Kenna Partners, a leading commercial law firm recently rolled out the drums to celebrate its 30th anniversary in the legal practice. The event was attended by the crème de la crème of the legal profession, captains of industry, clients, partners, and friends, writes Wale Igbintade
In a glamorous style, top commercial law firm, Kenna Partners, last week marked its 30th anniversary with a colloquium at the Grand Ballroom of Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. The celebration, which began with a thanksgiving service at the revered St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 1004 Estate, Victoria Island, before culminating in an engaging anniversary colloquium.
At the church service, the officiating minister thanked the management of the law firm for considering giving thanks to God first before the activities of the day. He wondered why the firm would not do well when its activities are rooted in prayers and God.
From there, the events moved to the Eko Hotel & Suites for an anniversary colloquium.
Even though the event took place on a regular working day, it still garnered an impressive turnout of distinguished individuals from the legal profession, esteemed clients, valued partners, colleagues, and friends. These attendees willingly made time in their busy schedules to join in the celebration of Kenna Partners’ impressive three-decade journey and acknowledge the firm’s remarkable achievements and contributions to society.
Setting the ball rolling, the Founding Partner of the law firm, Professor Fabian Ajogwu, SAN, in his welcome remarks, said Nigeria has enormous potential, abundant natural resources, a vibrant youthful population, and some of the world’s most talented individuals, but faces the challenge of harnessing these resources sustainably and equitably.
He stated that building solid institutions, promoting transparency and free enterprise, as well as fighting corruption are pivotal steps in creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Nigeria.
“Today, we celebrate Kenna Partners’ three decades of existence and reflect on its achievements and contributions to society. As part of the events marking this, we will be engaging in a critical discourse on enhancing the socio-political and economic environment of business for exponential growth and development.
“Nigeria has enormous potential, abundant natural resources, a vibrant youthful population, and I dare say, 70 per cent of Kenna Partners are under 30 years. With all of these, there is a promise for the future, but Nigeria still has challenges in harnessing these God-given resources. So, we thought in our colloquium, we should talk about how to better our environment rather than just strictly discussing the new high court rules, or what is going on at the Election Petition Tribunals.”
Ajogwu further stated that the theme of the colloquium, “Reforming the socio-political and economic environment of business in Nigeria: The Imperative for Governance,’’ is a call to action.
“It reminds us of the work we must do collaboratively to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Building solid institutions, promoting transparency and free enterprise, and fighting corruption are pivotal steps that we must take to create a level playing field for all businesses.
Ajogwu took the audience down memory lane as he recalled when the law firm was set up on May 28, 1993. He recounted how some of the firm’s friends and partners like Kenneth Orji encouraged them to pursue their dreams despite the pecuniary challenges.
“It was Mr. Segun Openiyi that was the very first client of the firm. When he walked into the door, we actually didn’t remember that we needed to have two chairs – one in front of the desk and one behind. So, we offered him the chair and stood up for his consultation.
“Every member of the firm is told about client 0001. Why did we choose three zeros before the 1? I think it was the ambition. We thought we would have 4,000 or 10,000 clients. But, over the years we have come to realise that it’s a game of quality and not quantity. Although we have few clients, they are meaningful relationships we’ve cherished over the years.”
Ajogwu gave special recognition to Professor Juan Elegido for his intellectual excellence and superiority of research.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, founder of Aluko & Oyebode Law firm stressed the need for good governance and the need for everyone to be part of the exercise.
He said: “We live in a society where governance is almost second nature to us. The imperative for all of us is to pay attention. Anybody in this room who thinks he cannot participate in this conversation around good governance needs to understand that the only way we will get it right is when all of us are participants on the journey.
“For those of us who are entrepreneurs and do business in Nigeria, we recognised that if there was ever a difficult operating environment anywhere in the world, we live it. So, we need to celebrate Fabian and Kenna partners’ achievements. It is not just 30 years of doing business, it’s 30 years of being successful and achieving all the objectives that were set.”
Continuing, Oyebode extolled Ajogwu for his sportsmanship, acknowledging that it is rare for one to invite his competitor to chair his occasion. “It says something about the man, Fabian Ajogwu and his ability to be totally comfortable; his ability to recognise that all of us are in this journey together.”
He also described Ajogwu as one of the most rounded and most successful legal practitioners in Nigeria.
“Fabian is an academic and very successful corporate lawyer. If I have to live my life again, I would like to be the kind of lawyer Fabian is. Successful corporate lawyer and successful litigator. We don’t see too many of them around and it’s embodied in his practice. Fabian spends a lot of time giving back to society, and I think that is important. Extremely one other thing we have passion for is philanthropy,’’ he added.
A former Judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa, Professor Mervyn King, SC, in his keynote address, highlighted how corporate reporting has changed over the years and is no longer what it used to be.
According to him, financial reporting and sustainability reporting are critical but not sufficient, adding that operationally they have been incorporated into integrated reporting.
“Fairness is one of the four key criteria of good governance. I use the acronym RAFT: R for responsibility, A for accountability, F for fairness and T for transparency. You cannot have fairness if you don’t have the other factors as well. These four criteria are inextricably intertwined. If you’re going to be fair, you’ve got to be responsible; you’ve got to be accountable. The more informed you are reporting-wise, the more transparent your accountability.”
He noted that fairness was always a key consideration: “Back in 1994, when we issued the first King Report, we said that a board, acting as a collective mind, should learn and understand the needs, interests, concerns and expectations of stakeholders, take them all into account, but then remember the legal requirement that your duty as a director is to make a decision in the best long-term interests of the health of the company. If that collective mind gets this right, it’s in the best long-term interest of all the stakeholders.
He emphasised the importance of directors being able to explain their decision-making process to stakeholders, taking into account their needs, interests, and expectations. The key, according to him, is to ensure that the decisions made by the board are in the best long-term interest of the company and, consequently, also serve the long-term interest of the stakeholders involved.
In his contribution, a Professor of Commercial Law, University of Lagos, Professor Abiola Sanni SAN, said creating a complex tax system would not help the country and called for a comprehensive approach in addressing the tax system.
He said the newly signed Finance Act would only make the tax system more complex, stressing that “what the nation needs is smaller taxes that are broad-based, and that will bring revenue for all the levels of government so that the manifestation of regulatory authorities turning themselves to revenue agencies will cease, and unless we do that, we are never going to get what we want.
“If you look at the socio and political environment that businesses operate in, you know that without major reforms you are just going to be fixing the problem on the surface. We should go to the operating system and try to realign things properly. If you focus on corporate governance alone and you’re looking at the Rules of the Federal Government, and Business Facilitation Act, you will never get results. Businesses operate at the local level, security is required at that level, and the basic infrastructure they require must be at that level.” Some of the high points at the event included the presentation of cheques to 10 scholarship recipients and recognition of long-serving employees, who have served the law firm between 10 to 20 years.
Dignitaries at the occasion included the founder of Stanbic IBTC, Mr. Atedo Peterside, Professor of Professional Ethics, Pan-Atlantic University, Prof. Juan Manuel Elegido, an Information Technology professional, Mrs. Nkemdilim Uwaje-Begho, senior lawyers among others.