Jude Igbanoi who was at the just concluded Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Legal Practice (NBA-SLP), reports on the proceedings of the four-day event which held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from the 13th to the 16th of June
The Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort in Uyo last week, played host to some of Nigeria’s top Lawyers who converged in Akwa Ibom State for 2021 Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Legal Practice.
The event was graced by the Hon. Justice Abdul Aboki, Justice of the Supreme Court, who represented the Special Guest of Honour and Chairman of the occasion, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
Other distinguished guests were Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, Governor of Ondo State and a past President of the NBA; Paul Usoro, SAN, the immediate past NBA President; and current NBA President, Olumide Akpata. Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel was represented by his Deputy, Chief Moses Ekpo.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of the NBA-SLP, Oluseun Abimbola, SAN, described SLP as the mother from which all other Sections derive their strength. He expressed his gratitude to all who have defied both distance and the pandemic to be in Uyo, as well as those who would be partaking virtually in the deliberations.
The theme of the 2021 discourse ‘Law, Lawyers and the Next Generation’, was an examination of the sort of legacy the present generation of legal practitioners would bequeath to the next one.
Opening Remarks by the Chief Justice of Nigeria
Declaring the four-day Conference open, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad who was represented by Hon. Justice Abdul Aboki, JSC, said there was need for women and men of good conscience and leaders of thought, not stand aloof and watch the country degenerate further than it has today.
“Our country is officially weak, and the leaders of the population have a virtual role to play as the conscience of the society to secure equity, fairness and justice”, he said.
Keynote Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, Urges NBA Sanitise its House
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, in delivering his Keynote Address at the Conference, advised Nigerian Lawyers to ‘fix evident dysfunctions’ that corrupt the legal profession, and undermine its age-long integrity.
Femi Gbajabiamila who was represented by the Chairman House Committee on Judiciary and member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency, Mr. Onofiok Luke, stressed that as Lawyers and citizens, we need to make an effort to try to do things differently for the profession and the country.
He noted that, the nation is desperately in need of honest brokers to mediate a national dialogue to resolve various pressing issues, and give the nation a new lease of life.
“This Conference is coming at a time in our country when we are confronted with, and must answer critical questions about the terms of our nationhood and the conditions for a sustained national union.
“Throughout history, it has often fallen to Lawyers to do a lot of the heavy lifting of nation-building. That is still the case today. We have a lot of work to do, and the destiny of our nation may well depend on how well we do the job that this moment requires of us.
“The work of fixing our country must begin in our own house, within our profession. Before we can begin to play our full and proper role as Lawyers in the difficult, yet necessary task of nation building, we have to fix those evident dysfunctions that corrupt the Nigerian legal profession and undermine its prestige.
“When in a world of inexorable change, we deliberately, or by inaction, maintain fidelity to outmoded practices and dated conventions for their own sake, we do ourselves a disservice and risk becoming relics, rather than the innovators we ought to be for our sakes and the benefit of our nation”, he added.
Remarks by Governor of Akwa Ibom
In his remarks, the Guest of Honour and Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, asked ‘Is it by any chance possible, that the current challenges with the Nigerian project, are a consequence of the justice that Lawyers failed to dispense in the past?’
Emmanuel who was represented by his deputy, Chief Moses Ekpo, stated that the theme of the conference, “Law, Lawyer and the Next Generation”, says it all on the cross-generational impact of what Lawyers do or fail to do in their capacity as Ministers in the temple of justice.
“As you take the law practice this time around through the crucible of this Conference, I urge therefore, that you do so within the context of the larger concerns about our country. I hope that you will find a way of reshaping our sense of nationhood, towards building a land of peace and justice and unity”, Emmanuel stated.
Remarks by the NBA President
Earlier in his welcome address, the President of the NBA, Mr Olumide Akpata, identified globalisation and technological advancements as the two primary factors that are changing all global industries, at a rate that has never been imagined.
“May the day never break, when members of the Nigerian Bar Association, the largest Bar in Africa, wake up to the rude shock that they are unable to stand shoulder to shoulder with their counterpart in the world because they have refused to equip themselves with the skill sets necessary for global practice.
“In welcoming you to this Conference, I am confident that with the line-up of the stellar faculty, the participants would leave the Conference charged and well-equipped for the challenges of a changing time and business climate”, Akpata noted.
