Nigerian lawyers are enjoined to urgently address corporate governance issues, and application of anti-corruption laws with the hope of providing solutions to challenges facing the country.
Mr Udom Inoyo, who spoke during the opening of 2021 Nigerian Bar Association, Uyo Branch Bar Week on Wednesday, charged them to domesticate such jurisdictions as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or the UK’s Anti-Bribery Act as they affect operations in Nigeria as well as engage with non-governmental actors-Human and Environmental Right groups.
Inoyo, a retired Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil, noted ‘’Lawyers are also required to interpret complex technical laws and regulations and apply them in many technical areas of the business, such as Drilling, Operations, Safety, Projects, among others.
”Lawyers are also required in various aspects of Relationship Management: that is, company’s Interaction with Operational partners like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation-NNPC (which are governed by agreements), Regulators like Department of Petroleum Resources-DPR, National Content Development Management Board-NCDMB, and other government agencies governed by various statutes.”
He cited ”For example, the oil and gas sector is now impacted by big data and analytics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and edge computing, cloud computing, AI and machine learning, robotics and drones, 5G networks, and collaboration tools.
”This, therefore, means that in a country like Nigeria, with a huge population, largely youths, but with limited technological advancement, we must buckle up. We need to adjust to the new global trends across all sectors, failing which we would be left behind.”
According to him, “As you may know, the oil sector is probably the most regulated anywhere in the world and with these labyrinths of regulations come opportunities for lawyers. For example, lawyers are needed to advise on commercial transactions as well as craft Procurement contracts to avoid disputes down the road.
“Lawyers are also needed to interpret the rights of employees under Employment contracts, Collective Bargaining Agreements with the Unions and Labour laws. They also interface on consequences of workplace injury or accident, discrimination and harassment cases, disciplinary actions, and separation for cause. There are also opportunities as Arbitrators. The list is long, but the good news is that each of these areas provides abundant opportunities for all of you.’’
Inoyo urged, “Make no mistake, the economy of the 21st Century has already been defined, largely by technological advancement and only those who adapt quickly to this reality will have a place on the table. This is even more, given the adjustments following the COVID-19 pandemic. Many sectors are already experiencing disruptions on account of new technology.
“I take pride in being an Akwa Ibom indigene and I am appreciative of the on-going transformation from a predominantly subsistent agro/artisanal state and tending towards a semi-industrial economy with the ambition of becoming industrialized soon.”
“We all know that Akwa Ibom State is blessed and its potentials are huge: from its position as a coastal state of the Niger Delta, the fertile rain forest, enviable aquatic splendour, preponderant and largely untapped mineral resources, fortunes of the 13 per cent derivation fund from crude oil production, and most importantly, some of the finest minds who can and are holding their own amongst peers anywhere in the world. But these huge blessings must be properly harnessed for the benefit of everyone.”
“A fortnight ago, our state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel was in Morocco as part of a consortium that signed a $1.4b deal to produce ammonia in Nigeria. Given that this plant will be located in the state, you must vigorously prepare for the above opportunities that I have just enumerated. By extension, there are similar opportunities in almost all sectors of the state’s economy where one can carve a niche for his/herself.”
”Given what I know, and especially His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel’s determination to reconstruct the economy of Akwa Ibom State beyond crude oil, I can assure you that the state’s future is bright. But to benefit, you must be deliberate in re-skilling yourselves, including a determination to explore beyond our shores.
”Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot soar and succeed. It was a dare-to-win mindset that propelled one of us, Mr Paul Usoro, SAN, to be accomplished in the profession, including, becoming the 2018-2020 President of the Nigerian Bar Association.”
”I am happy that you appreciate the emerging economic trends in the state, which have already started manifesting in steady and sustainable steps, and would consolidate in the not-too-distant future. I am even happier that you desire to play in that space, and why not? But let me be blunt. No amount of pontification will offer you an opportunity in that space unless you deliberately alter the current trajectory.
”You must be determined to alter your disposition towards things. You must see the opportunities and embrace them, and by so doing, avoid Helen Keller’s characterization that “the most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.” I will come back to this later.
“You must begin the process of retooling and re-skilling for the opportunities that are nowhere and those that lie ahead. You must expand your knowledge to embrace learning that is looked-for by a modern economy.
“Our youths must remember that ‘the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it”- J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan. So, never give in to fear. Most of you know me and if there is a central theme to my story, it is the fact that it is possible to get to the top of a career without compromising one’s spiritual values or soiling one’s hands. That could also be your testimony. So rise and push forward,” he added.
Earlier, the NBA Chairman, Uyo branch, Aniema Etuk, had commended his colleagues for surmounting the COVID-19 and appealed to them to brace up for other challenges ahead in elevating the status of the profession.