2023 NBA Conference: The Verdict 

The flagship event of the Nigerian Bar Association, the NBA Annual General Conference held in Abuja last week from August 25–September 1. The 6-day event was the 63rd in the Association’s history, and as expected, it was a motley of events and activities. Onikepo Braithwaite who moderated one of the sessions, and Jude Igbanoi give a blow-by-blow account of the weeklong Conference, while Lawyers gave  their verdict on the event

The Conference kicked off with a Jumat service at the National Mosque, Abuja on Friday, a health walk on Saturday, and a Church service for Christian conferees took place at the Bible Summit Church, Kaura District, Abuja  held on Sunday, August 27th.

The Opening Ceremony followed thereafter at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, and it was fully packed with Lawyers at the Velodrome. 

The Conference which had as theme GETTING IT RIGHT, CHARTING THE COURSE FOR NATION BUILDING’, had Tony Elumelu deliver the Keynote Address. The Conference was then declared open by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR. In his speech, President Tinubu said ‘Today, you have honoured me to address this gathering. Thank you very much.

‘I am not a Lawyer, but, I don’t make too many costly mistakes out of great respect and inducible commitment to humanity. I have been surrounded by great minds; one is Prince Lateef Fagbemi, the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation.

‘This is relevant to the present-day situation in our country; we have to get it right, and together is the theme you have placed in a very strategic position in the country. And strategic profession. Together, that’s all My presence here is all about:

“You are learned, and I want to learn”.

‘Where does the level of drilling done on the inquisitiveness of Nigeria’s intellectual properties take us? Please, examine why we are blessed and yet we are lacking.’

Change of Mindset

‘We accuse our nation, and our previous leaders. We complain a lot about the past. This is not the solution. Look ahead and be determined; God has given us a creative mind and will. Africans are not dangerous people. We must respect our green back, our passport.

The greatness of our nation depends on our pride that we owe to the next generations, that Nigeria is our country, our motherland. Building these hopes, is our responsibility.

‘I thank you all, for your believing in me. Your love for my activism and capacity, brought us this far. Men and women of the Bar, let’s encourage each other to get it right.

‘The theme, Charting the Course for Nigeria Nation Building, is adopted, and the present members of the newly inaugurated cabinet should take a piece of this theme home. Let’s get working with a change of mindset, attitude, and a shift in approach to governance.

‘Our chief host, the landlord of Abuja, stick to your values; I want to ride on your metro line. If I ever ask for a free land, decline, but, deliver for Nigeria’s good and great people.

‘For us, this number counts: to have approximately 16,000 legal minds, you are here not to merry but to chart the path. My trust and respect, are for all of you gathered here. So that, together, we can build our country and set Nigeria on the path of greatness.

‘I promise to do my very best, to achieve results.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR

President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.’

In response, the NBA President, Yakubu Chonoko Miakyau, OON, SAN, commended President Tinubu for his achievements over the years and urged him; saying: ‘We want Tinubu to replicate what he did in Lagos, across Nigeria’.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN said ‘My humble charge to all legal practitioners in Nigeria, be it on the Bench or at the Bar, is that, in the discharge of all our professional endeavours, we should be continually guided by the need to place the interest of our nation first. This is easily achievable if we follow the mission of our Association, the NBA, which is the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and Good Governance in Nigeria’.

NBA Human Rights Committee

Chairman of the NBA-HRI, Chino Obiagwu, SAN Declared the NBA AGC Legal Aid Clinic open to the public.

This year’s intervention, led by the NBA-HRI in Partnership with NBA-HRI Collaborators of this initiative include the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) with support from JURITRUST CENTRE, PILP, IIDEA RoLAC Program, DSN, FIDA, AWLA, among others.

Showcase Session

Panelists at this session agreed that, it is essential for the country to shift from a mono to a diversified economy that promotes agriculture, manufacturing and tradable services, while at the same time, professing solutions to the structural challenges facing Nigeria’s economy.