State of the Nation
The first working session was chaired by the immediate past President of the NBA, Paul Usoro, SAN and had as Speakers, the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN; the Deputy-Governor of Akwa Ibom, Moses Ekpo, and the Rivers State Attorney-General, Prof. Zach Adangor, SAN who represented Governor Nyesom Wike. Two other panelists – Prof. Pat Utomi, one of Nigeria’s foremost political economists, and media entrepreneur and civil society advocate -Kadaria Ahmed, spoke virtually at the session.
Participants were unanimous on the fact that, Nigeria is not working. They further agreed on the urgent need for fundamental and drastic reforms in every facet of the polity, in a bid to salvage it and make Nigeria work.
What Lawyers Had to Say of the Conference
Their Takeawys from the 2021 Conference in Uyo
‘Despite Pandemic Challenges, the Conference was packed full, Physically and Virtually – Seun Abimbola, SAN, former Oyo State Attorney-General
Let me first thank God for giving us a truly memorable and successful NBA-Section on Legal Practice Conference in Uyo. No doubt, this has further raised the bar in NBA’s conference experience generally.
In spite of our security and pandemic challenges, the SLP Conference still packed a remarkably outstanding turnout of participants, physically and virtually, and we are extremely grateful to our colleagues for their faith in our assurances on security plans and safety protocols, to still turnout in large numbers. Great appreciation to our Council members and the Conference Planning Committee for the great planning, sacrifice, and commitment to delivering a conference like no other. The support of all our sponsors and host State of Akwa Ibom, all contributed in no small measure to the success recorded. The participation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria ably represented by Hon. Justice Aboki, JSC, the Speaker of the House of Representatives represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke, Governors of Ondo and Rivers, President of the NIC, CJ Akwa Ibom, Judges of various courts, and the highest turn out of Senior Advocates of Nigeria at any Section conference, all enriched the audience at this conference.
I think our takeaways are, to ensure that we continue to deliver on SLP objectives of building our specialised committees to continue to provide excellent content for professional development, not just at our conferences, but also for our workshops, trainings and programmes. Participation at conferences for me, as with many, is usually driven by the rich programme and content (working sessions and social events), choice of panelists, and conference location (in this case, the Ibom Icon Golf Resorts, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State).
The SLP Uyo 2021 Conference, fully delivered on all three grounds of attracting participation. The well appointed five- star facilities of Ibom Icon, complimented the very rich content and excellent panelists across generations. The SLP 2021 Conference was indeed, truly a conference to prepare the next generation of laws and Lawyers. We look forward to similar participation of all Lawyers at our next outing at our numerous programmes being rolled out for the development of legal practice.
Folashade Alli, Treasurer NBA- SLP
The 2021 NBA-SLP Conference was indeed, very enlightening. It was filled with such insightful topics, most especially a lineup of excellent Speakers that brought the theme of the conference ‘Law, Lawyers and the Next Generation’ to life. There were so many takeaways for me.
On the 1st day of the Conference, the panel for the Second Plenary Session – ‘Judicial Autonomy; To Whom Much is Given: What is Expected?’ – did justice to the topic. What even made it better, was listening to the perspective of individuals who have been at the battle front for Judicial Autonomy in Nigeria. In the words of Honourable Onofiok Luke, ‘If the Government was carrying out its duties as they ought to, will the Judiciary feel the need to fight for autonomy?’.
The contribution by the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Honourable Justice B.B. Kanyip and Honourable Justice Olusola Williams (Rtd), brought to the fore the challenges faced by the Judiciary and how important it is for the Judiciary to be autonomous. Honourable Justice B.B. Kanyip, highlighted the structural adjustment that has been made to the Federal Judiciary, and how the adjustment has aided the autonomy of the Federal Judiciary. His analysis of the constitutional provisions relating to the independence of the Judiciary and the contradictions contained therein, was very educating. The takeaway from this session is that, there is an urgent need for constitutional review to strengthen the independence of the Judiciary.
Another key takeaway was from the second plenary session on Tuesday 15th June, 2021 titled ‘Financing the Law Firm: What Models’. Mrs. Ummahani Ahmad Amin spoke about her journey from setting up her law firm as a Sole Practitioner, to later growing the firm to a Partnership. She examined the model of financing law firms, and concluded by stating that forming Partnerships is a path to sustainable growth for law firms.
The Plenary Session Three titled, ‘Data Protection and Cybersecurity: Are Law Firms Prepared?’ totally embodied the saying, ‘saving the best for last’. Though it was the last session of the four-day conference, it was thought provoking, revealing and enlightening. It was amazing to learn how things we overlook, could make or break our legal profession. This session also emphasised the new frontier that has been opened in the legal profession through Data Protection, and encouraged all Lawyers to take courses in the field to become experts. I look forward to going back to my chambers, and implementing some of the data protection and cyber security measures.
