As the 61st edition of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) annual conference continues in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital has been agog with various activities, including economic, social, among others, taking the centre-stage.
The conference, which commenced on October 22, at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia, with the theme, “Taking The Lead”, will end on October 29, with more than 50 subject matter speakers in over 28 sessions.
Lined up to make the conference memorable are various sports activities, including football, table tennis, golf, chess, and scrabble; and social events that include networking, dinners, cocktails, photo booth, live band, comedy, dance performances, presentation of trophies and prizes to winners of various sporting competitions, and awards presentation to distinguished persons both in the profession and other vocations and careers.
The Tide gathered that inter branch football competition began last Saturday and would end on October 28, just as Juma’at Service held last Friday at Rivers State Central Mosque, Niger Street, to herald the commencement of the conference, with health talk at Real Madrid Football Academy on Saturday, and multidenominational thanksgiving service at Christ Church Interdenominational, Forces Avenue, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The Tide learnt that the official opening ceremonies would hold, today, at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia, with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, leading top echelon of the Judiciary in Nigeria to attend, while many state governors, state and federal lawmakers, politicians, captains of industry, ministers, and law professional across Africa and the globe, would participate and or headline the epoch-making NBAAGC21.
Already, business activities are booming in all sectors in the state capital, with hotels, transport companies and commercial transport operators, airlines, and small businesses making brisk turnovers, as the more than 14, 514 participants relish the opportunities the state offers.
A visit to the venue of the event revealed a beehive of business activities around the entire circumference of the stadium, including the adjoining Real Madrid Academy, the two State School premises nearby, and other hitherto empty spaces around the stadium have been converted to a sprawling economic and social epicentre for commerce and networking, with thousands of people buying and selling all manner of goods and services.
The Tide further noticed high level of security presence at strategic locations to provide adequate security around the area, with the operatives of the police, Department of State Service (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), among others, deployed to perform assigned duties in line with their legitimate mandates.
Also, heavy vehicular movement was witnessed on the various intersections and roads leading in and out of the stadium, particularly the Rumuomai-Elekahia and Ken Saro-Wiwa (Stadium) roads.
The Tide also discovered that virtually all hotels in and around Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas have been fully booked for the conference, showing a bustling boom in the hospitality industry.
The airlines and inter-city transport companies are not left out, as virtually all seats in planes flying into Port Harcourt International Airport and vehicles coming into Port Harcourt from major cities of Abuja, Lagos, and 34 other cities across Nigeria had been sold out from Saturday through today.
Social life has witnessed tremendous make-over with many eateries, restaurants, cinemas, clubs, recreational centres, sports facilities entertaining customers and visitors to full capacity.
In a statement, the former National Welfare Secretary of the NBA, Adesina Adegbite, welcomed members of the association to the 61st Annual General Conference (AGC), and commended the leadership of the NBA for the choice of the topic and for taking a lead in capacity building.
He said, “With great delight, I welcome all distinguished delegates to this year’s NBA Annual General Conference holding in Port Harcourt, which commenced on Friday, October 22, 2021.
“This year’s Theme: ‘Taking the Lead’ is quite apt and ripe for discussions and evaluation at this present time where it is demanding on legal practitioners to lead by example and be at the frontline of leadership.
“I must commend the present executives of our dear association for taking the lead in various spheres, especially in the area of capacity building for members of the association.”
Adegbite also commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike for what he described as “sterling performance” in infrastructural development which has made it possible to host the AGC.
“I must also salute the very dynamic Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike (Life Bencher), for his sterling performance resulting in the unprecedented infrastructural development projects in the state, which has made it possible for Port Harcourt to host the largest gathering of lawyers anywhere in the world.
“I look forward to the exhilarating activities, the intellectual discussions and impactful experience yet to unfold during the conference. I encourage us all to prepare to learn, network and have fun and most importantly take the lead and leave a positive impact on others,” he said.
Also, the African Women Lawyers’ Association (AWLA) hailed the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on its 2021 Conference.
In a statement, the President of AWLA, Mandy Demechi-Asagba said: “We at African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) felicitate with the President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, and the entire members of the Nigerian Bar Association on its Annual General Conference 2021 with the theme “TAKING THE LEAD”. The theme is apt and in season – a wake-up call to SAVE our dear country from denigration and disintegration.
“We wish all conferees a very successful, impactful, peaceful, safe and memorable conference!
“We also wish you all journey mercies and divine protection as you journey to and fro.
“We seize this opportunity to appreciate our amiable, gracious and hospitable host, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who is poised to make our experience in Rivers State memorable.”
Similarly, Chairman of the Port Harcourt branch, Prince Nyekwere, expressed the branch’s readiness to receive the delegates and make all activities lined up for the event memorable for members.
“In terms of security, I don’t have any problem at all with Port Harcourt,” Nyekwere added.
The Chairman of the Technical Committee on Conference Planning (TCCP), Mr. Omubo Frank Briggs, said the programme of activities was put together with the interest of all members and the government and people of the state at heart.
He assured that everything has been put in place to make the events seamless and hitch-free, saying that the NBA would come out of the conference taking the lead in all fronts towards making the nation better.
Dislodge Illegal Oil Refinery Operators, Wike Tasks Monarchs
Wike gave the charge at a meeting he held with traditional rulers in the state at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, last Friday.
