The ancient city of Ibadan, Oyo State will come alive on February 17 as lawyers and justice sector stakeholders descend on the city for the 2021 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Annual Conference.

The conference will hold from February 17 to February 20, 2021 with the theme, “The Role of Public Interest in Governance in Nigeria.” Leading lawyers and political office holders are expected at the three-day conference.

The annual conference is coming on the heels of the popular 2019 edition which held in November 2019 in the commercial city of Aba, Abia State and relaunched SPIDEL as a leading NBA section.

Giving more insights on the conference, the Conference Planning Committee (CPC) Chairman, Mr. Monday Ubani and Secretary, Mr. Wole Jimi-Bada said in a statement: “Recall that the last conference of the Section took place in Aba, Abia State and was a tremendous success, as everyone that participated attested to the richness of the conference that was clinically executed by the Chairman of the Section, Dr. Paul Ananaba SAN and the Conference Planning Committee headed by Mr. Chibuike Nwokeukwu SAN. Next year’s conference with the central theme of ‘The Role of Public Interest in Governance in Nigeria’ promises to be an earth-shaking event that will attract the crème de la crème of the noble profession and the political class in Nigeria.

“The three-day event has a load of sub-themes such as ‘Public interest and the respect of the rights of citizens to protest against certain policies of government,’ ‘The legality of Commission of Inquiry of the State Government over Police Brutality,’ ‘Enforcement of Judgement’ and ‘Locus standi in the light of the recent Supreme Court case of Centre for Oil Pollution Watch Vs NNPC’ among others.

“The event taking place in the ancient city of Ibadan in the South West promises to be an experience every lawyer whose interest is geared towards serving the cause of the masses will treasure for a long time. The various speakers that will be Resource Persons for the Conference will include the best array of experts on public interest litigation, top political decision makers and the shakers and movers of the Nigerian economy.

“The Conference will be declared open by the hardworking Governor of Oyo State, His Excellency, Mr. Seyi Makinde who has in his cabinet two active members of the Bar that were recently elevated to the Inner Bar. These are the Chairman of the Local Conference Planning Committee, Mr. Abiola Olagunju SAN who also heads the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission and Professor Oyelowo Oyewo SAN, the Oyo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. They will be pivotal to the successful hosting of the Conference next year in Oyo State.

“The indomitable President of the Nigerian Bar Association Mr. Olumide Akpata; the Head of the Secretariat, Mrs. Joyce Oduah, and the entire National Officers, including the National Executive Committee of the Bar have expressed their support for the forthcoming conference that promises not to be forgotten in a hurry for a long to come in the annals of NBA.”

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Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has warned that lawyers may soon embark on a boycott of the courts if judges of the Court of Appeal and Nasarawa Area Court are not freed by their kidnappers.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of this year’s Annual Conference of the NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) also tagged “revival” conference, Usoro said lawyers would soon have no option than to shun the courts to press their demand for release of the judicial officers.

His words: “We are the ones to speak for the judiciary; they do not have a voice. It behoves us (NBA) to speak on their behalf. A couple of them very very sadly have been kidnapped in recent days. You wouldn’t see any press release from the judiciary because they do not have a voice.

“It is we – the Nigerian Bar Association – that will fight for them, which will tell the authority that they have to take certain steps. If it gets to the extreme and – as we did not too long ago – we decide that we are going to boycott the courts to make a point, that is what we lawyers are for. If we are not united it becomes difficult for us to achieve. That is something I would like all of us to bear in mind.”

He noted that globally, lawyers are “recognized as the voice of the voiceless,” adding that “If you do not defend them, nobody will.”

It is recalled that Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme of the Benin Division of Court of Appeal and Honorable Likita Ewa, a judge of an Area Court in Nasarawa State were kidnapped recently and are still in the kidnappers’ den.

