November 8, 2018
The issues of governance and the economy would be the focal point when both national and international delegates converge in Abuja next month for the maiden edition of the Justice Oputa Annual Conference. This was made known by Mr. George Oputa, the Chief Executive Officer of the Justice Oputa Foundation at a press briefing on preparation for would be an annual conference.
Oputa said the Foundation was established in 2010 and registered as a non-profit and non-governmental association founded in honour of one of Nigeria’s most distinguished legal minds, the late Supreme Court Judge, Justice Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa. “The Justice Oputa Foundation was established to advance and apply knowledge germane to the legal profession, commerce and industry and the public sector through the development, conduct and dissemination of both fundamental and applied research in the areas of governance, law and development. The research process of the foundation is fundamentally designed to ensure that its work is relevant and practical ways which in the long run will contribute to the development of Nigeria and the entire African continent.”
He stressed that the conference, billed to hold on December 4, 2018, will bring researchers together with eminent persons, policy makers/public sector representatives, legal professionals, commerce and industry experts in ongoing conversations and exploration of issues, ideas and analysis which forms its core areas of concern. “When these core groups of people meet to rub minds and cross fertilise ideas, there will be no doubt that Nigeria and Africa will benefit in the long run.”
Concerned about the level of governance across board in the country as well as the wobbling nature of the economy, Oputa pointed out that annual conference will draw the attention of a wide spectrum of Nigerian and African audiences on the necessity for, and insistence on, good governance for the promotion of accountability, transparency, efficiency and rule of law at all levels, allowing for efficient management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for equitable and sustainable development, and guaranteeing civil society participation in the decision-making processes.
It will also reinforce the essence and sanctity of the supremacy of the rule of law, equality of all citizens before the law, accountability of all to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, legal certainty and avoidance of arbitrariness. Furthermore, it will outline how to achieve sustainable development goals by ensuring Nigerian public services and industry apply sustainable development principles to function more efficiently in regard to service delivery to achieve the desired growth in the match to 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
According to him, all around the world today – even in oil-producing nations like ours – policymakers are brainstorming and devising strategies to diversify economies away from dependence on oil. “Around the world also, countries have set dates in which cars produced would no longer use fossil fuel as environmental friendliness is gaining grounds due to heightened enlightenment about global warming. The dates set ranges between 10 to 30 years from now. We can therefore not seat down, or rest on our oars, waiting for the day of calamity to arrive; we must act. And act we intend to do at the JOAC.
“At the end of the day,” Oputa added“we expect the conference to help the larger Nigerian nation have a shared understanding that good governance starts with getting the right people in positions starting from the approaching 2019 elections- leadership to be defined by character, competence and capacity. Good governance should be reflected in appointments and employments into, or reorientation of the public service, to a great extent, in sync with global best practice.
“That good governance is impeded when the character, capacity or competence of prospective elective office holders are questionable. That it begins with adherence to the sanctity of the rule of law…That it happens when governments and industry apply high standards of ethics, knowledge and innovation to address challenges, leverage opportunities to achieve competitive advantage in a world that is ever more competitive.”
It is expected that the eminent persons shall share knowledge and lessons from other climes that will lead to strategic engagements between the academia and political/administrative leadership so as to forge mechanisms that enhance performance in public service delivery. The conference will develop a framework for inserting sustainability (for example- How to engage with employees throughout public sector organizations to elicit ‘buy-in’) to public policy to deliver on promises. It will equally highlight the linkages between politics (formal and informal political arrangements and power structures), policies (objectives and goals) and administrative capabilities (the public bureaucracy) as the basis for a pragmatic incremental approach to public service reform and modernization to be more citizen-centric and responsive.
The conference partnership with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) will ultimately bring forth practical, evidenced-based ideas and knowledge and resources to help policymakers and industry to deliver on promises- for growth and prosperity for all.
Beyond the economy and governance, Oputa stated that the foundation is also concerned about the spate of insecurity in the country which is why part of the agenda will focus on finding the crucial pathway at achieving peace, security, and political stability which is a sine-qua-non for sustainable economic advancement and improved human development index. To this end, the Conference will attract over 500 delegates comprising eminent persons, policy makers/public sector representatives, researchers, legal professionals, commerce and industry experts in ongoing conversations and exploration of issues, ideas and analysis of JOAC’s core areas of concern, which are governance, law and development.
The conference will also place emphasis on improving fiscal discipline especially in the area of public financial management systems; and improve human development index, that will result in prosperity for all Nigerians and Africans. By focusing on contemporary issues of Governance, Law and Development confronting Africa, the conference will arrive at both conceptual and empirical destinations. As the culture and creative industries have shown that investing in youth pays off and affects the economy significantly in terms of contribution to GDP, the conference is looking in this direction as well.
In the area of economic diversification and improved business environment, the conference will set the stage for solutions that will, in the end, strengthen governance and accountability at both government and corporate levels. This, the conference hopes shall be achieved by seeking practical ways of working with government, civil society and the private sector through increased investor awareness and a better understanding of the policies of the government, in light of ongoing reforms and available incentives.
On what the future portends, Oputa stated that: “ in the next 5 years, the Justice Oputa Annual Conference is expected to provide a priceless platform that brings together leading entities, eminent persons and young bright minds from government, business, and civil society to proffer conceptual and empirical solutions for accelerated development and prosperity of Nigeria. You will agree with me that the day is already far spent and the time to act is certainly now.”
To assist the foundation in achieving its noble objectives, two eminent Nigerians, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Obi of Onitsha HRM Nnaemeka Alfred Nnanyelugo Achebe would be serving as honourary patrons. Other eminent Nigerians like: Justice Adolphus Karibi Whyte CON, JSC.(rtd), Bishop Hassan Kukah, Senator Ben Obi, Prof. Charles Dokubo Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme and other credible Nigerians would serve as members of the board of trustees.
The maiden edition of the conference is in partnership with Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), and Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce (NACC).