The former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has declared that the maritime industry in Nigeria is not generating enough revenue for the government.
According to the maritime lawyer, Apapa Wharf alone was losing N20 billion daily, which translates to N7.8 trillion a year.
“The government is not paying attention. It is the same in aviation. We are losing billions of naira to foreign airlines simply because we don’t have the right policies, institutions and laws.
“We should adopt a fly Nigeria policy. Every dime the government allocates to travel must be flown on a Nigerian carrier. That is what sustains about four Airlines in the U.S.
“Part of what we are canvassing is a legal framework for trade policy. This idea that trade is open, which has been sold to us by the Western world, is wrong. They themselves are closed. They are not open but they pretend to us that democracy demands that we should be open,” he said in a media parley in his Lagos office, alongside some of his partners.
He explained that COVID-19 presented great challenges and disrupted practically everything, including legal services.
“In spite of that, we are trying to do things virtually. We want to identify very clearly our practice areas. Because the law is moving very rapidly, there are lots of disruptions taking place even in the Nigerian legal space. And we in turn are following those disruptions in terms of identifying new practice areas in sports, technology and dispute resolution services. There are lots of disruptions and the law firms that will survive these disruptions are those that plan,” he warned.
Agbakoba, who said his firm was pioneering space law in Nigeria, explained that given the country’s dwindling financial resources, space law, which might sound exoteric, could contribute three to four per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if well harnessed.
His words: “Several space companies are already coming into Nigeria and they are making huge money, but the government is not paying attention. The opportunity is huge. Other countries make huge money from such services. Satellite technology can help in fighting insecurity, it can be used in mining as well as oil and gas. Nigeria can benefit from all those.
“Another one is development law. What development law does when you apply it to social, political and economic systems is that it generates money. If we have a government that listens, this law firm can assist the government to generate ₦7 trillion yearly. It is easy.
“The problem is that there must be reciprocity. It is interesting that we are advising the AGF on law and development, part of which is the resources in the blue ocean, which is called blue economy untapped. It is completely untapped. Then you wonder, a government that is strapped for cash cannot see new areas of raising funds.
“Part of what we want to do this year is to place our legal services at the doorstep of the government to say, if you do this, you will rake in money. The real development policy of the government should be expanding the capacity of internally generated resources and not borrowing or printing money.”
He also stated that the traditional litigation process needs to be disrupted completely. “Cases that take three, four years, should take one month. That is what happens in arbitration and the principles are the same. Why is it that an arbitrator can finish a complex case in a month and a judge cannot? Those are some of the things we have in mind,” he said.
According to him, the future of legal services is in policy and the public sector.
“Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) is the leading public sector law firm in Nigeria. We assist governments at every level (Federal, State, and local) and multilateral developmental agencies in addressing complex development issues. At OAL, we understand how the law fosters change; consequently, we lead the way in driving conversations around national policy and legislative developments. We continually and comparatively review the law, rules governing domestic micro-economic policy to contribute to the development of law and the effectiveness of its application,” he stated.
Partner, Public Policy, International Trade and Investment at OAL, Osita Okoro, who said he provides technical and business development support to the firm public and policy sector practice group, disclosed that it has been a challenge trying to communicate and promote new areas of practice to regulatory agencies in Nigeria.
Okoro, who joined the discussion virtually from Abuja, said in delivering services, OAL ensures the promotion of public-private synergy with it in the middle.
“We advocate the need to recognise the intersection between law, economics and social welfare. We assist governments and policymakers manage risks, improving measures and enhancing the overall quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of public service through regulatory reforms and disciplined programme oversight.
“OAL pioneered innovative legislations like the Cabotage Act, the Fly Nigeria Bill including court rules that introduced frontloading and “smart courts” that involve the deployment of technology through our speed of the project. We led advocacy for financial independence of the court through our public interest litigation,” he said.
Managing Partner, Mrs. Yvonne Ezekiel, who heads the Corporate & Business Advisory section said the firm understands Nigeria’s business environment and the changing landscape.
According to her, OAL is the leading corporate and business advisory law firm in Nigeria with many years of promoting “Ease of Doing Business”.
“Our team provides advice to indigenous and foreign companies on investment regulations in various sectors. We advise on immigration matters concerning entry permits, long-stay visas, work permits and expatriate quotas, legal vehicles such as joint ventures, labour, and employment laws.
“This places us in an excellent position to inform our clients of laws and regulations that potentially affect their business interests. The ﬁrm assists and represents companies before the regulatory authorities, including the Nigerian Investment and Promotion Commission (NIPC), Federal Ministry for the Interior, National Ofﬁce for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), and other relevant government agencies,” she stated, adding that they are the ﬁrst corporate and commercial law ﬁrm in Nigeria to advise on Crowdfunding.
The head, of Public Sector Practice, Collins Okeke said the firm has positioned itself to lead the provision of legal advisory services to players in the space law industry.
His words: “OAL space law practice is dedicated to the continued development of Nigeria’s space programme’s regulatory framework. Our space law practice is designed to offer advisory and policy-oriented services to both the public and private sectors.
“We have advised various government space agencies including, the National Space Research and Space Development Agency (NASDRA) and NIGCOMSAT (Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited) on, international best practices and laws relating to space administration in Nigeria.
“OAL contributed to the development of a National Space Policy for Nigeria and helped build the legal, regulatory, and institutional processes to support Nigeria’s space programme.”
Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya, who is an Associate Partner and Head of Sports, Entertainment and Technology group, said the firm has been looking and studying the trends in terms of what its clients want.
More businesses, she disclosed, are being set up now than ever before despite the pandemic.
According to her, data privacy and protection is becoming more and more important as more people go digital.
“We have legal accelerators that focus not just on the legal side, but also on the regulatory side. To some extent, we help the new start-ups to find financing. We merge them with potential investors. So, there is a lot of exciting things we do in this department. We also do a lot of things in the entertainment industry. We are looking at things on a global scale.
“Our team operates with a complete understanding of the commercial value and nature of the sports, entertainment, and technology ecosystem and the global outlook of these industries,” she said virtually during the parley.
Also, Babatunde Ogungbamila, who heads Dispute Resolution & Litigation practice, said empowering the judiciary to dispense justice efficiently and effectively is very imperative.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. In spite of the slow judiciary, we engage the system to provide solutions as quickly as possible. If we need to develop fast as a nation, we need to pay great attention to our judicial system because if an investor looks at our system, he will not bring his money.
“Our team of specialised and well-respected dispute resolution lawyers has a four-decade history of resolving complex cases. We advise every type of dispute resolution/litigation ranging from straightforward claims to complex commercial disputes requiring the skill of proﬁciency.
“We ensure that disputes are resolved efﬁciently as to time, result and cost. Our litigation team routinely advises the Federal and State Governments, Ministries, and Government Agencies,” he informed, adding that the firm’s advisory prowess extends to a diverse sector and industry, including but not limited to the banking and ﬁnancial sector, shipping and maritime, insurance, retail and trade, property and construction, probate, energy and telecommunications industries.
Source: The Guardian Nigeria