BusinessDay

Olisa Agbakoba Legal innovates to sustain business amid Covid-19 challenges, technological advancement

At the dawn of the current year, 2022, many companies took stock of the business environment and what they need to stay afloat in the changing times brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A lot of businesses went under in 2020 following the outbreak of the pandemic, and a number of others have continued to struggle for survival. In the midst of global challenges, individuals and businesses are innovating to ride the angry waves.

Apart from innovations spurred by the challenging times, there are others necessitated by changes brought about by technological advancement.

For instance, the space race is on. It used to be a competition between Russia and America, but today, individuals have joined the fray.

Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are operating in that space.

In virtually every field of human endeavour, and all sectors of nations’ economy- sports, entertainment, maritime, education, security, among others- things are changing fast, needing new laws and arbitration to take care of these new areas of needs.

Whereas many Nigerian legal firms are still operating as if nothing has changed, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) has taken a leap into the future, as according to the company, “you either innovate or you die.”

At a media event Wednesday to showcase some of its innovations in preparation for the future, the OAL partners said they wanted the world to have an idea of what they have and to also urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to take advantage of existing laws to create wealth for the Nigerian people.

Giving inkling as to why OAL has come up with packages in different legal aspects of the nation’s economy and the emerging technological advancements, Olisa Agbakoba, senior partner, said: “The original space policy had only Russia and America; they were fighting who will be first in the moon. The second space race was done by non-state actors. As you can see, Richard Branson has done it; Elon Musk has done, and Jeff Bezos just blasted off the other day.

“In fact, the Japanese has just warned Elon Musk that his satellite came close to their own. So, the Space Law and Arbitration Association, when it is ready because it is still in the formative stage, will deliver relevant information and put the kind of energy we want for government to respond. By the way, do you know that these guys are coming here? By the way, Mike Adenuga is also doing the same thing. There are two space companies. There is no law that regulates the spacecraft flying over Nigeria’s space.”

Explaining what the right laws can do for Nigeria and the extent to which his firm has gone in trying to get the government to embrace the right laws for the good of the country, Agbakoba, said: “We are engaging from the presidency down even when Abba Kyari was alive, we wrote letters and in fairness to them, they replied some. We are also engaging the Central Bank.

Look at the billions that government agencies have spent on maritime security platforms, engaging Tompolo, etc, whereas the right standard internationally is to have a Coastguard. A civilian agency cannot provide maritime security; that is why the International Maritime Bureau lists Nigeria as the most dangerous water in the world, which is more dangerous than Somalia.”

According to him, “We need to have a tool but again this is the law. Just start a law that establishes a coastguard as a close division of the Nigerian Navy. The reason Cabotage succeeded was two people including Okey Udeh, then chairman of House Committee on Maritime and the late Ojo Maduekwe; so immediately I floated the idea, they took it over.

“Now there is Dahiru Mustapha in respect of Court, the Model Civil Procedure Rule that he commissioned me to write is sitting in the hall of NJC wasting and that Civil Procedure Rule would have been transformed the way the court work even before Covid-19, but no one wants to look at it again. The issue of judicial funding like you said no investor is going to come here if they are not sure of the capacity of your court to deliver. So, the judiciary needs funding and I told them.”

The Senior Partner further said: “Look at the Fly Nigeria Act, Osita pushed it for three years through the Ministry of Aviation and it was going around and they say the director of policy has retired and it starts again. Finally, the minister says it is a good idea but I want to establish the airline first, which is fair enough. I say but if you establish the airlines without passengers, it makes no sense. This Fly Nigeria Act is about passengers. So, there is always a hurdle.”

Agbakoba further said that the future of legal services was in policy and the public sector.

“OAL is the leading public sector law firm in Nigeria; we assist governments at every level (Federal, State, and local) and multilateral developmental agencies in addressing complex development issues; at OAL, we understand how the law fosters change; consequently, we lead the way in driving conversations around national policy and legislative developments. We continually and comparatively review the law, rules governing domestic micro-economic policy to contribute to the development of law and the effectiveness of its application.”

Speaking with BusinessDay Sunday, Osita Okoro, partner, Public Policy, International Trade and Investment, said that in delivering its services, the firm ensures the promotion of public-private synergy.

According to Okoro, “We advocate for the need to recognise the intersection between law, economics and social welfare. We assist our governments and policymakers manage risks, improve measures and enhance the overall quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of public service through regulatory reforms and disciplined programme oversight.”

He further said that the company “pioneered innovative legislations like the Cabotage Act, the Fly Nigeria Bill including court rules that introduced frontloading and ‘smart courts’ that involve the deployment of technology through our speed of the project. We led advocacy for financial independence of the court through our public interest litigation.”

Collins Okeke, head, of Public Sector Practice, said that the firm has positioned itself to lead the provision of legal advisory services to players in the Space Law industry.

“OAL Space Law Practice is dedicated to the continued development of Nigeria’s space programme’s regulatory framework. Our space law practice is designed to offer advisory and policy-oriented services to both the public and private sectors. We have advised various government space agencies including, the National Space Research and Space Development Agency (NASDRA) and NIGCOMSAT (Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited) on, international best practices and laws relating to space administration in Nigeria,” Okeke said.

Yvonne Ezekiel, managing partner, Corporate & Business Advisory, told BusinessDay said: “Our team provides advice to indigenous and foreign companies on investment regulations in various sectors. We advise on immigration matters concerning entry permits, long-stay visas, work permits and expatriate quotas, legal vehicles such as joint ventures, labour, and employment laws.

“We understand Nigeria’s business environment and the changing landscape. This places us in an excellent position to inform our clients of laws and regulations that potentially affect their business interests. The firm assists and represents companies before the regulatory authorities, including the Nigerian Investment and Promotion Commission (NIPC), Federal Ministry for the Interior, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), and other relevant government agencies.”

Read also: News Roundup: COVID-19: WHO expresses hope worst of Omicron wave is over, Reps move to address 20m mental health cases in Nigeria…

Babatunde Ogungbamila, partner/head of Dispute Resolution & Litigation explained that his team advises every type of dispute resolution/litigation ranging from straightforward claims to complex commercial disputes requiring the skill of proficiency. We ensure that disputes are resolved efficiently as to time, result and cost.

According to him, “Our litigation team routinely advises the Federal and State Government, Ministries, and Government Agencies. Our advisory prowess extends to a diverse sector and industry, including but not limited to the banking and financial sector, shipping and maritime industry, insurance, retail and trade, property and construction, probate, energy and telecommunications industries.”

Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya, associate partner/head, Sports, Entertainment and Technology, said: “We are a leading Sports, Entertainment, and Tech (SET) Law firm in Nigeria with attorneys with extensive practical knowledge of the local and international sports, entertainment and technology industries. Our SET lawyers have represented an array of clients small and medium-sized in these industries, from sporting federations, sports associations, clubs, sports entrepreneurs, players, film directors, technology companies and more.

“Our team operates with a complete understanding of the commercial value and nature of the sports, entertainment, and technology ecosystem and the global outlook of these industries.

“Given the dynamism and vibrancy of the creative industry in Nigeria, we have positioned ourselves to support our clients by leveraging our long-standing history and expertise in shaping the regulatory and commercial environment in Nigeria.

We have a diverse range of clients, and we help them at any stage of their business/career. We prioritise our clients’ interests and strive to produce winning results continually.”

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.