8 months ago

BusinessDay 12 Apr 2018


24 BUSINESS DAY C002D5556 Thursday 12 April 2018 THE YOUNG BUSINESSLAWYER Now let us talk welfare! (1) A survey was recently conducted to identify core issues that were pertinent to young lawyers, impacting their career progression, personal development and work life and about 155 lawyers responded. Over 90% of the responses were similar and pointed to one core deficiency; neglect of the welfare of young lawyers. By the way, welfare is not synonymous with remuneration. Welfare is a synonym for wellbeing and transcends remuneration to include, comfort, happiness, development, health and prosperity. When viewed from this paradigm, welfare includes anything that makes for a fulfilling career and life. The question of the welfare of young lawyers is a well-known ingredient of most conversations between and about lawyers. Sadly, the corresponding action in this regard is significantly lacking. It appears there are seasonal upticks for the conversation and then a few strides are made but the impact is yet to be allencompassing or concentrated enough to tip the scale in a different direction. When asked what changes are to be advocated for, the responses were, regulated remuneration, mentoring, professionalism and respect of young lawyers, intentional or structured training, healthy work environment, inclusion in more challenging work. Some more disturbing responses pointed to what I would term abuse, they were along the lines of “young lawyers should be treated like human beings and not worse than slaves, oppression and abuse should be prevented”. A cumulative review of these issues raises critical questions as to the purpose of the longwinded education that lawyers undertake and the veracity of the “prestige” of being a lawyer; for many, the only reward for their labour is the communal hailing “De law!!!”. In my opinion, not too many lawyers called to the bar in Nigeria ever experience that prestigious character of the law, with most vicariously living through their more than distant seniors who have earned the benefit of the rewards of experience, hard work, connections and providence. Please do not get me wrong, I am not an advocate for lethargy or a system of hand-me downs without due qualification. There is indeed a place for hard work, proving yourself and working your way up to success but this must be juxtapositioned with a balanced reward system and obvious progression. This combination is what works and makes for fulfilment, the absence of either makes for discontentment. Little wonder the consistent attrition of the number of lawyers who remain in practice as we know it. At this point, credit is to be given to various law firms, associations and leading lights who have made it their concern to champion the cause of young lawyers, made sacrifices for them and DOCKET Court acquits emirates airline over alleged $1.6m Theft The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday discharged and acquitted Emirates Airlines and ten others in a case brought against the airline alleging conspiracy and stealing of $1.630 million belonging to Prince Ikem Orji. The airline and other defendants in the case were alleged to have conspired and stole four bags, one of which contained $1.630 million on December 19, 2007 at the Muritala Mohammed International airport, Lagos. Justice Mohammed Idris held that the prosecution failed to prove its case against all the defendants constantly invest in their development. However, pockets of impact will not suffice if we want a thriving legal services sector. A critical pillar of our association as lawyers should be the consolidation of efforts to ensure a minimum standard for the welfare at the onboarding stage and even beyond. As many as we appear to be, we are yet to hit the 250,000 mark of qualified and enrolled lawyers. All the numerous professional platforms exist within this limit and given the closed nature of the regulation of the profession, it should not be rocket science to work out solutions which are extensive, revolutionary and to the benefit of the most. There is a contra argument that is as germane as the cause for welfare; the case for profitability. Yes, law firms and businesses are set up for profit and a business that is yet to float or become profitable cannot be realistically expected to conform with idealistic notions like welfare or fair remuneration. You and I know however that this is not the case. While there are several organisations that uphold the notion of fair compensation and welfare, majority appear to believe that it is in the place of the young lawyer to earn stripes, hustle and even suffer before they deserve reasonable compensation or career progression and this is the paradigm that must be changed. Much is to be said about all these issues that have been highlighted but it appears that remuneration is centerfield. This has been given credence with the recent move by the Nigerian Bar Association to apply a mandatory minimum wage for young lawyers. This commendable move should be encouraged. Albeit, before application of such a general rule, there must be critical study and confirmation of the organisations who are able to commit to and sustainably adhere to the proposed minimum wage. The policy is then to be benchmarked against empirical evidence and capacity and where relevant, subventions may be proposed. It would be benefit no one, if the rules made are beyond reasonable doubts. Justice Idris described the claim as a fairy tale stating that there was no evidence suggesting such collusion. by nature defunct with the subjects being incapable