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Nigerian lawyers are not part of IBA equation – NBA president

WHILE the just concluded International Bar Association IBA, annual Conference lasted in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate capital, Nigeria Bar Association NBA President Mr. Joseph Daudu SAN , who was also a participant, was inundated with questions from a cross section of the media at the home front on issues arising from the gathering.

He responded to the questions which border on large number of Nigerian lawyers at the conference ,IBA attitude towards them  and general perception of IBA.  Excerpt.

WHY are Nigerian delegates so many at this conference? Are they that relevant to the scheme of events in the IBA?. What in your opinion is responsible for this? Is this because of the short distance to Nigeria or Is it the love for networking in international legal practice? Please give reason(s) for your answer.

The population of Nigerian lawyers at International Bar Association conferences has been on the yearly increase in the past 10 years. Consistently we have ranked third but I think we came 2nd this year. Is it a good thing? Is it because Dubai UAE has relaxed visa regulations? Your guess is as good as mine.

But one thing is certain; the heavy population of Nigerian lawyers has no impact on the stature that the Nigerian delegation ought to enjoy. Nigerian speakers or resource persons are few and far between, not proportionate to the population that we contribute to the IBA.

It is indeed a matter of great disenchantment to every Nigerian that Africa and Nigeria are treated with the greatest disdain by the IBA. We have raised this conscious neglect over and over with the IBA and their standard answer is to say that Nigerians don’t participate in committee meetings and that committees are the basis of participation in the IBA.

In other words, the Nigerian population are surplus to IBA requirements so long as they do not participate in committee activities. Now, these committees hold their meetings in Europe at participant’s expenses. How is the Nigerian volunteer expected to attend committee meetings in divers European or other foreign cities when even the annual conference he attends is more like an annual pilgrimage?

The IBA knows that as long as participation is structured in this form that Nigerian lawyers cannot make any impact on the international plane. The solution is two pronged; (a) IBA has a duty after collecting registration fees and dues ranging from N250, 000 – N400, 000 for the annual conference to develop course curricular relevant to Nigerian law that has appeal to the International legal community so that more members that attend from Nigeria can have some recognition and a basis for participation by integration.

(b) IBA has a duty and indeed responsibility to democratise the committee system on which it places so much premium. By proportional representation and adequate publicity about the activitie
s of these committees, Nigerians can play the role deserving of them in the international legal community.

The only option to this recurring contempt shown by the IBA to the Nigerian delegation is to stay away from IBA functions for some time. At the moment attendance by Nigerian lawyers is dominated by lawyers from Government departments, those in the corporate world and private legal practitioners.

80% of these lawyers do not participate in Nigerian Bar Association activities, yet they troop out in large number to be ridiculed in IBA setting. Indeed, we are a laughing stock and ridiculed by other participants because our delegation do not even appreciate the snide disrespectful remarks made about our huge number and its meaningless impact to the IBA.

What is your general view about the  Dubai conference in terms of organisation, topic contents, and participation by your members and lesson for us in Nigeria?

The topics chosen by the IBA for this year’s conference were by and large disappointing. The themes were tepid and usually not as robust as it should be. The IBA on this occasion was a pale shadow of itself. But the organisers tried to redeem their tarnished reputation by attributing the lack lustre agenda to the threatened cancellation of the Conference by the UAE authorities ostensibly on account of the presence of events and topics which were perceived as insensitive in the face of the on-going happenings in the Arab world.

The IBA has to undergo a thorough restructuring so as to position it for the challenges to come. At the moment, its administrative structure is anachronistic, insensitive and disdainful of minority interests.

As I said earlier concerning participation by Nigerian lawyers, there is an urgent need in view of what I said above,  to bring about an end to this disgraceful show of shame that the mass exodus of Nigerian lawyers to the IBA annual conference brings to Nigerians without any intellectual benefit or return to the participants.

