Report of the OHADA International Conference and Book Presentation in Lagos, Nigeria, June 3rd, 2009
OHADA Nigeria is pleased to report that the OHADA International Conference and Book Presentation took place on June 3, 2009 at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, Lagos.
First Vice President of OHADA-Nigeria and Chairman of the Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. George Etomi
, served as master of ceremonies, and Vice Admiral Mike Okhai Ahigbe
(retired), former Vice President of Nigeria, chaired the proceedings.
The Honorable Justice Idris Mohammed Baba
of the Federal High Court, Benin, Nigeria explained the genesis of his book, Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa: The Law Issues, Problems and Prospects
: before his appointment to the bench, he practiced at the bar, representing clients in cross-border transactions. He learned that the subject-matter of his Nigerian clients’ transactions in neighboring states was uniformly governed by OHADA law and was determined to learn more about this broadly applicable legal system. Justice Idris noted that his own intent to inform himself as completely as possible on relevant matters of law is the direct consequence of his training by Chief F.R. Wiliams S.A.N., to whom the book is dedicated.
Prof. Fidelis Oditah
, Q.C., S.A.N., then offered a detailed and cogent review of Justice Idris’s book as well as of new publication, Unified Business Laws for Africa: Common Law Perspectives on OHADA
, written by Dr. Martha Simo Tumnde, née Njikam
, Dean of the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon, Justice Idris
just-mentioned, Jean Alain Penda Matipé
, LL.M., a graduate of the University of Buea and a doctoral candidate in law, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland, the late Prof. John Ademola Yakubu
, formerly of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, and Prof. Claire Moore Dickerson
, Breaux Professor of Law at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA and Visiting Professor at the University of Buea. The book includes a bibliography of all English-language published works on OHADA found through the end of 2008, including 46 articles and 4 books (5, with this new book).
As Prof. Oditah
noted, both books offer material for the initiated and for the uninitiated as both provide both an introduction to OHADA, and a sophisticated and contextualized analysis of the OHADA laws and institutions.
The conference then turned to the presenters. Dr. Martha Tumnde
spoke on “Understanding the OHADA Treaty and Harmonized Business Laws”
, explaining the OHADA institutions and the uniform acts, and describing Anglophone Cameroon’s experience with the OHADA regime. She noted both the challenges particular to common law lawyers working with OHADA, and legal professionals’ recognition that OHADA’s has had a very real positive impact on the practice of law.
Next, Prof. Dickerson
presented “OHADA and Doing Business in Africa: An Academic Perspective.”
She discussed the OHADA uniform acts and institutions in the context of the original drafters’ articulated goal of enhancing investment. She pointed out that even where OHADA does not directly control, it has a positive influence by highlighting impediments to the predictability of the applicable legal regime. She also emphasized that that Nigerian legal professionals and business people can benefit from OHADA’s reduction of transaction costs by learning the law of Nigeria’s neighbors, whether or not Nigeria joins OHADA.
Next, Kwasi Prempeh-Eck
, legal practitioner, and Lecturer at the Ghana Law School, presented on “The Challenges Faced by Common Law Jurisdictions to Realise the OHADA Objectives - the Ghanaian Experience.”
He pointed out the importance of distributing information so that it is available to illiterates as well as literates, that ECOWAS is complementary to, not supplanting of OHADA, and that political will is necessary to complete regional integration. Further, he emphasized that, since harmonization is a regional goal as ECOWAS demonstrates, the issue is not whether Nigeria should adopt OHADA so much as, how to take the best of all the integration alternatives, and make harmonization work.
The last speaker of the day was Mr. Akin Akinbote
, President of OHADA Nigeria, and the organizer of the day’s events. He spoke on “The Challenges of Adopting OHADA Treaty and Uniform Acts in Anglophone ECOWAS States - The Way Forward”
and noted that OHADA and ECOWAS are born of the same integration impulse, but have complementary, not conflicting, jurisdictions.
Two other resource persons wrote for the conference but were unable to attend. Mr. Boris Mator
, Partner, Eversheds, Paris, submitted his comments on “OHADA As a Tool for Doing Business in Africa.”
Mr. Xavier Forneris
, Senior Investment Policy Officer/ OHADA & Investment Program Manager, FIAS: The Investment Climate Advisory Service, World Bank Group, contributed his writing on “OHADA: The Audacity of Unification - Towards a New Beginning.”
At the end of the presentations, the papers were extensively discussed by the participants and the following communique was issued.
1. Harmonisation of Laws is a very potent tool for the economic integration provided for in both the OHADA and ECOWAS Treaties.
2. The OHADA Treaty is a model for Harmonisation of Business Laws in Africa.
3. The Non-OHADA States in Africa should seriously consider harmonizing their business laws, and in this context consider either joining OHADA or entering into discussions with OHADA with a view to harmonizing their existing laws with those of OHADA.
In this regard each Non-OHADA State is enjoined to set up a National Commission, a working group or other relevant bodies to examine the OHADA Treaty and Laws and make appropriate recommendations to its Governments.
4. All stakeholders, (including financial institutions, companies, businessmen and legal practitioners), who are interested in the harmonization of business laws should organize conferences, seminars and workshops aimed at sensitizing the general public and the three arms of government, the executive, the legislature and the Judiciary. The press should also be actively involved in the sensitization.
5. The study of harmonization of business laws should be encouraged in the Universities.
In Non-OHADA States.
6. The attention of the Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS States should be drawn to the provisions of Article 3(2)(e-i) of the ECOWAS Treaty which provide as follows:
- e. the establishment of an economic union through the adoption of common policies in economic, financial social and cultural sectors, and the creation of monetary union.
- f. the promotion of joint ventures by private sectors enterprises and other economic operators, in particular through the adoption of a regional agreement on cross-border investments.
- g. the adoption of measures for the integration of the private sectors, particularly the creation of an enabling environment to promote small and medium scale enterprises.
- h. the establishment of an enabling legal environment;
- i. the harmonization of national investment codes leading to the adoption of a single Community Investment Code.
7. The President of the ECOWS Commission is implored to take all necessary steps to implement the provisions of ECOWAS Treaty, and in particular the provisions Article 3(2(f & h)) relating to cross-border investments and the establishment of an enabling legal environment.
8. The Federal Government of Nigeria is hereby called upon to initiate the process of harmonisation of business laws in Africa and be in the forefront of the process across Non-Ohada States in Africa.
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