of compliance. Empirical evidence shows that there are lawyers who earn as little as N15,000- N20,000 per month. In today’s Nigeria, that takes no one home and is even beneath statutory minimum wage. More disheartening is that for many a young lawyer, their earnings do not progress alongside the work they do or the length of time in practice. There is no reason that a young lawyer with over 5 years of experience should be earning N30,000 for 5 years without any change! And let no one say that this is due to performance ratings as that speaks to the quality and standards endorsed/ nurtured by the organisation. There is no reason that a lawyer would remain unpaid for months on end where it is apparent that the organisation has simply refused to prioritise payment despite its capacity to do so! There is no reason that a young lawyer who shows up at work every day would be asked to go home without monthly remuneration but earn only on the basis of an indeterminable commission which would be payable when the young lawyer brings business! There is no reason that a young lawyer would be asked to use his/her personal funds to fund company business without reimbursement! Lastly, there is no reason that a lawyer should be hired without a proper contract that states clearly what remuneration and benefits apply to his/her employment relations! You think this is incredulous, there are young lawyers who are informed of their salary per payday and largely based on whimsical appraisals conducted without set indices on the day salaries are to be paid. There is no gainsaying the need for urgent review and change. This must be done with tact, a genuine drive for change and to the benefit of the most. We will speak to the other issues in Part 2, please stay tuned. Oyeyemi OYEYEMI ADERIBIGBE is a Senior Associate at Templars. She is also the current Vice-Chairman of the Young Lawyers’ Forum of the Nigerian Bar Association -Section on Business Law and the Young Lawyers’ Committee Liaison Officer of the African Regional Forum of the International Bar Association. Feedback – Oyeyemi.aderibigbe@ ; yemiimmanuel@ THE COLUMN GIVES PERSPECTIVE ON VARIOUS ISSUES YOUNG LAW- YERS DEAL WITH IN THE COURSE OF THEIR CAREER AND HOW THEY CAN OPTIMISE THEIR JOURNEY. The court further held that there was no evidence to show that any of the defendants were in Dubai at any time in order to have nexus with the missing bags. GlobalREPORT Microsoft calls for dismissal of U.S. Supreme Court privacy fight Microsoft Corp on Tuesday backed the Justice Department’s request that the U.S. Supreme Court dismiss a case pitting the two against each other over whether prosecutors An IRN survey of the UK Business Legal Services Market has revealed that demand for commercial legal advice will rise over the next 18 months, according to an annual market bellwether, but some sectors are becoming crowded with law firm teams created to serve specific industries. Of 180 large and SME businesses surveyed by IRN Research, most expect their demands for legal services to stay unchanged over that period. But nearly a third of large businesses and 16% of SMEs predict a rise in their use of external advice. Just 9% of large businesses and 11% of SMEs expect a fall. Most large businesses reported using more than one law firm. IRN surveyed the websites of the top 200 law firms to gauge how many have created vertical sector teams to advise different industries. Thirteen (13) vertical sectors are listed by over 50 firms, led by real estate (101), financial services and insurance (97), and hospitality, leisure and Lucia Raimanova, a Counsel at Allen & Overy’s International Arbitration Group has been nominated by the VIAC Board to the three-member panel on behalf of the respondent. Lucia relocated to Bratislava from London in June 2016 to lead the firm’s international arbitration practice within the CEE. In her remarks, Lucia said, “Like many sectors, also international arbitration struggles with retaining female talent in leading roles. Securing gender equality in arbitrator appointments is no easy task. There is still an insufficient pool of experienced female arbitrators and it does not help that arbitrators are often associated with an image of white-haired men. In this case, my co-arbitrator and I made sure we had an equally qualified male candidate for the role of the Chairman of the Tribunal but, as luck would can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas after Congress passed a law that resolved the dispute. ---Reuters Demand for business law to rise, as competition intensifies sport (91). Another 10 sectors reach double figures. Some vertical sectors are already becoming crowded, the report warns, with the next emergent trend a move to more niche expertise. In health, for example, niche specialties include GPs, independent hospitals and social care. UK-based business law firms and chambers generated revenues of £15.4bn in 2017, says IRN, a 4% rise on the previous year. A&O lawyer makes history with first all-woman arbitral tribunal at Vienna International Arbitration Centre have it, we ended up with the female candidate who is doing a wonderful job as a Chairwoman.” The Vienna International Arbitration Centre (VIAC) is an international arbitration institution with a particular stronghold in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), but attracting also parties from further afield, notably Africa and Oceania. Its recently-released annual report shows that it began 43 new international arbitration and mediation cases in 2017. Notably, it also reports the formation of its first all-female tribunal.

