The Skyline Terrace Hall at the majestic Lagos Oriental Hotel in Lekki, Lagos was a fitting venue for the Colloquium held to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Kenna Partners, a Lagos-based multi-service law firm (with offices in Abuja and Enugu) which is widely known for redefining legal practice to meet the demands and challenges of complex business situations, including dispute resolution and advisory services. Kenna Partners’ range of practice areas is a rich and eclectic one, characterized by both its depth and scope of specialized legal services, and by the expertise with which it assists its local and international clients (in both the public and private sectors) in critical assignments such as corporate set-ups and restructuring, as well as foreign direct and private equity investments.
The firm’s business model reflects its core values of consistency in first-rate service delivery; diligence in legal research; and a cutting-edge information technology support system. Led by its Principal, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, Kenna Partners is a firm of dynamic, highly qualified and experienced lawyers, who are complemented by equally skilled and dedicated professionals in a vast range of practice areas – all of them united by an unrelenting quest for personal and professional excellence.
Chaired by Chief ‘Folake Solanke, CON, SAN – a woman of many firsts (the first female Senior Advocate in Nigeria’s history) and the embodiment of the very ideal of excellence that Kenna Partners seeks to attain to – the Colloquium also had its Guest Speaker a Justice of Nigeria’s Supreme Court, the Hon. Justice Amina Adamu Augie, CON, JSC, who was to speak on the theme of the Colloquium: ‘Footprints in Law and Society – Towards a Paradigm Shift.’ No less distinguished was the panel of discussants to explore and interrogate the issues contained in the theme. It contained a former Nigerian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia, OFR, SAN, who is also the senior partner at the law firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke; Damian Dodo, OFR, SAN, the principal partner at D. D. Dodo & Co.; and Chukwuka Chukwuma, Partner and co-founder at Racecourse Capital Limited.
The event was also graced by dignitaries from various walks of life – including top business leaders such the chairman of MTN Nigeria and pro-chancellor of the Pan-Atlantic University, Mr. Pascal Dozie, CON and the founding chairman of Zenith Bank. Mr. Jim Ovia – as well as members of the academia and the legal profession, on both the bar and the bench.
In his remarks of welcome, Prof. Ajogwu, the chief host, who also serves as a professor of corporate governance at the Lagos Business School (LBS), recounted the humble beginnings of Kenna Partners back in May of 1993 when it first opened its doors for business. He saluted the Chairman of the occasion, the Guest Speaker and the panelists, all of who, he said, embodied the heights his law firm is constantly striving towards.
NEWSWIRE’s correspondent at the event reports that Prof. Ajogwu’s remarks were followed by a short documentary on the evolution of Kenna Partners in the quarter-century of its operations, and its engagement with the people, communities and interests it has served in that time.
In her opening remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Chief (Mrs.) Folake Solanke, CON, SAN, called for a fundamental paradigm shift away from the currently unsatisfactory state of legal practice and legal education – describing the latter as a ‘lowering of the bar of proficiency to accommodate the indolent.’ A situation where a score of below 50% in a law examination or test is considered a pass, Chief Solanke said, was a scandal. Turning her attention to the vexed issue of corruption in the legal profession, she called on the Paul Usoro-led executive of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to interrogate the dimensions of corruption among legal practitioners with a view to treating culprits as ‘impostors’ rather than genuine lawyers, and the persistence of the practice as ‘iniquity with impunity.’ Not only was continuing education for lawyers a sine qua non, Chief Solanke continued, it must be complemented by a wholehearted embrace among lawyers and judges alike of modern technology. Citing the Evidence Act of 2011 (which provides, among other things, for electronic evidence in court), she warned that further resistance to digitally-driven court processes – especially among Judges – would consign Nigeria to global irrelevance as a legal marketplace frozen in time. She ended her remarks with a biblical quote from Philippians 4:8 on the need to consider only those things that are lovely, noble and of good report, etc, as long as there was virtue in them.
