May 27, 2019

INTERVIEW: This year's Conference will be the best ever says Barr. Kunle Edun, NBA National Publicity Secretary

In preparation for the 2019 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, Legalnaija had an exclusive interview with Barrister Kunle Edun, the National Publicity Secretary of the NBA on what lawyers and delegates should expect at the Annual General Conference in August, 2019, we can tell you one thing though, there would be free WIFI at the venue. Read the interview below -

1. The theme of this year's Annual General Conference is "Facing the Future", what does that mean, the future of law, legal practice or governance?

The theme of this year's Conference is very important because of the rapidly changing business environments that lawyers are compelled to work in.  The various sessions of the Conference will deliberate on subject matters in various fields of human endeavour and will lead conversations that will prepare the Nigerian lawyers for the future taking into consideration the evolving business world  and to also anticipate adaptive measures that legal practitioners will be required to embrace in light of these evolutionary trends.

2. Why is there no archive of videos from past NBA conferences on the NBA website?

You may be talking about past Conferences. The 2019 AGC Conference will have robust contents on every information a conferee will need to know about the conference. List of speakers and their papers will be uploaded. Landmark events including pictorials about the conference will be a regular feature. We are working on also including tourist sites in Lagos for the benefit of members who may want to have some relaxation. It is going to be a bumper package for Conferees.

3. What is in place to encourage grants and researches on topical issues after the annual NBA-AGC?

Considering the importance of theme of the Conference which is, Facing the Law, the NBA will use this year's Conference to set the conversation tone for the future of the legal profession. So it is not a one-stop affair. The NBA Section on Legal Practice, the Section on Business Law and the Section on Public Interest and Development Law are integral components of the conference. Their individual Conferences enjoy grants and sponsorships from corporate Partners. The sponsorship has been made possible because of the continued relevance of the conferences organised by the NBA. Topical issues that are drivers for the economy and political development of the country have endeared many sponsors and partners to the NBA Conference. We are gradually having an increasing participation of international organisations, thusly making the NBA an established global brand which ultimately internationalize the Nigerian legal profession. 

4. Has any of the position papers and debates from the NBA - AGC Translated into national or state policies?

Yes. The enactment of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Administration of Criminal Laws of the various States are offshoots of discussion points set by the NBA and sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation. The NBA has set the tone on State Police, true federalism and the entrenchment of rule of law. The innovations brought into the extant Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules were set by the NBA Conferences. Many appellate Judicial decisions reflect the consensus reached at the NBA Conferences. The society must keep on evolving and the NBA being a major social influencer has been playing it's social responsibility roles effectively.

5. Last year many lawyers could not register for the conference due to problems on the registration portal, will lawyers experience this again?

This year's Conference will be an improvement. The registration portal has been greatly improved and the TCCP took into consideration the challenges faced by delegates in previous conferences. We also have a dedicated help desk that would be willing to assist intending Conferees should they have any challenge.

6. The Technical Committee on Conference Planning ("TCCP") has announced that there wouldn't be onsite registration at the AGC, what is the TCCP doing to ensure that delegates receive their conference materials within time & with less hassles?

Yes, there would be no onsite registration. We have observed that some of the Conferees that complained of non or delayed receipt of their Conference materials, actually paid onsite or very late. We want to satisfy members and want the issue of complaints about Conference materials to be a thing of the past. Hence adequate preparations would also require intending Conferees to register on time, particularly our senior colleagues. It is therefore important that senior lawyers register early too. This will assist us in preparing early. The distribution of conference materials will be seamless. I can assure you on that.

7. Are there any eminent or international personalities that will be attending the NBA - AGC.

Yes. Traditionally the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would be present at the Opening Ceremony. Arrangements have been firmed up with some international speakers. The IBA President has confirmed that he will attend the conference. This brings more international flavour to the conference.  However, for this year's Conference we would also have a very rich assemblage of prominent and internationally acclaimed Nigerian speakers. This country is blessed with great intellectuals and we are tapping into that rich reservoir. If we are to face the future we have to also be inward looking.

8. Which artist would be performing at the AGC?

The Local Organising Committee chaired by Chuka Ikwazuom, the Chairman of Lagos branch and his brother Chairmen in Lagos State are preparing a full package of social events. Getting close to the conference the identities of special star appearances would be announced. Members are urged to prepare for a good time and regularly visit the conference website for news bits.

9. Many lawyers are complaining about the high conference fees despite the recent discount, any comments?

The NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN assured members that this year's Conference would be pocket friendly. Taking this into consideration the TCCP made a proposal at the NEC meeting of what lawyers should pay. The NBA President advised that the TCCP reviews the fees downward. This compelled a 25% discount for lawyers between the ages of 1-10 at the bar. We still got more complaints and requests for further reductions. The NBA President is a listening President. The TCCP with the approval of the NBA President made a reduction across board for all the categories of intending Conferees. In taking this decision the TCCP recognized the fact that the conference fees paid for the 2018 Conference were actually the same that were paid for the 2017 Conference; also considering the increasing inflationary trend in the country. The venues and materials that would be required for the conference have had their rates increased since 2017. The service providers also increased their prices. There is a general donor apathy because of the economic situation of the country. However, we are still poised to deliver a quality Conference where there would be no complaints from members.

10. Will lawyers receive any conference materials of relevance like research tools etc.

Yes, there would be customized Conference materials. Since we are looking at the future we are also considering presenting a sort of Mobile office Conference materials that would be in a specially designed Conference bags which will also come with many freebies. We are not yet closed on the freebies to be included because we are still discussing with more service providers to enable us include as many quality freebies as possible. Something that would gladden delegates.

11. Will there be internet?

There shall be free WiFi at the conference venues.

12. Will President Buhari be attending the conference?

We are loking forward to the President coming.

13. Will issues such as welfare of lawyers be discussed at the conference?

Some of the topics to be discussed by some fora and sections will touch on welfare of members, particularly on innovations for making law practice to thrive. We also have topics that will touch on improving the welfare of younger lawyers and the new vistas in the legal profession.

14. The huge cost of holding the NBA-AGC has come up many times, what is this administration doing to reduce cost of organisation while increasing the output of the conference?

NBA is the largest bar in Africa. We expect participation for this year's Conference to be around 13,000. This would require enormous funds to organise. However, we should be looking at cost reduction measures where necessary without sscrificing quality. The TCCP is embarking on aggressive funds drive. The Fund Raising Sub Committee is doing a hard work on that. Like I said earlier there is a general  donor apathy. The value of the naira has not improved. I agree with you that in the long run, all things being equal, we should work on reducing the conference fees, which has always been the intention of the NBA President.

15. The main venue of the Conference will be the Convention Centre of the Eko Hotel & Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos while the Harbour Point Event Centre, also in Victoria Island, will serve as an additional venue. Will there be free transportation to take lawyers from one centre to the other?

Yes. The LOC is working on ensuring that the transportation from the various points and routes are less stressful. We are also partnering with the FRSC to make the routes to and from the conference venues free or low on vehicular traffic as much as possible.

16. What would you like lawyers to look forward at this NBA - AGC?

The best ever held Conference within living memory. We welcome all intending Conferees to the beautiful city of Lagos, Nigeria.

Looking forward to seeing all lawyers at the Annual General Conference, it is important to note that registration for the AGC has commenced and you can register for the 2019 NBA AGC here.