They also stressed the need for fiscal policies in the country to be strengthened, to promote economic growth. Speaking at the first plenary session of the conference, Mr Adetilewa Adebajo, Chief Executive Officer, CFG Advisory, said Nigeria’s economy was losing value and making life difficult for many Nigerians.

Allen Onyema, the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace Limited (also a Lawyer), stated that getting the economy right, and decoding Nigeria’s strategy for growth, diversification, inclusivity and sustainability, was not negotiable.

At one of the plenaries, Director of Equal Justice Initiative and Professor at New York University School of Law, Bryan Stevenson urged the audience to read his book ‘Just Mercy’, which discusses the inadequacies in the American Justice System, including its bias against Women, Blacks and other Other Minorites. He said ‘Death row prisoners were electrocuted, on an electric chair.’ Through his numerous interventions, Stevenson as Lead Speaker for the first Plenary of Day 2 AGC, said had been able to secure the freedom of death row  inmates including young people. 

He said: ‘It takes courage to be hopeful, and without courage, you cannot achieve justice.’

Law Enforcement Session

Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, called on legal practitioners and members of the NBA to work in tandem with law enforcement agencies, to curb money laundering and terrorism financing.

Owasanoye said: ‘Work with Law Enforcement Agencies, to Curb Corrupt Practices’ .

The session focused on the new NBA rules and guidelines on Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing, and underlining the legal profession’s role in the fight against the vices.

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Prof Owasanoye implored the NBA leadership to use the internal risk assessment policy, as a set of guidelines to make its own rules in determining what is ethical and what is not, stressing that any anti-corruption or anti-laundering committee must side-step the pitfalls of bureaucracy, to avoid complicity when a law enforcement agency moves against a client. 

Artificial Intelligence Session

The special session on AI focused the use of AI in the legal industry, and it witnessed the official unveiling of a new app designed and developed by the team of Ope Olugasa,  MD/CEO of LawPavilion Business Solutions, the PrimeGPT and PrimsolGPT at the session titled “Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession in Nigeria.”

Legal experts, practitioners, and innovators discussed the transformative influence of AI on the Nigerian legal landscape, delved into the intricate relationship between artificial intelligence and the legal field encompassing regulatory frameworks, highlighting both the opportunities and challenges it presents.

The session’s lead speaker was Mr Olugasa, and he emphasised the urgent need for the Nigerian legal system to embrace artificial intelligence. Referencing examples from around the world, he called for a paradigm shift toward the utilisation of AI technologies to enhance efficiency, accessibility, and fairness within the legal system. 

Olugasa confidently affirmed, “AI will not replace Lawyers; instead, Lawyers who harness AI will replace Lawyers who do not”. 

Dr Babatunde Ajibade, SAN even took it further, by suggesting that it should go beyond Law School, to include all Faculties of Law, to ensure adept use by the upcoming generation of Lawyers

Boma Alabi, SAN, Sworn in as Chairman of SLP

Former President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association ( CLA), Mrs Boma Alabi, OON, SAN, was on Thursday last week, sworn in as the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association  Section on Legal Practice (NVA SLP) at the Section’s Annual General Meeting in Abuja. The Section’s Annual General Meeting held as part of the programmes in the just concluded 63rd Annual General Conference of the NBA.

In her acceptance speech, Mrs Alabi promised to serve with dedication and honesty, to enhance the development of the member’s skills and that of Nigerian Lawyers.

Mr Omubo Frank Briggs was elected the Treasurer of the  Section.

What Lawyers Had to Say of this Year’s Conference

OCJ Okocha, SAN – Former NBA President – It was Success

‘The 2023 Annual General Conference of the NBA, has so far gone very well. With the reported number of over 16,000 registered for the Conference, I have to commend the President, National Officers and the Conference Planning Committee headed by Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN for choosing the Velodrome and other facilities of the M.K.O. Abiola Stadium as the venue, as only such a place could have accommodated the Conference.’


