* A Presidential Committee Be Set Up To Look Into The AFCFTA Agreement — Mr. Seni Adio SAN
*We Do Not Have A Data Protection For Law Officers In Nigeria — Rimini Makama (Microsoft)
*Our Law Schools Are Not Teaching The Technology Side of The Law — Mr. Femi Fadahunsi
* There Is A Need To Have A Balance Between Oil & Gas And Renewables — Davidson Chalmer
* Nigeria Has A Lot To Gain On BREXIT — Mathew Woods
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, SAN, has said that the partnership between Nigeria and UK legal firms must be with the eye of a win-win contract. The Learned Silk made this statement while giving the Welcome Address on the “JOINT SEMINAR BY THE NBA-SBL & UK LEGAL SERVICES ARE GREAT TRADE MISSION”, held at the Balmoral Hall. Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, on the 3rd of April, 2019.
Encouraging the partnership, Mr. Usoro appreciated the presence of the UK delegation, and pointed out concerns Nigerian lawyers have when collaborating with UK lawyers as the UK firms insist on getting the lion share of the money for a Nigerian job.
The Chairman of the NBA-SBL gave the opening remark and thanked the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Paul Usoro SAN for his continuous support NBA-SBL gets from the national body and also honoring the invitation.
The objective of this event was to build Uk & Nigeria Legal sector collaboration and increase trade across borders, as same was part of the 2019 UK Legal Services Trade Mission in Lagos, Nigeria, following the launching of Legal Services are GREAT Campaign by the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, in 2018 during her visit to Nigeria. The mission is intended to deepen the collaborative relationships between the UK and Nigeria legal sectors and look forward to hearing about future business deals and partnerships.
The event had four panel sessions with discussions cutting across Regional Integration And The African Continental Free Trade Agreement; New Challenges For Lawyers Their Client As Regards Technology; Facilitating Future UK/Nigeria Trade Investment With Focus On Ease Of Doing Business, Regulatory Issues, Risk Management And Beyond Oil & Gas; And Focus On Accessing Capital, FDI And Project Finance.
The First Panel Session discussed on The Future of Regional Integration and the African Continental Free Trade Area AFCFTA, and was chaired by George Etomi, principal partner George Etomi & Partners and the first chairman of the NBA-SBL.
Mr. Seni Adio SAN, partner, Copley Partners and current Chairman of the NBA-SBL as well as Jeremy Caper, Partner at Squire Patton Boggs made up the panelists.
Giving his submission, Mr. Seni Adio said that it was unfortunate that Nigeria was yet to sign the AFCFTA Agreement. According to him, giving assent to the agreement will bring lots of opportunities to African lawyers and by extension, infrastructural development. He noted that Nigeria is already very well placed as we have lawyers with international experience. He further added that a presidential committee be set up to look into the AFCFTA Agreement.
Mr. Jeremy on the other hand shared his view on what the collaboration between UK and Nigerian law firms will bring. He first of all laid aside the notion that the foreign firms always take the lion share in deals and pointed out that there have been situations where the local firm became the lead counsel. In his opinion, a lot of opportunities abound in the collaboration.
Others also gave comments on the issue as it affects them with regard to personal experiences. Mr. Soji Awogbade, AELEX Partner with offices in Lagos and Ghana, in sharing his view on the subject matter as a lawyer with international experience, said that regional integration is already working, adding that what the government just needs to do is to put a cloak around it for it to be strengthened.
Another commenter, Oba Nsugbe Q.C. SAN, a Nigerian lawyer based in the UK and also part of the UK delegation said a lot of young Nigerian lawyers are in the UK, getting trained and doing very well. He suggested that we should consider bringing them over here for collaboration and knowledge exchange. Nakunda Katangaza, also added that there are already successful Trade Agreement in some regions in Africa like in East Africa. She wondered if we can try to move along with the successful FTAs in order to create a more robust one for the continent. A business development consultant, by the name, Tunde Arogunmati, added that African market should start considering joining the common wealth as same is a huge market.
The Second Session with the topic, “New Challenges for Lawyers & their Clients- Navigating Technology”, was chaired by Rimini Makama of Microsoft, with panelists like John Naughton, COO institutional Protection Services, and Basil Udotal, Partner Technology Advisors.
Speaking on the topic, Rimini Makama, said that we do not have Data protection for law officers here in Nigeria, thus there is a need to reach out to non-lawyers that are experts in these areas for collaboration. For a commenter, Mr. Basil, Nigerian law firms need to evolve in this era of technology & insist on using services with high end online protection. He shared his view on Artificial intelligence and the law practice, saying it will improve the law practice in Nigeria. It may have an unfavorable outcome in the short term but in the long term, it will turn out very well, he insisted.
A participant, Mr. Femi Fadahunsi added that Nigeria, not having protection laws is losing so much including revenue. “We are disadvantaged because our law schools are not teaching the technology side of law – the judges available cannot interpret law relating to technology because they do not understand it and it’s a big challenge.