In addition, the Conference was a perfect blend of work and play. Each day started with either a Marina walk, golf tournament or aerobics, and ended with a social event – ‘Lawyers Nite Out’, ‘Lawyers Got Talent ’ and after party – and these served as the perfect opportunity to network and unwind.
Once again, kudos to the Chair of NBA-SLP Mr. Oluseun Abimbola, SAN and Chief Ferdinand Orbih, SAN , the Chair of the Conference Planning Committee, for delivering an excellent Conference.
What were your Challenges and how did you surmount them?
My trip to Uyo from Lagos, the Conference and my stay as a whole in Uyo, was a very seamless one. There was no challenge that I experienced. It is clear that the Conference was meticulously planned, and no stones were left unturned. The organisation was perfect. Big ups to the President of the NBA-SLP, the Exco-Members, the Secretariat and every single person who came together to make the Conference a success, it was excellence at its best.
Conference was a Wakeup Call – Usman Sule, SAN
Topical issues were discussed at this year’s SLP Annual Conference in Uyo. The theme “Law, Lawyers and the next Generation “, is a wake up call to legal practitioners of both the old and modern Lawyers of our time.
I commend the organisers for the choice of title, timing, venue of the programme, and most of all, the arrays of Speakers like Governor Akeredolu, SAN, Usoro, SAN, Pat Utomi, Kadaria Ahmed, Hon Justice Kanyip, Mrs. Adekoya, SAN, Ummahani Amin, amongst others, who brought their experience to bear. It challenged all attendees, to come out of their shell to reality of the 21st century of legal practice.
Personally, the Conference has sharpened my knowledge on the existing working of the law in practice now and next generation. I have to work harder in the modern trend, in the field of my legal practice. The young ones too have been challenged to embrace law as it is now, and the next Generation that awaits them.
It was thought provoking – Joyce Oduah, NBA General Secretary
The 2021 Nigerian Bar Association-Section on Legal Practice Annual Conference, held at Ibom Icon Hotel and Golf Resort Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and which had in its attendance a hybrid of partly physical and partly virtual, with the Theme: ‘Law, Lawyers and the Next Generation’, was quite insightful as well as impactful. The Conference had a roll out of thought provoking topics affecting the legal profession, in the light of the socio-economic, as well as cultural cum ethnic challenges facing our country Nigeria. These topics were well handled by very resourceful discussants. The following are my takeaways from the conference:
1. There is the pressing and urgent need for our extant laws to be modified to accommodate various other streamlines of income for legal practitioners, especially as the requirement of the Rules of Professional Conduct makes it asphyxiating for Lawyers to delve into other sources of money making, other than law practice.
2. Nothing in our laws debars a Lawyer from seeking or sourcing out loans or grants for the purpose of building a law firm, provided of course, that the proper background checks are put in place to ensure that such a Lawyer who seeks such loans or grants, has a practice base capable of sustaining and repaying such loans or grants when obtained. This is of course, bearing in mind the quite herculean challenge associated with heavy loans (high interest rates).
3. The work of fixing our country must begin in our own house, and within our profession as Lawyers. Before we can begin to play our full and proper role as Lawyers in the difficult, but necessary task of nation building, we have to fix those evident dysfunctions that corrupt the Nigerian legal profession and undermine its prestige.
It Helped Rejig the Legal Profession, to Reflect Current Realities – Jonathan Gunu Taidi, Past General Secretary, NBA
The sessions at the Conference achieved the major objective of helping to rejig the legal profession to reflect current realities, particularly as regard strengthening the rule of law, guaranteeing the independence of the Judiciary, and harnessing technology to cope with extraordinary challenges.
The other major takeaway is that, the legal profession in Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind while the rest of the world moves on. Indeed, as the Conference has shown, lawyering for the next generation is in top gear.
The Hybrid Conference Enabled as many Lawyers as Possible to Participate, Physically and Virtually – Mrs. Funke Adekoya, SAN
As always, this year’s SLP conference provided the opportunity for mainstream legal practitioners who constitute the vast majority of the legal community, to discuss events that impact upon legal practice generally. And, by making the Conference a hybrid event, the organisers were able to accommodate delegates who wanted to participate, but were unable to travel to Uyo for the event.