I have attended most of the Working Sessions held in the Velodrome, and I also attended the session hosted by the Women’s Forum on the future of Women Lawyers in the Legal Profession. The Lead Speakers and other Resource Persons chosen to make presentations on various topics performed well, and audience participation was robust and quite engaging. 

The only complaint I have is the lack of transportation to and from the venue, especially in view of the high fares charged by taxi drivers. I believe that two or three buses could have been stationed at some major hotels in Abuja, to move conferees to and from the stadium. 

By and large, it has been a successful Conference.’

Boma Alabi, OON, SAN – Former President, Commonwealth Lawyers Association and new Chair, Section on Legal Practice –  It Was a Good Conference

‘The NBA AGM is always a major undertaking, and this year’s was no different. The first time we crossed the 10,000 mark in relation to the number of delegates was the Funke Adekoya, SAN led planning committee under Aketi’s Presidency in Lagos. We had active support from the Government of Lagos State. Transport was provided to reduce vehicular traffic, traffic wardens were deployed, traffic diverted, residents informed and advised to avoid the Victoria Island axis which was the hub of the Conference. As a result of the co-operation between the State Government and the NBA, it all went very smoothly and the general consensus was that this was the Conference to beat. 

Sadly, this was not the case with our Conference this year, probably because of the fact that we were in political transition. I knew it would be chaos attempting to get into the velodrome for the opening ceremony, and chose to stay away. As expected, the delegates’ experience with logistics was challenging, to put it mildly. 

On the other hand, the quality of Speakers generally, could comfortably be scored 9 over 10. It was great to meet up with so many friends and colleagues, from every nook and cranny of the country. The President’s dinner was most enjoyable. 

Conference materials in the literal sense were presumably excellent quality, judging by the bag. I got a bag sans content, so, cannot comment on what was supposed to be in the bag, if anything. 

I have to commend the President Y. C. Maikyau, OON, SAN. He made it a duty to attend every session, and was very accessible to the young Lawyers. It was indeed, heart warming, to observe his palpable concern and interest in the professional development of the young Lawyers.’ 

Sylva Ogwemoh, SAN – The Theme was Apt

‘Membership of the Nigerian Bar Association, and attendance at the Annual General Conference is increasing by each passing year. It is imperative that we constantly improve on the mode of organising the AGC, using modern technology. In terms of organisation, there is a marked improvement this year, compared to previous years. Conference bags were distributed seamlessly, and information dissemination about the Conference activities was good. The topics for discussion and the quality of presentation was good. The theme of the Conference was aptly chosen, as it speaks to our current challenges as a nation. The obvious truth is that, Nigeria is richly blessed with both human and natural resources. All that is needed, is a change in mindset and respect for the rule of law.’

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Ikeazor Akaraiwe, SAN – Former NBA 1st Vice President – Prof Stevenson was Fantastic

‘It was well organised. The choice of venue, the velodrome, was fantastic. The open-air architecture, was both safe and healthy. Topics were fine, but the choice of Speakers needs to improve. Some were really good, and some flat. What is the criteria for choosing Speakers? Prof Bryan Stevenson who spoke on Tuesday morning, was fantastic. Speakers and discussants need to know that they will be speaking one year ahead, and need to submit their papers or executive summaries six months before, so discussants can prepare well ahead of time.’

Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN (aka Teacher) – Attendance at Money Laundering Session was Impressive

‘My session was on  Ethics and Professional Conduct for Lawyers: A Closer Look at the Rules of Professional Conduct and NBA Rules and Guidelines on Anti-Money   Laundering and Terrorism Financing. The discussion at this session, was robust and interesting. But, considering that this was a plenary session on an ethics theme that included our incoming guidelines on the complex issue of money laundering, the attendance was disappointedly poor, and the session started more than an hour behind schedule.’

Mrs Folashade Alli – NBA Set the Tone to Get it Right

‘One of most distinguishing features of this year’s Annual Conference, was the large turnout of attendees which was up to 16,000 people, and resulted in the use of the National Stadium as the venue. 