Usoro urged members of the Aba Branch of the NBA to close ranks and resolve the crises rocking the branch, noting that “This is very important as without being united, it is very easy for people to further divide us. Our strength lies in our unity.”

Commending the SPIDEL leadership and the Abia State Government for its “magnanimity,” the NBA President also thanked the judiciary for attending the event in large numbers “particularly in these dangerous times when simply being seen with lawyers could be misconstrued.” He prayed God to give them the “wisdom to dispense justice without fear or favour.”

In his keynote address, Attorney General & Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN commended the NBA for using the law “as an instrument of social change.”

Saying that SPIDEL is facilitating its core objective of promoting public interest by organizing the conference, Malami who was represented by Mr. Aikomo Abiodun, his Special Assistant on Anti-corruption & Contracts Implementation, also commended SPIDEL Chairman, Dr. Paul Ananaba SAN and his team for hosting the highly successful conference.

On his part, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu noted that “Our being human would be incomplete without enjoying these rights,” pointing at banditry, communal clashes, insurgency, kidnapping, farmers/herders crises, weak electoral system, unemployment, decayed infrastructure, poverty, and violation of rights by state actors as some of the factors that threaten enjoyment of human rights.

Represented by Mr. Olaniyi Omodara, the NHRC chieftain described the theme of the conference as “well thought out,” adding that the NBA and especially SPIDEL “is an important partner” in the commission’s quest to reform the regime of rights available to Nigerians.

The opening ceremony was followed by two technical sessions. The session on “Public interest lawyering: Global best practices and development” was chaired by Abia State Chief Judge, Justice Onuoha Ogwe. Leading human rights strategist, Dr. Sam Amadi was the lead speaker.

The session on “Executive orders as tools of governance – Prospects and challenges” drew the curtains on the day’s events. While the sessionwas chaired by Mr. Israel Usman, the lead speaker was Dr. Chukwudi Odoeme, Head of Legal Unit, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). The panelists included former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Emeka Obegolu; former NBA Treasurer Joyce Oduah; former member of NBA Criminal Justice Reform Committee, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke and senior lawyer Udochi Iheanacho.


Director General, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria

We have tried as much as possible to collaborate and cooperate with NBA especially SPIDEL to promote human rights. There is nothing more important than assisting indigent Nigerian to gain access to justice.

The kind of pleasure I derive from obtaining ordinary bail for somebody who has stayed five years in prison awaiting trial is indescribable. I commend SPIDEL for the work it is doing. I am always participating in SPIDEL activities, and will continue to collaborate with SPIDEL.

Former NBA General Secretary

This is one of the best and most packed conferences I have ever attended. There are benefits that come by virtue of pro bono work. If one is to wait for that juicy brief, one may wait for a long time. However, by going to court and representing indigent clients, a lawyer may gain more experience and confidence. Everyday we go to court, we get better.

There is nothing that gives more satisfaction than helping another person. It is recalled that the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN and Mr. Femi Falana SAN became very popular through their public interest litigation work. You invariably end up being celebrated. I want to encourage us to take up the challenge of lawyering in the public interest.

SPIDEL Chairman

Nigeria is at a transformational stage; only public interest and pro people policies as well as development law initiatives is needed to provide credible and enabling environment for sustainable results. This need and service to the people are what SPIDEL stands for; NBA’s link and commitment to the rule of law and justice.

Through interactions on these issues at this conference, SPIDEL will be strengthened and positioned to lead NBA’s mandate as the watcher of government’s policies, governance framework, citizenship issues and so on. SPIDEL is ready to give urgency to activities that will reverse governance, administrative and legal failure to alleviate the suffering of the maases.

Chairman, Conference Planning Committee

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law is arguably the most important section of the NBA, the other sections being Section on Legal Practice and Section on Business Law. SPIDEL proposes a regime of public interest and development awareness. Public interest and development advocacy and litigation is why Nigeria escaped the long night of military dictatorship. This conference of SPIDEL is coming at a time when democratic fascism is on the rise and corruption has rendered development all but comatose.