While all the sessions focused on how we as legal practitioners can give the profession an enduring appeal for entrants, my session which was titled, “The End of Litigators? Awakening The Next Generation”, gave us all an opportunity to discuss the impact of the closure of courts, firstly by Covid and then by JUSUN on both Lawyers and litigants, and the erosion of confidence in the court system as a result of delays in delivery of litigation remedies. It was refreshing to learn that the problems that face litigators are the same, wherever we practice, whether in large or some cities, or full service versus boutique law firms.
Younger practitioners had the opportunity to discuss what needs to be put in place by the profession, to ensure that neither age nor gender become a detriment to successful legal practice.
I am eagerly looking forward to next year’s Conference. For me, the Section on Legal Practice (SLP) has again, lived up to its responsibilities.
Sessions were Anchored by Seasoned Legal Practitioners – Desmond Yama – Past Chairman, Abuja Branch
The sessions at the Conference, were anchored by experienced legal practitioners. Emerging areas and opportunities in the legal profession were fully explored, and all conferees applauded the level of intellectual exposure at the Conference.
The Conference was a full package. All events took place in one location. and there was no need for the conferees to transverse one end of Uyo to another to attend sessions.
The ‘Young Lawyer’s Debate’, was the icing on the cake. It was a mix of intellect, and an exposition of the future of the legal profession.
Conference Venue was Bespoke – Inam Wilson – Lagos Branch
1. Very rich intellectual contents, and the resource persons were excellent;
2. There was better interaction between in person and remote presenters, with few technical glitches… Thanks to better use of technology;
3. The Conference venue was bespoke, the facilities of Ibom Icon Hotel were world class. and the ambiance was very conducive for learning.
Need for Training and Retraining Cannot be Over- Emphasised – Chief Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, Conference Planning Committee Chairman
Your question presupposes that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section on Legal Practice (SLP) Uyo Conference, was a quality one. We accept your compliments, with utmost humility and gratitude. The takeaway from this year’s Uyo Conference is that, as Lawyers, the need for training and retraining cannot be over-emphasised. Apart from the fact that we are in a digital age, many emerging new areas of legal practice make the type of Conference we delivered in Uyo an imperative.
Apart from the usual logistics challenges associated with the type Conferences such as the one we had at Uyo, we encountered two major challenges. The first one was the Covid-19 pandemic challenge, and the second one, was the general insecurity that is currently ravaging our dear country Nigeria.
The Conference was initially scheduled at Uyo in 2020. We all know that the year 2020 was eaten up by the Covid-19 pandemic locust, and as such, the Conference was postponed. When we eventually rescheduled the Conference, we mounted a vigorous campaign to convince the attendees and the resource persons, that we would observe all laid down Covid-19 protocols. And we did. A similar campaign was waged, to convince delegates that we had adequate security arrangements for the Conference.
The massive number of attendees at the Conference, is testimony to the fact that, our two pronged campaign to meet the challenges was successful in no small measure. The SLP Chairman, Oluwaseun Abimbola, SAN, and the members of the Conference Planning Committee, worked tirelessly to make sure that the Uyo Conference was in line with international best practices.
We give God the glory, for the success story which the Conference turned out to be.
It was Well Coordinated and Synergised – John Aikpokpo-Martins, 1st Vice President, NBA
The Section on Legal Practice Conference held in the peaceful and serene city of Uyo was very successful, both in organisation and in the presentation and delivery of quality, meaningful and impactful contents by the Planning Committee and the faculty members.
The sessions were so well coordinated and synergised, so much so that they were exhilarating and non-exhausting. The Speakers delivered their papers and with so much brilliance, candour, passion and sincerity. I was particularly impressed by the sincerity of the Governor of Ondo State, in his contribution on contemporary national issues. The papers were on contemporary, topical and living issues directly connected and relevant to the legal profession, and the nation in general.
It was a Conference that again, affirmed the conviviality and fraternity in the legal profession in Nigeria, and again afforded members the opportunity to network and forge new friendships and alliances.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience, and the national officers are very proud of the Chairman of the SLP and his team, for delivering a top-notch Conference of international standard.
We Must Embrace Technology – Mrs Oyinkan Badejo- Okusanya
The annual SLP Conference has become a reference point for timely, topical and relevant discourse. This year was no exception, and I am always reminded that any practitioner, who takes his or her practice as a Barrister seriously, ought to join the Section and find time to attend SLP events.
My major takeaway from this year’s Conference is that, we must be disruptive if we want to remain relevant. We must keep ahead of the curve of emerging trends, and we must embrace technology.
This was amply demonstrated at the session on Lawyers and Data protection co-hosted by my Committee, the International Legal Practice Committee.