Distinguished Gentlemen of the Press,

 I sincerely welcome you to this auspicious press briefing on the maiden edition of the Justice Oputa Annual Conference (JOAC) billed to hold on December 4th 2018 in Abuja. I also thank you all for honouring our invitation and to commend you for your contributions toward the development of Nigeria by reporting what goes on in our dear country and thereby enlightening our citizens. I, therefore, look forward to your support in the months and years that lie ahead as we strive towards placing the building blocks that will make Nigeria a prosperous nation. But before proceeding to what the JOAC intends to achieve in the months and years ahead, it will be appropriate to give us a background.

The Justice Oputa Foundation(JOF) – founded in honour of one of Nigeria’s most distinguished legal minds, the late Supreme Court Judge, Justice Chukwudifu, Akunne, Oputa – was established in 2010 and registered as aNon-profit and Non-governmental association.JOF 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 which in the long run will contribute to the development of Nigeria and the entire African continent.

JOF brings researchers together with eminent persons, policymakers/public sector representatives, legal professionals, commerce and industry experts 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 is no doubt, Nigeria and Africa will benefit in the long run.

As the stage is set for the maiden edition of the Justice Oputa Annual Conference, we shall be beaming our searchlight on integrity, competence and capacity for individuals aspiring for the highest offices in the land; we shall also underline the need for rule of law and respect for human rights; strengthen and consolidate public and corporate institutions to build confidence around business and the citizenry to enable them unleash the creative energies of the broad spectrum of society, and guarantee growth and prosperity for all.

The conference, from its inception, will draw the attention of a wide spectrum of Nigerian and African audiences of 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.

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.

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.

Gentlemen of the press, you will agree with me that if we are able to do this Nigeria and Nigerians would be better off.  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, 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 employment 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. And evidenced by the ability to conduct violence-free, and fair elections. 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.

We hope some of our 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.

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.

Our 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 these, we shall also ultimately aim to find a pathway to achieving peace, security, and political stability which is a sine-qua-non for sustainable economic advancement and improved human development index. As people who report the news daily you are fully aware of the state of security in the country today and I need not elaborate much on that. In this serious and contemplative light,  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.

To this end, we look forward to receiving policymakers, development partners, researchers, advocacy groups, political organizations, private sector, and other key stakeholders from within and outside Africa.

But more specifically, the conference will be suitable for professionals from all management levels who are interested in strategy and leadership within all public sector organizations, including, for instance: national, state and local councils, hospitals, schools, emergency services.

Legal, judicial officers interested in developing deeper insights into the principles of the Rule of Law, as well as growth and sustainability strategies for their law firms.

Financial services providers seeking new insights into the formulation of financial service decisions for assured sustainability.

Personal and Corporate Tax Payers, Consultants, Researchers and Students seeking a more transparent and accountable system that shows how tax revenues are spent. And tax authorities, budget and planning, and finance ministries, departments and agencies at federal, states and local councils seeking ways to restore trust and the social contract between the people and the government.

The energy and extractive industries seeking to competitively minimize their negative impacts and enhance their positive impacts on society, the environment and economy.

The culture and creative industries have shown that investing in youth pays off and affects the economy significantly in terms of contribution to GDP. Participants’ seeking increased opportunity for women and youth programmes, or favourable policies that would unleash the energy and power of women and youth.

Gentlemen of the press, over the next 5 years, the Justice OputaAnnual 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 serve as our bulwarks in achieving our noble objectives, we have two eminent Nigerians as our Honourary Patrons; they are: Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, Ph.D.Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria(1999 to 2007) and HRM Nnaemeka Alfred Nnanyelugo Achebe, CFR, mni, the Obi of Onitsha andChancellor, AhmaduBello University since 2015.

Our board of Trustees include: Justice Adolphus Karibi Whyte CON, JSC.(rtd) LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D, who is the chairman, Board of Trustees; Bishop Hassan Kukah Ph.D, Member, Investigation Commission of Human Rights Violations;Senator Ben ObiSenator of the Federal Republic, Prof. Mustapha M. Akanbi SAN,former Dean, School of Law, University of Ilorin, Dr. Phil Osagie,Businessman andGlobal Communications Expert;Mr. Charles Oputa (Charley Boy)Entertainer, Entrepreneur; Prof. Charles Q. Dokubo Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme and other credible Nigerians.

As we look forward to a critical day of fruitful deliberations on December 4th 2018, I want to once more thank you for being here and to once more seek your support in achieving what JOAC has set out to achieve in the coming years.

Thank you and God bless.

George Oputa, Esq
Chief Executive Officer
Justice Oputa Foundation
November 8th, 2018

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