The Third Session was on “Facilitating Future UK/Nigeria Trade & Investment with focus on Regulatory issues, Risk Management, Ease of Doing Business, Business immigration and Beyond Oil & Gas”. The Session which was chaired by Nakinda Katangaza (Hook) with panelists like Ayuli Jemide, Vice Chairman NBA-SBL, Marcia London, Partner at Kingsley Napley, Laura Tainsh, Partner at Davidson Chalmers, and Chinyere Okorocha, Partner at Jackson, Etti & Edu, attracted discussions on various points of interest.
UK immigration lawyer, Marcia Longdon, spoke about Business immigration and the various ways business can come over to the UK to expand their business territories. According to Longdon, there are about 5 ways that could be explored. Viz: Tier 1, investor Visa, £2 mill minimum investment, Tier 1, Exceptional Talent Visa, for musicians seeking permanent stay; StartUp Visa, for those with outstanding business idea; Innovator Visa, same as startup visa but with a financial commitment of £50,000 – Sole Representative of an oversea Business Visa; have an office of your business in the UK with a rep over there; Tier 2, Sponsorship Visa, transferring your local talent to the UK for a period of time and Tier 5 Visa, good for sportspeople and musicians for temporal relocation.
Still on the discussion, Chinyere Okorocha, expert in Intellectual Property law, advised lawyers to always insist their client pay attention to their intellectual property so as not to have issues tomorrow.
“For business coming down here to establish, they have to register with NOTAP, the government agency responsible for technology transfer in Nigeria. The health and pharmaceutical sector be looked into as its ripe for huge investment but currently under funded.
“With the lack of specialist hospitals, few 200 bed hospitals, low drug distribution rate among Nigerian pharmaceutical firms across West Africa, it creates massive opportunities to be tapped into,” she said.
For Laura, the head of environmental and waste section at Davidson Chalmer, beyond oil and gas, it was noted that we can explore other areas like renewable energy, waste management and have good environmental laws. According to her, there is a need to have a balance between oil & gas and renewables as even the big oil firms are already investing in renewable energy to create that balance. Beyond landfills, Nigeria should start looking at exploring energy from waste so that the landfills will have less waste there, he added.
One Nakunda asked why trademark registration takes a lot of time to be done. Responding, Chinyere said it’s as a result of the process they have at the registration agency which makes it slow. For her organization, they tell clients between 18 to 24 months but notwithstanding, the trademark is unofficially registered from the moment it is submitted at the office.
Moving to the Fourth Session on Facilitating Future UK/Nigeria Trade and Investment II with focus on Accessing Finance, Foreign Direct Investment, and Project Finance, which was the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, with Yinka Edu, Partner at Udo, Udoma & Belo-Osagie, Oliver Mellman, Banking & Finance Lawyer, Matthew Wood, Partner at Ashurst, and Dr. Tominiyi Owolabi, partner at Olaniwun Ajayi, as panelists, it was submitted that there’s been good reforms in the capital market in Nigeria like diversification of product offerings in the market, SUKUK, Green bond, Derivative, Netting Rules and many others.
Yinka noted that Fintech is a huge industry that has gained traction and attracted huge investment as 70% of the total funds invested in tech firms, $118 million, in which 2018 went to the industry, adding that Crowd funding is another aspect that is still untapped which needs massive exploration.
Matthew Woods on the other hand shared some challenges to overcome when seeking project finance, which are, Credit of Sponsors/Off takers, FX for naira revenues, Transaction cost. He stated that Nigeria has a lot to gain if BREXIT happens.
Oliver Mellman, spoke on “Focusing on Financing of Commodities”. He highlighted some current trends in the world which includes increased focus on renewable lending, lender bias towards established names, and lender bias towards deals involving international trading firms. He supported Mr. Woods’ claim saying that BREXIT will enable UK firms seek partnerships elsewhere especially in Africa, and create opportunities for African businesses.
Also, Dr. Tominiyi Owolabi, said that infrastructural development needs a lot of funding in Nigeria and should be at least 70% of the GDP. He added that $30 trillion has been estimated to get our infrastructure working perfectly with $30 billion spent annually on it. He gave reasons as to why investments aren’t coming into Nigeria. According to him, investors aren’t just looking for opportunities but bankable opportunities because they need to make money; ease of doing business in Nigeria should also be critically looked into as taking security is still a challenge here; government support and credit enhancement, stressing that the government is still reluctant in this area and lawyers have to enlighten them on the many benefits it has.
Speaking on what we can do, he said that we need to support capacity building in the country and providing support to agencies to create bankable deals.
On this note, the chairman of the session, Jean Macaroy, ended the discussion and closing remark.
She thanked the NBA-SBL for organizing this wonderful event and was confident more collaboration from Nigerian businesses and law firms between UK and Nigeria will increase.
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