14th NBA-SBL Conference: Experts lament COVID-19 impact on Nigeria’s economy

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Stakeholders at the 14th yearly electronic conference of the Nigeria Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) have stated that Nigeria is facing significant attrition in both Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPIs) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Conducted electronically over two days with the theme: ‘Business Unusual: Digital Acceleration for Growth in a New World’, participants warned that the country is heading to another round of recession.

The stakeholder, which include Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, head of Sanctions, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Kingsley Amaku, Head of Client Coverage, Rand Merchant Bank, Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo and MD, Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Oyeyimika Adeboye on the section moderated by Mr. Asue Ighodalo and others, said the government is working to put in place policies to avoid depression, while they also expressed fear that recession may be unavoidable.

They said these policies, which the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is aiming to put in place include an extra N2.3 trillion budget to revive the economy into priority sectors like agriculture, public housing and power sector; a strategy to employ 774, 000 people, 1000 employees from the 774 LGAs in the country and the creation of gold ecosystem-solar power.

The policy will also include the need to take Internet to the off-grids so that they won’t be left behind, and a downstream policy to eliminate export of raw oil.

In his remark, the chairman, NBA-Section on Business Law, Mr. Seni Adio (SAN) said the country couldn’t ignore the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We will not succumb to the COVID-19 challenges,” he said. Describing the coronavirus pandemic as an invisible enemy, the chair, Conference Planning Committee, Ozofu Latunde Ogiemudia said: “These are unique times. We are currently faced with an invisible enemy that no one saw coming, an enemy that has taken on all nations and economies of the world, Nigeria inclusive. Many have lost their lives while the battle to subdue and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

“Businesses have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, with some having to shut their doors permanently. Many have lost their jobs and means of livelihood, while others are barely hanging on. Here in Nigeria, even in the best of times, we operate in a challenging business environment, which has become even more challenging on account of the pandemic. Despite this grim picture, we see positives.”

Ogiemudia added that in the past five months, necessary strides have been made in terms of digitising the way in which business is executed in Nigeria. “Businesses (including the business of law) have had to adapt and move online in order to stay in touch with customers/clients and continue to provide as seamless a service as possible. Some sectors such as e-commerce, telecommuting, groceries, social media and gaming are seeing a boost,” he said.

The NBA president, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) said the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has forced digital transformation and stated that the Nigerian legal practice like other sectors, has suffered grave setback occasioned by the current global pandemic.

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“Digital acceleration is absolutely necessary in our practice for effective service delivery. Clearly, the operations of businesses today depend largely on their digital skills and operating models. In today’s reality, the competitive advantage of businesses in various sectors is greatly determined by digital technologies and skills.

“For us as lawyers, it is business unusual and we must deliberately and urgently introduce and institutionalize the use of technology not only in our private practice, but also in our justice administration. We cannot continue to strive in the old analogue system,” he said.

He noted that legal practice is a very competitive venture and Nigerian lawyers must increase their professional and digital skills to be able to compete favourably and to serve their clients better. Other dignitaries include governors of Oyo and Lagos states, Seyi Mankinde and Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Muhammed Tanko among others.

The Guardian

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