By Onozure Dania
Mr Kayode Akinsola, in this interview, spoke on business law in Nigeria, what it entails, policy consultancy, its intricacies and sundry business issues, particularly those pertaining to the ease of doing business.
The business aspect of law seems vague to most ordinary people, could you shed light on what it means to be a business lawyer?
Business law is an aspect of law practice that covers day-to-day activities of our respective businesses. It is a broad name for corporate and commercial laws, a business lawyer however, attends to legal issues relating to business and organisations.
What does it entails to be a business lawyer in terms of training needs?
Carving a niche in the legal profession is what lawyers are really delving to from the time immemorial. For me, I think such interested lawyer should start paying attention to corporate law as a course from the law School days, such aspirant will need to further his education to Business School, attend various courses that will aid his expertise at offering advice to his clients.
How does this aspect of law operates in Nigeria, in terms of regulation?
There are Sections on Business Law,SBL of the Nigerian Bar Association,NBA, which actually sees to the growth and development of such practice.
What is your view about ease of doing business in Nigeria, especially the Federal Government’s recent moves?
I think we are on course, but there are rooms for improvement. The 2018 reports of the World Bank group for instance shows that some states in Nigeria are still lacking behind on the ease of doing business. The Federal Government through the Corporate Affairs Commission has taken some measures to make business registration less cumbersome, but when you get to each state of the federation, you will observe that more still need to be done. These are in areas of procedures to acquire land and register it, obtaining construction and business permits as well as enforcement of contracts. Compare to 2014 reports of the World Bank, the political class might need to set up a one-stop-shop on these to make their respective states investment friendly.
Are you saying states are not keying it into the FG’s initiative on ease of doing business?
Honestly, most of the states today are not viable because they fail to embrace the ease of doing business. About 70 percent of the 36 states in Nigeria cannot operate for six months without the monthly allocation from the Federal Government. I think governments at state level engage more in politics than governance, hence my suggestion would be that they should begin to look inwardly in order to be more productive, and ease of doing business will be important in this regard.
What does it mean for someone to be a policy consultant?
Every organisation and governments at all level have a vision they wish to achieve within a reasonable time. For corporate entities, policy document is the operational manual for the company to achieve what it sets out to do, how the employees and other players will operate will be documented. A policy consultant is the one to do this work and follow up to ensure compliance. For governments, a survey will be administered on those areas they intend to work on, and recommendations would be made from the analysis.
How much understanding do business owners in Nigeria have about this area and why should anyone engage professionals in policy consultancy?
Many organisations have folded up because the policy for such system was never created, or badly executed even before setting up their businesses. A policy consultant therefore, measure up the healthiness of an enterprise and ensure that corporate objectives are achieved. Like I said earlier, it is not enough to have a business vision, you still need to battle with Business Mission, Company Manual, and Employee Management without rancor, compliance with government regulators and so on.
How would you assess business environment in Nigeria?
The Nigeria business environment is moving, but at snail speed. Many factors answer for this, for example, power is one of the major challenges we have today. If we solve electricity problem today, our youths will be more engaged. Ease of doing business is another, which has been highlighted earlier. Others are high cost of governance (salaries of the political office holders, duplication of government agencies), bad leadership and lack of awareness.
Do you think the business aspect of law needs to be carved out as a separate professional field as may be obtainable in other parts of the world and why?
Yes, if this is done, it will streamline the specialisation in the field of law practice. For instance, solicitors work and business law are fast gaining momentum, some litigants are no longer interested in going to court, rather they engage in the alternative dispute resolution because court processes take time and you are not sure of what the outcome will look like. Professionals in the field of corporate law offer advices that safeguard you from legal risk or exposure.
Pupilage and proper mentoring has been a major challenge among lawyers, what do you have to say to this?
Law profession is one of the oldest and a respected calling, any lawyer that want to go far will not undermine the place of pupilage and mentoring. Even as the Managing Partner of a law firm, I still subject myself to mentoring because there will always be people who would have gone far ahead of you within the profession. So, I encourage pupilage and mentoring among the young lawyers.