COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION AT THE CLOSE OF HER 58th ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE, PRE-CONFERENCE NEC & ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING HELD FROM THE 26th TO THE 30th OF AUGUST 2018 AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA.
The 58th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, Nigeria from the 26th to the 30th Day of August 2018 under the theme “TRANSITION, TRANSFORMATION AND SUSTAINABLE INSTITUTIONS.”
The Conference was formally declared open at about 6pm on Sunday the 26th day of August 2018, by the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. The keynote address was delivered by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana with a conversation elegantly anchored by HRH Emir of Kano. A goodwill message was delivered by Chief Justice WSN Onnoghen of Nigeria, while a Conversation with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo centred on the Nigerian economy took place,
In attendance were several dignitaries including former Nigerian Head of State General Abdulsalaam Abubakar, members of the diplomatic community, the Chief Justice, the NBA President and President-elect, officers and members of the NBA including the inner and utter Bar, the Attorney-General/ Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, HRH The Emir of Kano amid other traditional rulers, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Honourable Chief Judges and Judges of the Federal High Court and States. Also present were several State Governors, Senators, Federal and State Representatives, Heads of government agencies, captains of industry, human rights community, diplomatic community, physically challenged, Nigerian lawyers across the spectrum, clergy, Magistrates, members of the public and the Press.
The conference had over 10,000 registered delegates and invited guests drawn mainly from Nigeria and the rest of the world and ended with the Annual General Meeting of the NBA. There was a total of 33 sessions and over 130 resource persons.
The following resolutions were adopted during the conference.
- RULE OF LAW AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Conference completely rejects the presidential statement subordinating the Rule of Law to National Security. The NBA restates that the Rule of Law is central to a democracy and any National Security concerns by the government must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the Rule of Law.
As a corollary, Conference frowns at the present growing trend whereby government decides on which court orders to obey. The court has exclusive duty under a democratic dispensation to interpret the Constitution and other laws, and government and the citizenry must comply with court orders at all times until set aside.
Conference emphatically objects to the issuance of Executive Orders in respect to matters already in court and observes that any such order is a breach of the principle of separation of powers; and
Counsels that Executive Orders be issued for good governance and to manage operations of government, and not to encroach or usurp upon the constitutional powers of other arms of government, lest Executive Orders become attempts at decree-making.
INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
Conference resolved that our democracy can be better strengthened by an independent judiciary and consequently calls for a budgetary arrangement that allows for funds to be directly allocated to the judiciary at Federal and State levels.
On the part of the Judiciary, conference welcomed the ongoing reforms in the Justice Sector especially as it pertains to technological innovations that will improve access to justice by the citizenry.
STRONG INSTITUTIONS AND TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS
Conference acknowledges that strength of character is required for the building of strong institutions. In this regard, the NBA urges government and civil society to invest in the rebirth, through ethical, moral and value reorientation, of a new type of citizen.
Conference calls for the institutionalisation of higher standards for transformational leadership and in this regard, calls for new laws to set higher standards of academic qualifications for political office holders in Nigeria.
GOOD GOVERNANCE AND TRANSITION PROCESS:
Conference advocates for structures that can aid Good Governance and, in this regard, calls on NBA members to use the already existing skills of advocacy and persuasion to encourage citizens to vote for competent leaders. Candidates must accept election outcomes rather than encourage violent protests.
FOCUS ON LEGISLATIVE AND EXECUTIVE COLLABORATION
Conference calls upon the Executive and Legislative arms to learn to practice mutual respect for their respective functions as a tool for building institutions and achieving sustainable development. In this regard, public interest must be enthroned as a central pivot of governance, and the current bickering must be reduced to the barest minimum.
TRANSFORMING THE ECONOMY AND EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
Conference acknowledges the robust efforts by the Presidential Ease of Doing Business Committee and the consequent positive impact and improvement on Nigeria’s position on the Ease of Doing Business Index.
Conference also recommends that the following should be prioritised in transforming the economy:
- Poverty alleviation should be approached through wealth creation, industrialisation, provision of finance to small and medium enterprises and social welfare schemes.
- The Nigerian budget should be investment-driven with more reliance placed on local production and entrepreneurship while States should commit to supporting credit facilities to improve the provision of funds at the state level.
- Introduce monetary policies that will support businesses.
- Aggressive investment in industrial development.
- Business-friendly regulatory policies.
- Widen the job market to accommodate more people by promoting the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME’s) in targeted sectors as Trade, Manufacturing, and Agriculture to expand the employment and tax base.