Thursday 12 April 2018 PROBONO Paul Usoro Challenge: A Bold Initiative at Advancing the Pro Bono Culture Though life was not perfect for 24-year old Jimi Oladapo, at least he managed to get by. A graduate of Accounting from the University of Benin, Oladapo eked out a living working as a machine operator in a plastic production factory. After three fruitless years of job hunting, he was forced to swallow his pride, put away his impressive university degree and take up his present job. While the job was hardly his preferred option, it was, at least, a stop-gap measure that guaranteed him daily bread. However, the young man’s relatively stable life came crashing down after he was arrested for allegedly murdering his landlord’s son. Oladapo maintains that he acted in self-defense. According to him, he was attacked by the deceased and his brother and in a bid to defend himself, he killed the young man. One year after the incident and Oladapo is still languishing in prison even as he waits for the matter to be taken to court. Bereft of legal representation, abandoned by family, friends and the society as a whole, Oladapo’s fate mirrors the pathetic situation of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATP) in Nigeria. He is not alone. According to a fact sheet released by the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), a Lagos based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO); over 70 percent of inmates in Nigerian prisons are ATPs. They are left at the mercy of a legal system that simply has not lived up to its responsibility of guaranteeing much needed access to legal services for indigent citizenry. In truth, Oladapo and thousands of ATPs that are wasting away in prisons all over the country reflect the sad state of the Pro Bono culture in Nigeria’s legal space. The obvious dearth of Pro Bono, that is, the provision of free legal services for indigent people, is not limited to the criminal law scene in Nigeria. It also spills into civil disputes. Incidences of widows who are deprived of their late spouse’s estates, workers whose employments are terminated without receiving benefits due to them, amongst others, make headline news daily. A number of these cases go unresolved simply because the victims cannot afford the high cost of engaging counsel. Interestingly, Nigeria’s legal space has witnessed a number of initiatives put in place to provide legal support for indigent people. For instance, the Legal Aid Council (LAC), a department under the Federal Ministry of Justice was established in 1976, to provide free legal services to indigent Nigerians. In 2012, the Lagos State Government announced the establishment of the Lagos State Public Interest Law Partnership (“LPILP”) a partnership initiative between the State Government and over 100 law firms, to provide free legal assistance to indigent members of the public. In 2009, came the Pro Bono Declaration for Members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Umbrella Body of Nigerian lawyers, which requires each member to provide more than 20 hours or three days of pro bono legal services per annum. In 2015, NBA took its stance on Pro Bono a notch further by encouraging law firms and lawyers to provide free legal services to at least five indigent families yearly. In addition to the aforementioned, several other NGOs like the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) have been in the forefront of providing pro bono services to people who cannot afford legal services. So, why has the culture of pro bono not gotten traction in Nigeria despite these laudable moves? The reasons are not farfetched. Quite simply, there are not enough lawyers and law firms stepping in, to provide free legal services to indigent people. With the exception of a few established law firms, a significant number of lawyers and law firms in the country are too enmeshed in the bread and butter struggle, to keep afloat, to bother about providing free legal service. True, the economic situation may well be a good reason for the dying culture of Pro Bono in Nigeria. However, is this excuse really tenable given that pro bono service in itself remains a sacrosanct responsibility which the legal profession prides itself in? James Etaghene runs a law chamber in Abuja. He admits to cutting down on his pro bono work to focus more on his business. “My brother, I have to look out for myself and my business before I think of helping others. In any case, the pro bono work would be funded by my business and things have not exactly been rosy with my firm, hence the decision to leave pro bono work for now,” he explained. All may not be gloom however, as legal luminary and foremost communications law expert, Paul Usoro, SAN announced the donation of N600, 000 as prize money to six lawyers in a new initiative tagged Paul Usoro Challenge. The Paul Usoro Challenge, a novel idea from the distinguished lawyer, is a social media driven campaign set up to recognize and encourage young lawyers to buy into the pro bono culture. The Challenge called on lawyers, between 1-10 years of practice, to send in short videos of their pro bono work which would be assessed by a special panel comprising top legal practitioners (members of PBC panel). According to Usoro, the Challenge is a platform to celebrate the efforts of lawyers who were giving back to society through pro bono legal services and encourage others to join. He said: “From our experience in doing pro bono work, we realized that there are lots of young lawyers out there who are doing so much for the society, through free legal services. The Pro Bono challenge is a platform for us to share the fantastic stories of these young lawyers and challenge not only their peers but the entire legal space to emulate them,” he said. Speaking on Pro Bono practice in Nigeria, Mrs L. Y. Salau, Deputy Director, Legal Aid Council, stated that “Pro Bono is a way veritable way in which lawyers can give back to the society. Unfortunately, most lawyers shy away from this area except when they want to meet the requirements for the rank of SAN. A lawyer who genuinely does pro bono cases will a have sense of fulfilment. The second edition of the Paul Usoro challenge is already underway with modifications to its scope. Head of Chambers, Paul Usoro & Co, Munirudeen Liadi revealed that this edition has been packaged to accommodate a broader spectrum of pro bono services. Contestants have also been extended to include lawyers between 1 and 15 