• Monday, July 15, 2024
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‘NBA-SBL annual conferences have produced measurable outcomes’

Intra-Africa trade tops discussions at 12th annual NBA-SBL business law conference

Members of the legal profession, the business community, regulators, policymakers and other concerned stakeholders from across Nigeria and beyond will this week converge on Abuja for the 12th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL).

Themed ‘Bringing Down the Barriers: The Law as a Vehicle for Intra-Africa Trade’, discussions at the conference, slated for June 27-29 at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, will revolve around intra-Africa trade against the backdrop of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) recently signed by 44 countries.

Over the years, the annual NBA-SBL conference has continued to be a platform for business lawyers within and outside Nigeria to network and engage on issues relevant to their fields as well as to establish a thriving relationship between the business community and government institutions.

As the date for the 2018 conference draws close, the leadership of the NBA Section on Business Law and the conference planning committee have reiterated that the annual conference, far from being a talk-shop, has produced far-reaching impact over the years, especially in the area of law reforms that lead to improved doing business environment.

“Nigeria has moved up in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking. That is directly the work of SBL in cooperation with the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Presidential Enabling Business Council (PEBEC),” Okey Egbuchu, chairman, 2018 conference planning committee, told journalists at recent press conference in Lagos.

Read Also: NBA-SBL council, CPC outline benefits of 2018 conference to legal industry

“When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo got into power, we consulted him as one of us and advised him on many of the steps he has to take to make sure that doing business is enhanced in Nigeria. He listened to us, he took note, and he said so at two SBL conferences that he attended as keynote speaker. And we have seen the result today,” he said.

Apart from the collaboration with the executive arm of government, Egbuchu said that the SBL also cooperated with the federal legislature through the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER), which saw the emergence of the new Companies and Allied Matters (CAMA) Bill that was recently passed by the Senate. The new CAMA Bill is currently awaiting harmonisation and passage by the House of Representatives before it goes for presidential assent.

“All these are direct results of activities of SBL as acknowledged by the minister of trade and investment. These are outcomes from our conferences, as well as our stakeholder engagements outside our conferences. The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is a better place today as a result of cooperation with SBL, and CAC is also a member of the SBL council,” Egbuchu said.

“So, we do expect that after the 2018 conference, we will still engage with government and stakeholders to see that we get the best possible benefits from the AfCFTA. SBL and the legal profession will take a stand and liaise with all stakeholders to make sure that we benefit from AfCFTA. Forty-four countries have signed; so whether we like it or not, it is going to go on. The question is whether we want to be part of it or we want to step out and watch free trade go by us,” he said.

Corroborating, Olumide Akpata, chairman, NBA-SBL, said the section was instrumental to the emergence of the new CAMA Bill.

“I can say without fear of contradiction that the NBA-SBL was very instrumental to the emergence of that piece of legislation and we are indeed proud of that outcome. We do engage with government, we do engage with regulators regarding some of the issues that we bring to the fore in our conferences,” Akpata said.

The SBL chair said that the 2018 conference, for instance, was endorsed and supported by the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations. He added that Chiedu Osakwe, the chief negotiator, would be speaking at the conference opening session.

“We are working as partners to ensure that there is a better understanding of the proposed AfCFTA. We are working with them and, in fact, they would like to use our conference as another platform for consultation and information dissemination. So they will be there to speak to the issues,” Akpata said.

Lending his voice, Seni Adio (SAN), vice chairman, NBA-SBL, said that every year, the SBL has ensured that the business law conference does not end up as a mere talk-shop but has always worked towards tangible outcomes.

In view of this, Adio said, the conference has over the years produced reports that were submitted to government for action, while the NBA-SBL has constantly engaged with government and its relevant agencies with the aim of coming up with right actions that will ensure the general wellbeing of the nation’s economy.

“With respect to NASSBER, which is a collaboration between the National Assembly, the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law, and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG); it may not be the first time there is going to be a structured collaboration between the public sector and the private sector, but it has worked beautifully,” Adio said.

“As many of you may recall, last year the keynote speaker was the Senate president. The collaboration has been very impactful. What they have done is that they have basically asked us to come and help with reviewing bills and to be part of the process,” he said.

Adio said apart from the CAMA Bill that was passed by the Senate, there were other very significant bills that were pending. These, according to him, include the Investment and Securities Act, the new Railways Bill and the Arbitration Bill that have been passed by the Senate and waiting to be harmonised in the House of Representatives, as well as certain tax laws that are under revision.

When passed into law, he said, these various significant pieces of legislation would not only improve Nigeria’s ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index but would also hopefully translate into meaningful economic impact in terms of improving the lives of the populace.

“So, it’s true that the SBL has been very impactful in terms of law reforms, so to speak. Of course, we also know what the executive has been doing through PEBEC. Again, for various reasons, a lot of credit should be given to both the executive and the legislature in terms of law reforms; we must recognise that they have been working harmoniously,” he said.

The NBA-SBL is a special arm of the Nigerian Bar Association which engenders the development of commercial law and specialised commercial law practice in Nigeria. It currently has 19 committees focused on specialized areas of commercial law practice and addressing issues from different sectors of the Nigerian economy. Through its committees and strategic partnerships with government parastatals and/or legislative bodies, the section organises regular workshops, seminars and training programmes for members, with a view to promoting commercial and business interests in Nigeria.

The 2018 conference, which begins on Wednesday with an opening dinner, will feature different sessions with a wide array of topics that include ‘Law Practice in the Time of the African Continental Free Trade Area: Reimagining African Lawyers’, ‘Financing Intra-African Trade and Development’, ‘Continental Trade and the Imperative of Unimpeded Movement of Goods, Labour and Services’, ‘Enhancing Transport Connectively in Africa’, ‘Marching in Lockstep – Building Sub-National Competitiveness for Global Investment’, ‘AfCFTA and Transformative Industrialization in Nigeria’, ‘Standardizing Continental Regulations on Consumer Protection and Competition Law’, among others.