We would do well to develop home grown alternatives to this offshoot of globalisation which is being scorned by the creators themselves.

Do you think Nigeria can bid for the hosting of 2014 IBA Conference when it comes to African zone?

No. Nigeria lacks the infrastructural basis to host any modern conference of international standards. I will tell you the constraints. (i) There is no modern mega conference centre such as you have in business conscious cities in the world and I will name a few like

(a) Durban, Cape town, Johannesburg, (all in SA) (b) every major city in America has an event centre(s) so no point in naming them, (c) several in UK and virtually all European cities, (d) Singapore, Dubai and indeed every major Asian city etc.

The International Conference Centre in Abuja finds it difficult to cope with the activity of a section of the NBA once the population of attendees exceed 2000. Tinapa in Calabar has been frustrated (as it could have been a probable conference destination) (ii) Lagos and Ibadan are out for obvious reasons.

No road networks, no water way economy, no serious recreational activity, insufficient 5 – star hotels, etc. (iii) No gateway such as modern airports. Our airports are an eyesore and a disgrace. To host any major event in Nigerian or indeed position Nigeria as a serious investor or tourist destination, the Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Kaduna airports must have to be torn down and rebuilt.

(iv)We do not have the security and law enforcement platform to host any major international event. How do you want international visitors to view us when confronted by people at checkpoint collecting money from road users, when confronted with similar scenes at the airports, hotels etc?

How do you want them to react to news or information of what goes on in our police stations, courts etc? What happens to their citizens should they suddenly fall ill and have to be subjected to our medical institutions? Will their credit and debit cards work?

Is there enough point of sale terminals to avoid carrying cash about? What is the orientation of Nigerian service providers that they will deal with such as taxi drivers, okada riders, pepper soup joints, etc What have we got to show off to our visitors when they arrive, is it the lack of respect and obedience for road traffic rules by virtually all those who drive on Nigerian roads?

Do we have enough 5 or even 4 – star hotels? Can a tourist walk peacefully without molestation through streets and alleys in major cities in Nigeria? Are the roads in good driving condition or can a tourist or group of tourists just decide to drive to Ibadan from Lagos for sightseeing?

The answer to these questions must be NO on each occasion, only the uncanny sense of adventurism (economic or otherwise) that brings tourists and investors to visit Nigerians. Living here is only tolerated because this is our country and we have nowhere to go and in any event we are trying to change things for the better.

But for now the efforts are either unnoticeable, insufficient or misdirected, whichever it is, we are a long way from creating an environment for the hosting of such an event or even generally the doing of god consistent business in Nigeria.

That is why India and Egypt are the medical destinations for millions of Nigerians and Britain, America and Ghana the educational destinations for our own citizens. Until Government and the people of Nigeria go back to the drawing board and redesign a process to (i) change the orientation of Nigerians,.

(ii) eliminate corruption, (iii) ensure that the systems work from the local, state to the Federal Government, (iv) beef up our law enforcement capabilities and generally breed honest and law abiding Nigerian, we cannot and indeed ought not bid for any international event unless our objective is to showcase the world and the other corrupt nations that this is what they will look like if they follow the Nigerian political and economic model.

To answer the question directly, any attempt to host such a conference is a pipe dream and will certainly end in national disgrace. We will have to learn to walk before we run.

Dublin, Ireland will host in 2012, with the background of consular problems during the 2010 Canada conference, what measures will your administration put in place to assist the would-be delegates?.

From all that has been said above, we should not be enthusiastic about the Dublin Conference. We are in reality not part of the IBA equation and honestly I think they see us as a nuisance. We must on our own regulate our participation in the IBA encouraging quality as against numbers, majority of who only go to shop and engage in extra-curricular activities.

The IBA despite the constitutional principle of freedom of association is not an all comers affair. You must have the requisite technical experience to engage the system. I will recommend that the population of Nigerian lawyers that would go to Dublin not exceed 400. We shall deal with these issues at NBA level.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.