Electricity bill has opened opportunities for business lawyers, says NBA-SBL Eastern Zone Chairman

As arrangements are in top gear for the hosting of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL) Eastern Zonal Conference, holding in Enugu, Enugu State, on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. The conference, with the theme, “Unlocking Prosperity: Exploring the Legal and Entrepreneurial Business Opportunities in the Eastern Zone of Nigeria”, is expected to bring together a wide of critical stakeholders for constructive engagements on business opportunities within the zone. Dr. Jude Ezegwui, the Chairman, NBA-SBL Eastern Zone Committee, is a partner in the law firm of JIC Ezegwui & Co (Integrity Chambers), and the immediate past Chairman of the NBA, Enugu Branch, an office he assumed after serving as the legal adviser of the Branch as well as in various Bar committees. In this interview, Dr. Ezegwui informed that since last year, the Enugu Electricity Bill has opened opportunities for business law practitioners in the power sector in the zone. This is because more business investment contracts have been signed and many more are on the way, which is a huge market for business law practitioners. He spoke with Dr. Adewale Kupoluyi, Chairman, Media, Technology and Publicity Sub-Committee of the zonal conference on a number of issues bordering on the forthcoming conference. Excerpts:

Can we meet you, Sir?
My name is Dr. Jude Ezegwui (MCIArb, JP, NP), immediate past Chairman of NBA Enugu Branch, Council member of NBA-SBL and Chairman, Eastern Zone Committee of NBA Section on Business Law.

How are preparations for the conference?
Preparations are going on well. We are concluding on all areas. It is not easy to organise a conference at this time because of economic challenges, but we are pushing it. That was one of the reasons we opened up opportunities for sponsorship to give an avenue for senior lawyers to sponsor young lawyers and help in developing business law practice in the zone, thereby promoting the rule of law. Companies will equally have opportunities to market their products and seek lawyers’ services at the interface.

Why this theme and why is Enugu chosen as venue?
The ‘theme’ was carefully chosen by the planning committee to open up discussions and allow for proper exposition of latent areas of law in the selected topics, which will broaden the scope of knowledge for lawyers and participants. It will guide young lawyers in developing interest in different areas of business law. It will equally guide lawyers in making decisions on where to concentrate in their further research and wet their appetite for business law practice in the Eastern Zone of Nigeria. Enugu City in Enugu State was chosen as one of the cities in the zone where the governor is interested in opening up new business opportunities and is very serious in attracting both local and foreign investors for business. It is clear that where there are businesses springing up, there are legal opportunities with it. The state governor, Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, has signed into law, the Enugu Electricity Bill since last year, which has opened opportunities for business law practitioners in the power sector in the zone. More business investment contracts have been signed and many are on the way in the state, which is a huge market for business law practitioners, as it will involve incorporation, regulatory compliance, taxation, patent rights, legal representations in disputes in all areas of law around the new businesses. It will provide opportunities where the stakeholders and investors can interact physically with participants and exchange ideas, services and utilise the networking opportunities. The state is safe with good road networks for easy access, both in and out. It has international and local flights with many direct routes to various states in Nigeria. It has historic sites/facts, as former capital of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, which many participants would like to visit, see or hear about from the original custodians of the history. The scenery is irresistible with good environment. Shopping malls abound with nice local products at a very good prices. Enugu inhabitants are very hospitable and accommodating. It is a city where you will find almost all tribes in Nigeria living together and socialising with one another. You will get all kinds of traditional foods of many tribes in Nigeria and beyond such as Calabar Kitchen, Akwa Ibom restaurant, Rivers native foods/soups, Ofe Owerri, Ofe Onugbu Anambra, Yoruba, and Hausa foods, among others. All continental foods including Chinese foods, and French fries abound. Night life is safe and enjoyable. When you come to Enugu, you will see more reasons why the city was chosen.

What should participants expect at the conference?
Participants should expect a conference that is rich in content with exceptional and brilliant panelists. Participants will have an opportunity to gain insight into new areas of law, network, share good knowledge and ideas. Participants will also have the opportunity to interact socially with other participants, enjoy native foods/traditional dance, and visit historic sites. A pre-conference cocktail and conference dinner have also been packaged for this event, among others.

What makes the conference special and unique?
The conference is special and unique because it is coming to Enugu State and the Eastern Zone of NBA-SBL for the first time since the inception of the Nigerian Bar Association. That is a brazing vision of our NBA-SBL, Chairman, Dr. Adeoye Adefulu, to carry all regions along in the development of business law practice in Nigeria.

Would you like to mention some of the speakers and supporters?
I will mention very few and encourage all to attend to meet and hear all the speakers. In corporate governance, we have Ikechukwu A. Ogu, Head, Enugu Zonal Office of Investment and Securities Tribunal; and Ini Irene Pepple, Head of Practice, Peacemakers Legal Consultancy. In oil and gas, we have Sonia Ebiki, Head of Legal, MG Vowgas Group; and Olusegun Ilori, Director of its Legal and Corporate Services. In intellectual property, we have Smart Okpara, Associate ALN Nigeria/Aluko & Oyebode; and Rita Anwiri Chindah, Rivers State University. In taxation, we have Dr. Jude Odinkonigbo, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu Campus; and Hon. Chukwuemeka Eze, Chairman, Tax Appeal Tribunal, Enugu Zone. In electricity and power, we have Desmond Ogba, Partner Templars; Emeka D. A. Ojoko, Founding Partner, Ojoko & Ojoko, Executive Coordinator of NEPA Wahala Ng; and many other brilliant speakers including Chukwuka Ikwuazom (SAN); Tobenna Erojikwe; Mazi Afam Osigwe (SAN); and Joyce Odua.

Have you experienced some challenges in the planning activities so far, and how have you been able to address them?
We have challenges just like any other conference planning committee. We have overcome most of it. We are still working very hard and are firm that the few remaining challenges, we will overcome.

In your own view, what do you think has been the major contributions of the Bar profession to both zonal, and national development?
The Bar profession has, no doubt, been in the front and defender of the rule of law in Nigeria, but the major contributions to my mind is that the Bar has created awareness for the citizens about the rule of law, speaking against injustice and taking on the government of the day to obey court judgments/orders. The Nigerian Bar Association has equally encouraged and supported regional programmes and activities like this conference.

What happens after the conference in terms of zonal programmes?
I am sure the Chairman of NBA-SBL, Dr. Adeoye Adefulu’s vision will not die with him. NBA-SBL will continue to maintain and organise zonal conferences with rich programmes to encourage the rule of law and development of business law practice in the various regions.
Your general comment, please.

I thank the President of the NBA, Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, OON, SAN for his leadership and for cooperating with the NBA-SBL in organising the zonal conferences. I equally appreciate the Chairman of NBA-SBL, Dr. Adeoye Adefulu for his hard work in the section and encouraging lots of innovations and weekly training programmes for lawyers in almost all areas of business law. I am happy that the NBA Section on Business Law is growing and with time, will compete favourably with its counterparts in the world.

Dr. Adewale Kupoluyi, Esq
Chairman, Media, Technology and Publicity Sub-Committee
NBA-SBL Eastern Zonal Conference