The meeting was also attended by heads of security agencies and chairmen of the 23local government areas of the state.
Wike told the traditional rulers that those involved in illegal oil refining activities were sabotaging the economy.
He regretted that the Federal Government, which controls the oil industry and the security agencies, has been indifferent to the soot pandemic and the damage it was inflicting on the health of the residents of Rivers State.
“I should think that the way Federal Government intends to fight insurgency is the way they should fight illegal oil bunkering, because it is sabotage on the national economy. Very big sabotage! It affects our own revenue.
“If we are supposed to produce two million barrels, for example, we are now producing 1.2million. And that 1.2million barrels, it affects Rivers State because we are not producing up to the volume we are supposed to produce, and then, we cannot get the money to do whatever you want us to do.”
The governor also said that illegal oil refining activities constitute environmental hazard capable of causing cancer-related illnesses in the state.
According to him, his primary concern was to ensure that the health of residents of the state was not jeopardised.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to see how this thing can be stopped. As I speak to you, nobody has called me from the Federal Government to say how they can support us. But that is not my business. My business is the health of my people. I will not because the Federal Government is not interested to stop it, therefore, my people should die. If everybody dies, who are you going to govern?”
The governor, therefore, urged the traditional rulers not to be less concerned about the activities of illegal oil refinery operators, but to frantically mobilise members of their Community Development Committees (CDCs) and the leadership of their youth groups to work in synergy to dislodge them from their domains.
Wike berated the Nigerian Police for being complicit in the criminal act of illegal oil bunkering, which is why they were not committed to the fight to stop the illicit business.
He also described as embarrassing how officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have continued to be complicit in the act and shamelessly involved in sabotaging the national economy.
“I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy. I don’t understand how I can wear uniform and be involved in that. If they do not want to support us, we have no choice but to expose all the atrocities that are going on in this state.”
Wike said he recently received intelligence that an Army Major was providing exit services to illegally refined petroleum products, and had to send security personnel to thwart it.
“In fact, I had to send my special security to go and intercept a major who was trying to escort some of these illegal products.”
The governor declared that his administration would not hesitate to expose any security personnel involved in such illegal oil refining activities.
Wike frowned at the inability of the Nigeria Police to arrest Chief W. J. Wocha; Fubara Ohaka; and other members of the illegal bunkering cartel operating at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area.
He said the names of all indicted persons would be published soon and they would be declared wanted.
Rivers Rating In Ease Of Doing Business Rises -Banigo
Banigo stated this at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, last Thursday, shortly after her arrival from Abuja, where she represented the State Chief Executive, Chief Nyesom Wike at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council meeting.
Banigo disclosed that the factors, which determine this survey, include infrastructure, security and healthcare.
“With the 10 flyovers the governor was constructing in Rivers State, and of course, with all the other infrastructure in health, education; and the monumental improvement in security as well as the clearing of the hideouts of criminals, obviously gave us a head way in doing very well in this baseline survey”, the deputy governor further stressed.
According to the public health physician, the response of the state to the COVID-19 pandemic, under the watch of the governor as the incident manager, has been tremendous in terms of healthcare delivery.
“I want to encourage the citizens of the state to maintain the non-pharmaceutical measures like the correct wearing of face masks, regular washing of hands with soap and running water for, at least, 20 seconds, social distancing, coughing and sneezing into one’s elbow as well as the improvement of personal and environmental hygiene. I also want to encourage Rivers people that vaccination actually reduces the mortality and morbidity that arises from COVID-19″, Banigo said.
Ex-Agitators Beg Firms To Return To N’Delta
The former warlords also called on interventionist agencies to work together to sustain the peace and ensure development of the region.
They spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a regional peace summit to sensitize people on the need to advance the peace currently enjoyed in the region.
The ex-agitators also condemned proliferation of illegal refineries and lamented its adverse effects on development.
One of the participants at the summit and ex-freedom fighter, Pastor Nature Dumale Kieghe said as ex-agitators, who keyed into the vision of the Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), they have resolved to work for a new and better Niger Delta.
“It is important to sensitize our people towards a peaceful Niger Delta and create a friendly environment that will attract development, Multinational companies and other foreign investors to the region.
“We, who once carried guns, are now here to preach the message of peace to our people in the region. Peace is the only way we can have the developed environment that we dream of. Peace is the only way to attract the multinationals, investors and also be gainfully employed,” he said.
According to Nature, peace remained a vital tool to attract investors to the region which would in turn create business and job opportunities for the people.
“Companies that have left the Niger Delta because of insecurity need to return, this is the purpose for sensitization. We are blessed with an environment that is supposed to prosper us, we can only enjoy our natural resources if there is a peaceful environment, “ he added.
Nature pointed out that a major setback to the development of the Niger Delta was the absence of proper coordination among key stakeholders.
He said with the right synergy, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Presidential Amnesty office, could hasten the needed development of the region.
On illegal oil refinery, Nature explained that beyond hampering the development of the region, illegal refining of petroleum products was life threatening and dangerous to the ecosystem.
The sensitization programme commenced in Bayelsa state with 150 Niger Delta youths in attendance and would be held across the nine states of the region to create adequate awareness.
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