the committee. He was not in the original 42-member committee inaugurated by Usoro on January 18, 2019. The NBA-SBL has carved a reputation for organizing seamless conferences.

The TCCP member said that registration for the AGC would commence this month, even as he assured that the draft budget is ready and would be presented to the next NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meeting in June for approval. This is notwithstanding the “anticipatory approval” given to the committee at the last NBA-NEC in March.

On the controversy surrounding the appointment of Eventful Nigeria Limited as the “event planner” for the conference, the committee member argued that no member raised eye brows when the matter was discussed by the committee, adding: “Even when we asked the lady (Eventful) to leave the meeting briefly, nobody raised any issue. If any member had issues with the appointment or had special skills that would have made such appointment unnecessary, he or she should have said so when the matter was debated. That would have even led to more cost efficiency. However, we are lawyers; we are not event planning experts.”

Also speaking on the concerns being raised on the appointment of former TCCP Chairman, Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi SAN as a “consultant” to the committee, the member said the controversy was unnecessary. “The fact is that no TCCP member is being paid,” he said. “In fact, we use our own money to fund the activities of the committee, paying for our flight tickets and lodging among others. This is not in the public domain.

“Prof. Ajayi is not a paid consultant. It was decided that due to his privileged status as a former TCCP Chairman, he should be given a special title as ‘consultant.’ That is all. How much can you pay such a person?”

It is recalled that Usoro had while inaugurating the committee said: “The composition of this year’s AGC TCCP comes with some innovations and exciting bonuses. First is the selflessness of all the Committee members. I spoke with each of the 42 members and they all committed to serve on the Committee at minimal, if any, cost to the National NBA purse as it relates in particular to their transport and accommodation for Committee meetings. That is exemplary, and I cannot thank them enough for this commitment and sacrifice.”

This year’s conference, the 59th edition, is scheduled to hold between 23rd and 29th August, 2019 at Eko Hotel & Suites as well as Harbour Point, Ikoyi. The theme is “Facing the Future.” A provisional AGC programme has been uploaded on the conference website. However, the accommodation details are still reflecting the schedule for the 2018 conference held at Abuja.

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