Today, Nelo takes the floor to give us her Conference report from the concluded NBA AGC 2016 held in Port Harcourt. So its Nelo on the Beat!
By Thursday, 18th of August 2016, I had already arrived Port Harcourt for the 56th AGC of the NBA scheduled for 19th to 26th of August 2016. The next day being Friday, I went along with a friend to the Judiciary Complex, for the collection of conference materials, but we were asked to return on Saturday (20th August, 2016) afternoon.
On our return on Saturday, there was a bit of a crowd, but I managed to get my name tag. Unfortunately, my friend who had registered early for the AGC could not get hers. She was asked to put down her name and return the next day. It was “made” for her then. The other material, (a school bag with a face towel in it) was not available; we were asked to return on Sunday.
We were informed that a welcome party was to be held for Conferees by 6pm, on that same Saturday, Eddy’s Wine Bar, GRA Port Harcourt. I attended with two of my friends, though the venue was scanty compared to the crowd that we met at the collection point for name tags. I was only lucky to have quick access to information since my friend was a member of the Port Harcourt branch and a subcommittee of the Local Organising Committee (LOC). Many conferees were not so lucky and missed out on the welcome party.
The opening ceremony followed on Sunday at the Conference Venue; the Civic Center Port Harcourt. Attendance was high with some dignitaries present. The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike Esq. gave a welcome speech which I considered politically flavoured and controversial. He accused the ruling party of disrespect for the rule of law and cited the prevention of his party from holding its last convention in Port Harcourt as an example.
Thereafter was the key Note speaker spoke the Rwandan Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Busingye Johnson. The Highlight of the day for most of us was when Timaya mounted the stage. We sang and danced until he left which I thought was quite early, lol. I guess I enjoyed it that much.
On Monday, most of us who opted to get our material from the conference ground had not gotten any. The news on Sunday was that it was not available. By Monday morning, it was available but the crowd was much in addition to the fact that the conference had begun in earnest. I did what was reasonable by forgoing the material that was not forthcoming and head to Civic Center to attend the morning session, which was on “Growing Nigeria’s Economy Beyond Oil and Gas”. It was quite insightful section.
The conference sessions went on without a hitch; morning sessions were followed by lunch breaks after which the afternoon parallel sessions ran from 2pm to 4.30pm. Conferees were at liberty to attend any afternoon session of their choice. On Tuesday, I attended one of the parallel sessions with the topic, “Enforcing Laws Protecting Women and Children: Issues and Challenges.” The session caught my fancy as it touches the core of my passion for women’s right, and I was inspired by the lead speaker, Nana Oye Lithur who is the Ghanaian Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection. She gave an elaborate presentation on the development of the Laws in Ghana to fit in recent happenings as regards the rights of women.
I can say that save for the organization which was well below standard, the conference content was really rich, and we had well seasoned speakers who took on their topics with mastery. Mr. Solomon Arase, the former Inspector General of Police alongside many other speakers of the conference, was quite impressive.
On organization of the conference, I really felt uncared for by the executive of the NBA who hosted the 2016 AGC. The former President Mr. Augustine Alegeh SAN was unconcerned about the complaints of conferees on the shortage of materials. He had even in response to a senior lawyer’s complaint on the issue retorted that “the members did not attend the NBA conference to get materials.”
His response was greeted by a disapproving uproar from the conferees in the Civic Center, but the president was unperturbed by it. I overheard some members saying the president’s attitude could be because his tenure was over. I had no doubt they could be right.
Another low point for the AGC was the announcement of a banquet organized by the governor at the Governor’s Lodge for conferees. However a limited number of invitation cards were available and I could not attend like many others.
Another banquet organized by the wife of the governor Justice Suzzette Eberechi Nyesom Wike, was marred non availability of invitation cards and thus like the earlier banquet I could not attend. I had no doubt that the limited invitation cards were due to the limited space in the banquet hall.
I got the conference materials one day before the last day of the AGC. My 4 friends and I were not ready to forego any of the AGC sessions to struggle for the materials. The materials could have been useful guides if we had received them before the AGC commenced.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the way the general farewell dinner was organized or better still disorganized. The hall was arranged in a round table pattern and almost half of the conferees could not be accommodated with the sitting arrangement. Many conferees were denied access into the congested and stuffy dinner hall.
Respite came when the door was opened for the rest of the members to pick a chair and sit at the back. To further bad insult to injury, members had to wait from 7pm to past 10pm for the President of NBA, and Governor Wike to arrive before dinner could be served, upon which they both left immediately.
As at 11pm worn out and frustrated conferees were still queuing up for food. I had found consolation in taking pictures with willing colleagues in the whole melee. I guess my friends on my social media platforms were thinking I was having a time of my life with the captivating pictures I was sharing online.
I actually had a few good moments, like when Tuface Idibia performed on Wednesday Night, it was so exciting to watch my best artist perform on stage. I reunited with my old friends and new ones I had gotten friendly with on social media, it wonderful seeing them all and taking photos. It was great to be surrounded by professional colleagues for a week; connecting, socializing and sharing knowledge and experiences.
I decided I will attend next year and more years to come for the good reasons while I look forward to a better organized AGC in the future by the new Executive of the NBA. I hope they stumble upon some of the numerous assessments made concerning this year’s AGC, and improve on it.
Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria
Long Live Nigerian Bar Association.
Chinelo Oge Akorah is a Lawyer based in Asaba, Delta State Nigeria. She could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. She blogs on http://chineloakorah.blogspot.com.ng