The gains of this conference must be that every lawyer realizes that our priesthood in the temple of justice of necessity clothes us with the toga of development warriors. We must use the courts and responsible social media usage to advance the interest of the public and development in Nigeria. We can do no less.

The conference continues today with several technical sessions including the eagerly anticipated session on public protest law which has firebrand social crusader, Mr. Femi Falana SAN as the lead speaker.

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The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr. Paul Ananaba SAN has assured delegates to this year’s SPIDEL Annual Conference that they are in for a pleasant surprise as the conference kicks off today with an opening ceremony.

Speaking with CITY LAWYER on the grounds of the conference at ADDREX Hotels, Aba, Ananaba said that many of the invited guests and speakers are already on ground, adding that each delegate would have his or her money’s worth.

Meanwhile, among the early bids cited by CITY LAWYER at the conference are Mr. Abiodun Aikhomu, a Special Adviser representing Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN; Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Onuoha Ogwe; Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata SAN; Justice Livingstone Eruba of Abia State High Court; former NBA General Secretary, Mr. Olumuyiwa Akinboro SAN; former NBA Section on Business Law Chairman, Mr. Olumide Akpata; former NBA Treasurer, Joyce Oduah who is sponsoring some delegates to the conference, and Mr. Okey Leo Ohagba, former NBA First Assistant Secretary.

Basking in the euphoria of the successful welcome cocktails hosted by Abia State Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Uche Ihediwa, Ananaba said: “We are expecting a grand opening ceremony. The Attorney General & Minister of Justice’s (Abubakar Malami SAN) representative and his team are here already; the Chief Judge of Abia State and the Governor of Abia State and a few other governors expected are going to be there. We have some senior advocates of Nigeria from all parts of the country and very senior lawyers, former chairmen of sections and branch chairmen; it is going to be great here.

“You could see that even the welcome cocktail was described glowingly by one of the attendees, a veteran from the beginning of SPIDEL. He said that SPIDEL has never had a night like this! As I speak to you, two state delegations are on their way coming – one from Kano and one from Jos (Plateau), coming to join us. That is the spirit! And we are expecting that to be on display tomorrow morning (today).”

Speaking on the success of the welcome cocktails, the SPIDEL Chairman said: “It surpassed expectations – even my own expectations: live band, pool side, the two sets of caterers had varieties; people had their best expectations met.”

It is recalled that the opening ceremony starts by 9 am today and will witness the Conference Planning Committee Chairman and former NBA First Vice President, Mr. Ikeazor Akaraiwe giving the welcome remarks while Ananaba will deliver the opening remarks.

Goodwill messages will be received from former NBA President, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN; pioneer SPIDEL Chairman, Chief Joe Kyari Gadzama SAN, and Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), Chief Chibuike Nwokeukwu SAN. NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN will deliver his address, setting the stage for Malami’s Keynote Address. This will be followed by the Conference Opening Speech by Abia State Governor, His Excellency, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and a cultural interlude by the Abia Cultural Troupe. A vote of thanks by SPIDEL Secretary, Mr. Kola Omotinugbon will draw the curtains on the opening ceremony.

Among the 16 technical sessions for the much anticipated conference which signals the resurgence of SPIDEL are Public Interest Lawyering, Global Best Practices and Development; Executive Orders as Tools of Governance – Prospects and Challenges; Public Protest and the Law, and Managing Security Challenges and Public Interest Issues.

Others are Business and Human Rights: Global Principles and Best Practices; Alternative Dispute Resolution: Utilizing Institutional and Legal Strategies for Managing and Resolving Companies-Host-Communities (C-H-C) Conflicts; Promoting the Rule of Law; Roles and Perspectives of Attorneys General as State Actors; Implementation of Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019: The Role of Civil Society Organizations and Legal Community, and The Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Interest Litigations.

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