Okey Egbuchu, is Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee for the 12th Annual Business Law Conference of the NBA Section on Business Law which will hold from June 27, with the theme, Bringing Down the Barriers: The Law as a vehicle for Intra- Africa Trade. In this interview with Onozure Dania, he speaks on the event. Excerpts:
The convergence of business lawyers from all around the continent in Nigeria to discuss trade across Africa is indeed worthy of note. What does this sort of engagement signify to the NBASBL as an institution?
It’s not just business lawyers, but key economic stakeholders from Africa that we are expecting to attend the conference. The NBASBL has always been in the forefront of promoting economic transformation through the law and this conference is in furtherance of that. This year, the conference has gained enhanced significance as a platform for stakeholders to brainstorm and for the Federal Government to continue its stakeholder consultation on the very current, somewhat controversial but important topic of Intra- Africa Trade.
Law and Intra-Africa Trade…., how do you think Law has impacted Africa over the years? Could it be linked to several African countries being “developing” or “Third world” countries?
Unfortunately, the law has long been overwhelmingly used as an instrument for the subjugation of African people by their leaders. There is a direct link between law and development. There is no country that I know where law when utilized for the common good does not lead to a higher quality of life. Law by itself is not enough. It’s the leadership and institutions that implement the law that matter most. We must build institutions in Africa founded on law to work for the common good.
How far would the SBL take these engagements with governments, policy makers, regulators and other stakeholders? And in the long run, how do you think the outcome of this conference will impact Intra-Africa trade generally?
SBL will take a stand on the AfCFTA after all due consultations and as it has always done; will work will the Federal Government in particular to see that we implement what is beneficial and mitigate the risks.The footprints of the SBL can be seen in the changes that led to the continuous improvement in the ease of doing business and the revision of outdated laws like the CAMA. The conference will certainly enhance the knowledge of participants, stoke their curiosity and should lead to better and more inclusive engagement of stakeholders. It seems that Intra-Africa trade has come to stay and we hope the conference will lead to quicker buy-ins.
What are some of the highpoints of the 2018 conference? What is the NBASBL offering participants this year, different from previous years?
The conference will have to take place before we determine the high points. For me, I look forward to the session on Law Practice in the time of the African Continental Free Trade Area: Reimagining African Lawyers. This is because we will peek into the future of law practice in Africa under the AfCFTA and the preparations that we need to make to benefit therefrom.