- Make access to credit facilities a cornerstone for building businesses, develop human capacity to drive capital accumulation and investment; and effectuate institutions other than banks as providers of capital for starting business as obtainable in other climes.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Conference calls on Federal and State governments to pass legislation to strengthen diversity and inclusion in Nigeria; and in this regard, the NBA advocates for speedy passage of the bill on persons with disability, and gender equality presently before the National Assembly,
Establish committees and task forces to promote diversity and inclusion at all levels in Nigeria, and this should include investment in training and research to enhance diversity and inclusion,
Render continuous support for empowerment of women and urges employers to take steps to make the workplace more gender friendly.
Conference frowns at the suppression of women under whatever guise and asserts that female education be given the same priority as given to their male counterparts.
Conference observes that apart from the regular discourse on terrorism and security, government must proactively combat environmental degradation and over-population, because they undermine sustainable development. Conference advised that advocacy, persuasion and in the case of over-population, a system which rewards lower birth rates are veritable tools to achieve this goal.
MANAGING TRANSITION AND TRANSFORMATION OF THE ENERGY SECTOR
Conference frowns at the rejection of the PIGB by the Federal Government and calls for an urgent review of that decision. After nearly two decades of the consideration of this bill, Conference views it as a major setback in the efforts to sanitise the Oil and Gas industry.
In this regard, Conference particularly recommends
- Clear regulatory policies, enforced by a single holistic regulator, to increase our refining capacity and adopt global best practices as a means of attracting investment to this industry;
- Support for indigenous petroleum producers who must be encouraged to meet with local consumption especially in an era where gas required for the power sector is still being flared;
- That the local content policy in the petroleum industry should be used for supporting these indigenous petroleum producers to ease their financing needs.
Conference recognises the increasing importance of technology in shaping our society and recommends that Government should amend or pass new laws where necessary to catch up with rapid advancement of new technology;
In this regard, Conference calls for the overhaul of the educational curriculum from the basic to tertiary level to accommodate technological advancement;
Conference also notes the increasing technological disruption of conventional lifestyle and calls for strong data protection laws to protect the rights and privacy of citizens; and further declares that cybercrime offenders must be severely dealt with.
FUNDING FOR THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE
Conference acknowledges the importance of a highly professional police force in a democratic dispensation, and consequently calls for adequate funding, equipping, policing capacity development, and improved welfare of the officers and men of the Nigerian Police. Serious consideration should be given to calls for States Police with safeguards to prevent abuse. This way law and order will be more effective in the country.
INSTITUTIONALISING HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
Conference calls on government to see the link between insurgencies and security threats on the one hand, and poverty and lack of education on the other hand, and urges that the following steps be taken to attain global best practices in Human Capital Development in Nigeria and for the eradication of insurgency:
- Escalation of investment in youth education and health because the youth are the future and guarantee of national prosperity; and
- Massive education of youth in conflict zones as part of the strategy to fight this scourge,
The NBA frowns at the near absence of governance in these conflict zones and calls for the annual budget for education to be significantly increased in line with the United Nations recommendation. In this regard,
Conference urges the Federal Government to enforce radical changes in public service delivery in healthcare and education, and place emphasis on appropriate planning and housing policies such as the Garden City tradition, tailored to suit the peculiarities of Nigeria’s teeming population. Similarly, property rights through land title reforms need to be clear, transparent and upheld by the courts.
STRENGTHENING THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
Conference recognises that a FREE AND FAIR democratic process ushered in by smooth transition is the bedrock for sustainable development in every society. Government is therefore enjoined to ensure free and fair electoral processes so the outcome of elections reflect the wishes of the people.
In this regard the NBA pledges to engage with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the electoral process lives up to the expectation of the people.
THE MEDIA AND ELECTORAL INTEGRITY:
Conference observed that partnerships between the electoral commission and the media must be encouraged and sustained because of the role of the media in institutionalising electoral integrity.
For sustainable development in Nigeria, the courts are called upon to make positive and proactive judicial pronouncements on the implementation and interpretation of Chapter Two of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION
Conference reiterates its support for the war against corruption, but this war must be across aboard and not be selective. In this regard, the NBA will work with all law enforcement agencies with the common objective of promoting the Rule of Law, and therefore calls on its members to be vigilant and take necessary steps to prevent the molestation of legal practitioners when carrying out lawful duties.
The NBA asserts that investigative institutions like the EFCC must remain impartial so as to engender confidence in their operations. This is particularly urgent as we enter into an election year .
Finally the NBA is committed to a united, indivisible and prosperous Nigeria where no man is oppressed.
Dated at Abuja, Nigeria this 31st Day of August 2018
A.B. Mahmoud SAN Abiola Olagunju
(President NBA 2016-2018) (General Secretary NBA 2016-2018)