The speeches of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR and the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Prince Abdullateef Fagbemi, SAN, set a positive tone for the Conference.  The quality and intellectual prowess of the Speakers and topics addressed in most of the sessions were diverse, topical, and highly relevant to present-day concerns of all Lawyers present. 

Particularly enlightening for me, was the session on Getting the Economy Right, which decoded strategies for the Country’s growth, diversification, inclusivity and sustainability.’

Mrs Abiye Tam-George – There Should be Access to Justice 

‘My intervention on addressing the new frontiers in enforcement of judgements and accessing remedies, opined that until our court processes are all automated, we cannot rightly be seen as being effective and efficient in enforcement of judgements. I contended that the lack of enforcement of judicial awards, is a direct reflection of the lack of access to justice and remedies by victims of human rights violations. If an application for an emergency protection order is not granted at the same time or within the time that is urgently needed, then such remedy is not accessible to aggrieved citizens. We must always bear in mind that, justice delayed is justice denied.’

Lawrence Anyia – Former NBA Jos Branch Chairman 

‘The Conference witnessed a large turn out of conferees, and the Opening Ceremony was great. The Conference bags, were also of top quality. Food was quite available, but, the service wasn’t orderly. The plenary sessions were quite engaging. The Conference venue was spacious. On the whole, I would score the Conference 75%.’

Ralph Monye – We’ll Get it Right

Every serious Lawyer looks forward to the Annual General Conference of Lawyers. Even when the registration fees shot up from as little as N5,000 to the most recent of N95,000 for early birds for Lawyers over twenty years, most Lawyers still looked forward to this yearly Conference.

So, you can see therefore, why the Conference should be well planned. I was amazed to see well dressed Lawyers standing to eat the only meal, one out of the three days, provided for the day. Meals at the mammy market, were majorly not affordable also.

In terms of getting it right, the road is not smooth yet. Well, we will get there.’

Sophia Chima –Conference Left an Enduring Impact 

The NBA Annual General Conference (AGC) left an indelible mark, as it brought together legal practitioners from diverse geographical regions, States, and fields. The event not only served as a professional gathering, but also provided a heartwarming opportunity to rekindle connections with friends, family, and esteemed Lecturers. Against the backdrop of the theme “Getting it right,” the Conference’s value was further enhanced by its enriching and purposeful lectures.  The AGC’s educational sessions, were marked by their informative content and strategic alignment with the overarching theme. A particular highlight was the discussion centred around the road map for young Lawyers, delving into the intricacies of navigating new beginnings, managing transitions, and fostering personal and professional growth. Among the noteworthy Speakers, Mr Lamar J.K. Gadzama, a Senior Associate at J-K Gadzama LLP, Nigeria, delivered a captivating lecture that left a lasting impression. His insights resonated deeply with attendees, shedding light on the multifaceted journey young Lawyers embark upon in their careers.

 In summary, the NBA AGC of this year left an enduring impact by uniting legal professionals from diverse backgrounds and regions. Beyond the enriching lectures and discussions, the Conference provided a platform for reconnections and networking. The emphasis on the theme “Getting it right” ensured that attendees, including myself, found valuable guidance in navigating the complexities of legal careers.


The 63rd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association is, one of the fairly better ones that the body has had in recent times, despite a few hitches here and there. The Technical Committee on Conference Planning Chaired by Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN, with his Co-Chair, Mrs Oyinkansola Badejo-Okunsanya, could only be said to be a sterling team. Given the humongous challenges, including the paucity of funds the TCCP faced, the verdict of most Lawyers is that ‘they came, they saw and they conquered.’ 

For the first time in the recent history of the NBA, the perennial complaints and protests over the availability of Conference bags, was manifestly overcome. This is contrary to the harrowing experience of conferees at last year’s Conference, where many conferees couldn’t get their Conference bags, resulting in the violent looting of the bags were they were kept, an incident for which the investigating Committee is yet to conclude its assignment.

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