years’ experience at the bar. Specifically, lawyers who have handled pro bono cases in areas of law enforcement agents’ brutality, domestic violence, gender related issues, child abuse can now participate in the Challenge. Speaking on the notion behind this, Liadi said that “Our aim is to cover more areas of pro bono work. Based on experience, we’ve been convinced of the need to open the opportunity to lawyers handling these cases and also expand the scope in terms of years of practice. It is no secret that abuse of human rights is rife in Nigeria. In one breath, we’re encouraging pro bono work and as well helping to get more hapless Nigerians out of difficult situations,” he said. The Challenge was opened for entries from the 9th of February to the 9th of April. Six Lawyers with the most compelling cases, after evaluation by a designated panel of judges, will be rewarded with N100, 000 each for their efforts. C002D5556 PIGB: Why the President must... Continued from page 23 the NPRC will be established to assume full upstream, midstream, and downstream regulatory functions of the Department of Petroleum Resources (‘DPR’) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (‘PPPRA’). This will address issues of “red-tapism” in the industry, and reduce frictions; characteristic of the oversight functions of the DPR and the PPPRA. The Bill, as law, will empower the NPRC to determine and enforce standards relating to industry activities, which includes designs, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of all plants, facilities, and equipment used in petroleum related operations. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment (‘FMoE’), the NPRC will be lumbered with the responsibility of making and enforcing environmental regulatory standards in the industry. An important part of the Bill, is the regulation of activities of oil and gas companies on environmental issues. The PIGB, post-presidential assent, will establish the ‘NPAMC’. The NPAMC, which is modelled after the Malaysian PETRONAS, will be expected to manage the PSC assets, where government has no immediate funding obligation. At incorporation, the Bill provides a transmission of employees, assets, rights and obligations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to NPAMC. An important industry concern, is the backlog of legacy debts hanging with the NNPC. It has been proposed that these legacy debts be mopped into a special purpose vehicle (such as was done with the Nigerian Electricity Management Company in the Electricity Sub- Sector), which the government will capitalize to liquidate these outstanding liabilities. Put simply, the huge liabilities’ portfolio of the NNPC will be severed and transferred to a Vehicle to be named Oil &Gas Liability Management Company (“OLMC”). The aim of the suggested severance, is to ensure a seamless transfer of the assets of NNPC to the companies that will take over, without burdening them with the liabilities. It is expected that the liabilities will be efficiently managed by the OLMC, in the same way the National Electricity Management Company (“NELMCO”) is saddled with the liabilities of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria in the power sector. Some Stakeholders have however disagreed with this position, for fear of government’s actual commitment to capitalize the SPV. In truth, if NPAMC is to operate as a clean company which can attract foreign lending, then government and the Stakeholders must consider this option and seriously too. The ‘NPC’ for its part, will take over assets with existing cash call obligations. It is expected that at any time within 6 years of the operation of the Bill, 30% of the shares of the NPC will be divested to members BUSINESS DAY 25 of the public. The opportunity for the private sector investment in the company, will undoubtedly increase the operational efficiency of the company. Other Matters Independence of the NPRC Political intervention in the administration and regulation of activities in the industry, as well as excessive ministerial powers, have been major concerns for stakeholders and potential investors alike. This intervention however appears to have been ingeniously addressed, as the PIGB has now donated the powers to issue and revoke licenses in the industry, to the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC). Similarly, the Minister no longer assumes the role of appointing members of the NPRC. That role has now been donated to the President. However, one must view this with cautious optimism as, when viewed against the present situation (where the office of the President is fused with that of the Minister of Petroleum), such excessiveness may still pervade; which will render the relevant provision of the Bill otiose. The independence of the Commission is entirely dependent on the separation of the offices of the President and the Minister of Petroleum. The Equalization Fund The Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) is setup with the objective of ensuring economic balance in the price of petroleum products throughout the country. With a 5% tax return on sales of petroleum products, the Fund seeks to achieve equitable opportunities to oil marketing companies, for losses incurred due to sales of petroleum products at the uniform price. Aside the regular functions of the Fund in the reimbursement to oil marketers for their losses incurred in the marketing of oil and gas products around the country, it has been provided that the Fund will also be spent on infrastructural development. Although this is not an entirely new concept, the Bill has introduced that the Fund should also be used for ‘infrastructural development’. Conclusion Now that the framework regulating the Nigerian Oil & Gas Sector has been passed by the 8th National Assembly and awaits presidential assent, the industry should be geared towards recouping the infrastructural deficit it has suffered over the years, preparing itself as an attractive bride to potential investors, and seek to recover the over $235 billion lost as a result of the delay in the passage of the Bill. It is important that this Bill becomes law as quickly as possible. We therefore urge the office of the President to expedite all procedures to give its assent to the Bill. The PIGB is a catalyst and the game changer in the Nigerian Oil & Gas Sector. Tolu Aderemi is the Partner-incharge of Perchstone & Graeys’ Energy Team.

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