In her presentation, the guest speaker, Justice A. A. Augie, CON, JSC, dwelt on the supremacy of the rule of law in the good ordering of society, without which no entity can survive, let alone succeed. She took the audience through a lengthy overview of the various interpretations to which the term ‘rule of law’ has been subjected over the centuries – from the philosophical schools of Ancient Greece down to the various modern-day conventions (held in places such as New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok as well as Lagos) as legal scholars and institutions alike have tried to provide a universally acceptable framework for the application of the rule of law to the workings of democracy. In view of the importance and dynamism of the very concept of the rule of law, Justice Augie called for open mindedness (especially in the deployment of technology in legal processes and the various new areas of practice being opened up by the expanding technologies of the 21stcentury). She also stressed a greater appreciation of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) as well as ODR (online dispute resolution) mechanisms to aid the speedier and less adversarial resolution of disputes.
Justice Augie’s presentation was followed by responses from the members of the panel. First up was Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN. Himself a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Rivers State, Ajumogobia emphasized the centrality of law in society’s affairs, not so much as a creative force (such as the sciences or the arts) but as a mediator and moderator between conflicting interests. He cited the current administration’s engagement with the NBA – as seen in President Buhari’s physical presence in two NBA conferences since his inauguration in 2015 – as evidence of the government’s desire to give legal teeth to the fight against corruption and other vices. He, however, expressed displeasure with the government’s tendency to define the law according to its own whims and caprices – as evidenced in the President’s recent comments about dispensing with the rule of law and individual rights in the service of some vaguely-defined ‘national interest’. Ajumogobia concluded by calling on lawyers to see themselves not just as servants to their respective clients but as servants of the law and of society as a whole, and engage more in practices such as ‘public interest law’, among others.
Also speaking, Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN debunked the notion that lawyers were major financial beneficiaries of Nigeria’s electoral challenges (especially as they culminated in petitions at election tribunals where lawyers were deployed to argue for or against various contestants) and said the greater joy – for him – would be when such things as election petitions were a thing of the past, thanks to the integrity of the electoral process in Nigeria. Dodo also called for an end to undue delays in the resolution of cases (on the part of both the bench and the bar). Quoting copiously from various legal luminaries both local and foreign, he made the point that the sanctity of the law and its place as society’s arbiter must be protected at all cost.
Though not a lawyer, the third panelist, Mr. Chukwuka Chukwuma, a US-trained financial strategist, noted the various instances where a fundamental paradigm shift has occurred in the country’s (and Lagos State’s) socio-economic profile and fortunes, thanks to the role of law firms such as Kenna Partners and others. Citing the dramatic increase in the number of infrastructural projects, shopping malls and other important landmarks across Lagos and the rest of Nigeria, Chukwuma attributed this growth in the number and scale of big-ticket public projects in recent years to the dexterity with which law firms have negotiated the terms under which funding has been obtained for them from local and foreign sources. Law firms, he said, have shown greater and greater dexterity in their ability to handle global as well as transactions – not just in real estate, but also in oil-and-gas, high finance, transportation, etc. It was a trend which, he added, is expected to continue and expand in scope.
The panelists’ responses were followed by the formal presentation of a book, ‘Brief Insights: A Selection of Milestone Cases’ which chronicles notable court decisions involving Kenna Partners over the years. Zenith boss Jim Ovia was joined in the formal presentation by the chairman, guest speaker, panelists and other dignitaries.
Thereafter, a number of personalities gave their personal insights on the issues raised in the guests speaker’s presentation and the panel discussions. They included Mr. Dozie of MTN, the Hon. Justice Obaseki-Adejumo of the Lagos division of the Court of Appeal, the vice-chancellor of the Pan-Atlantic University, Prof. Juan M. Elegido, and the Hon. Justice Kolawole, among others.
The event was concluded with the cutting of the silver jubilee anniversary cake by Prof. AJogwu and his team of partners and associates at Kenna Partners, and the vote of thanks, as the assembled guests looked forward to even greater heights for Kenna Partners in the coming 25 years.
SOURCE: Newswire, 25 November, 2018.