BY BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE
Mr. Seni Adio is the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association’s (NBA) Section on Business Law (SBL) Conference Planning Committee for the 8th Annual Business Conference. He is also the Chairman of the SBL’s Committee on Consumer Protection and Products Liability. He is a member of the illustrious law school set of 1988.
In this interview, he spoke on some of the expectations about the forthcoming SBL Conference, the challenging working conditions in the judiciary, and dispute resolution mechanisms in the country.
What should we expect from the forthcoming SBL Conference?
The Conference will kick-off in earnest on the morning of May 26 with key note speeches and welcome remarks in the morning and the First Plenary in the afternoon. Some of the dignitaries scheduled for the first day include the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, Lord Mark Malloch Brown,Former Deputy Secretary General, United Nations, and Vice Chairman of the Soros Investment Funds, NBA President, Okey Wali (SAN). The Conference will be declared open by the Governor Babatunde Fashola, (SAN) of Lagos State.
What is the theme for this years’ SBL annual Conference and why did you choose that topic?
The theme for this year’s Conference is quite topical. The theme is: “Exemplary governance Enhancing economic development in Nigeria” This theme was derived, in part, taking into consideration the fact that the Conference is being held in the penultimate year to Nigeria’s general elections. Therefore, it presents a unique opportunity for stakeholders to address the imperatives of exemplary governance as a platform for enhancing economic development in the country.
Plainly speaking, we have very eminent experts as resource persons on the panels of the various Committees that have organized break-out sessions. The Conference is not intended to be a forum for back-slapping or just net-working. Sure, people are encouraged to net-work.
However, the Committees will be providing very substantive seminars and interactive discussions and also provide written materials that attendees will jealously guard and take away with them. The SBL has approximately 21 Committees. These include Banking and Finance, Capital Market, Intellectual Property, Insurance, Sports and Entertainment, Tourism and Hospitality, Mergers, Acquisitions and Restructurings and, of course, my committee – Consumer Protection and Products Liability.
How do the Committees ordinarily key into the general theme of the Conferences or does the SBL Council provide some kind of directive on the way the sub-themes should be determined?
The Council provides guidance certainly but for the most part, the decisions are left to the Committee chairpersons. Usually, the chairpersons take a cue from the over-arching theme and derive sub-themes that dove-tail with the main theme. As far as I know, there has never been a case where the Council threw out a topic from any given Committee.
How do you think the programmes of the SBL has impacted government actions and policies?
Now on the scale of impacting on the government, the government too has on occasions tapped into the resources provided by the SBL and I can say that my committee, consumer protection and products liability has contributed in this regard..
Moreover, I know that at the federal level, for example, there’s a legislation of the National Assembly that is going through several readings to bring the current Consumer Protection Act to make it up to today’s standards in terms of addressing various issues that are not addressed in the current statutes, particular prospect to “encouraging” service providers to be good cooperate citizens and in the rare circumstances that they are not, for there to be adequate remedies for people who are victims of those wrong doings.
For Nigeria, this is a pre-election year, against the back drop of it, you mentioned in one of your contributions that the speakers at the conference will speak on good governance as part of the topic for the conference, but how do you think the outcome of this year’s conference would affect Nigeria as a country?
As a developing topic from last year, we touched on security challenges because we had a lot of security issues going on at the time, and then we touched amnesty, power, economic development, how has the SBL moved up from all that were discussed? What happened after the discussions that were had last year, what has happened afterwards? Has anything been done about the resolutions and discussions, has there been any policy change that was actually influenced by the SBL Conference?
Let me deal with the first questions, part of the ways that the SBL has impacted locally on Nigeria, is that at the threshold, we raise awareness about different issues. We know that people pay attention to what the Nigerian Bar Association says in general;
we also know that as a result of the efforts of this particular committee and as I mentioned earlier, it has caused a lot of human capacity development, the quest for excellence, expertise and part of what it has done for example; the issue of privatisation, part of what has come out of making the whole privatisation exercise, the strides that have been achieved is that we have a lot of people hopefully who are willing to carry the ball and move the ball forward.