The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) held a Book Presentation and Symposium
on Investment Law and Practice in Honour of Professor Michael Ayo Ajomo on the 11th of April, 2019 at the NIALS office complex in Lagos. Professor Ajomo was the Institute’s second Director-General. It had been Professor Ajomo’s wish before his demise that the book titled: Law of International Investment: Essays in Honour of Professor Michael Ayo Ajomo, be unveiled on his 90th birthday celebration, however, he transited to eternal glory on the 1st of April, 2018. The event which was organised to immortalise Professor Ajomo, was twofold – it provided a platform for the unveiling of the book and for a public discussion on international investment law and practice in Nigeria.
1.1 Objective of Symposium
The main objective of the symposium was to provoke enlightening discussions around contemporary trends in investment law and policy in Nigeria and to proffer recommendations which would further strengthen the investment landscape in the country.
1.2 The Organising Team
The Symposium was organised by the following members:
i. Prof. Emmanuel Okon, PhD
ii. Mr Chukwuemeka Castro Nwabuzor
iii. Mrs Eme Tola-Lawal
1.3 Members of Panel (Discussants)
The panel session had the following discussants/members:
i. Ms. Yewande Sadiku (Lead Speaker) – Executive Secretary/CEO NIPC;
ii. Prof. Jonathan Aremu – Professor of International Economic Relations, Covenant University;
iii. Mr. George Etomi FNIALS – Principal Partner, George Etomi Law Firm; and
iv. Prof. Paul Idornigie SAN, PhD, FCIArb – Director of Research, NIALS.
2. Summary of the Preliminaries
2.1 Opening Remarks
The Director-General of NIALS, Prof. Adedeji Adekunle, SAN welcomed guests to the programme, explaining that the symposium was realised as an opportunity to do justice to the memory of Late Professor Michael Ayodele Ajomo. He noted that although Prof. Ajomo is no more, his memories live on in the hearts of all, and it was for this reason that the programme was held posthumously in his memory. He expressed confidence that at the end of the programme, everyone would leave with the memories of the life that Prof Ajomo lived. The Director-General appreciated those whom, despite short notice made time to be discussants, especially Chief Robert Clarke, SAN who accepted to be the chief presenter. He prayed for long life for the Chief Presenter for long life and the rewards that come with old age. On behalf of Prof. Ajomo, the DG welcomed everybody and wished all a happy stay.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the programme, Prof. Ademola Poopola, FNIALS, noted that the gathering was in honour of a renowned Nigerian, an accomplished man and an epitome of scholastic excellence who recorded many successes in his worthy life. He emphasised that the virtues of Late Prof. Ajomo endeared him to stand out as an academic symbol. He stated that described the late Professor as a pillar of support to the Nigerian Society of International Law (NSIL), adding that there is an end to everything on earth. Professor Poopola confirmed that testimonies about the late Professor Ajomo alluded to the fact that he lived a memorable life. He thanked guests for their attendance and wished them a fruitful deliberation.
2.2 Citation of Professor M. A Ajomo
The citation of late Professor Ajomo was read by Mrs Eme Tola-Lawal, Research Fellow, NIALS. The citation highlighted the achievements and impacts he made at the international and local levels. The citation was concluded with a minute of silence in memory of Professor Ajomo. Reacting to the citation, the Chairman of the programme, Prof. Ademola Poopola advised guests to discard the ambience of sadness as the event was meant to celebrate the late professor’s academic excellence.
3. Review of the Book, Law of International Investment: Essays in Honour of Professor Michael Ayo Ajomo
The book, Law of International Investment: Essays in Honour of Professor Michael Ayo Ajomo was reviewed by Professor Yinka Omorogbe, the Honourable Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Edo State.
In her review, she noted the structure of the book was different from the conventional; and that the table of contents was peculiar, which was in line with Prof Ajomo's penchant for detail and organisation.
Prof. Omorogbe noted that the expression in the preface to the book by the Director-General, Professor Adedeji Adekunle, SAN on the strategic choice of words and simplistic writing styles was apt. She appreciated and congratulated the Institute for its contribution to knowledge, and especially congratulated the Director-General, Prof. Adekunle for spear-heading the initiative and giving due recognition to his predecessor, Professor Ajomo.
4. Book Presentation/Launch
The Chief Presenter, Chief Robert Clarke SAN expressed his happiness for being present at the programme. He stated that the publication of the book deserved some accolades because Nigeria’s present economy was yet to attract the much needed foreign investment which could foster national development. Acknowledging that he is not a very rich man, Chief Clarke launched six (6) copies of the books with the sum of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200, 000). Accompanied by the guests and members of the high table, the chief presenter unveiled the book.
PART TWO: SYMPOSIUM ON INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT LAW AND PRACTICE (WORKING SESSION)
5. Summary of the Panel Session
The lead discussant, Yewande Sadiku made a presentation on the topic “Investment Guarantees- Minimum Standard of Investment Treatment- Absolute Standards”.
The speaker commenced the session by asking why we should get more Nigerians to invest even in the biggest of the Countries. She stated that Nigeria attracts 4% of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that travels around the world, according to the speaker, FDI has been fairly stable and high.
She emphasized that policies of government usually defined how FDI could be attracted. She listed different kinds of investment: Bilateral, Multilateral and Regional. In her view, Nigeria has no choice but to sign the treaties. She further emphasized that Nigeria should take full advantage of ratifying Investment Treaties entered into and be fully involved in the negotiations leading to the signing of the treaties.
The lead speaker noted that in 2015, Nigeria commenced a modern review of bilateral relationships. The essence was to balance investors’ rights and obligations; to explore national options to settlement before going for international options. She reiterated two points to be considered when entering into a negotiation. First, the importance of remembering ‘who you are’ and ‘who you cannot be’. In this light, she pointed out the advantage Nigeria has which include, the population, the median age of the population (which is 18.5; evidencing that a greater number of the population is mobile, tech driven and energetic) should not be ignored. Second, disputes can arise in the negotiation process. Ms Sadiku explained that the bulk of the challenges have come from agreements that were signed before the 1990’s. 90% of the disputes that have arisen started because of the agreements that were signed before the 1990’s.
She explained further that in Nigeria (NIPC), there is an international Investment Scheme which included 20 parameters that were taken into account whenever any treaty agreement was to be signed. Ms Sadiku stated that Nigeria had signed 29 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). NIPC has reviewed 21 and 15 are in force. However, 17 out of the 21 BITs scored less, meaning they are a failure. She noted that 81% of the BITs reviewed would not take Nigeria to the promise land. Only 3 of the BITs scored more, and out of the 3, only 2 can be used as model BITs including the Nigeria-Morocco BIT. She therefore implored that treaties should be treated on a one to one basis i.e. country by country basis.
Ms Sadiku also discussed the management of disputes. She explained that considering the cost and the time it takes, the issues arising from disputes need to be dealt with immediately, before it further escalates into an unmanageable situation. She noted that the World Bank is currently developing a template to help countries tackle issues before it becomes a dispute.
Discussing on incentives, she stated that many people think that investors are all about what they can get from the country they want to invest in, but the reverse is the case. Investors consider factors such as the size, cost, economy, market growth and strategy before deciding to invest in any country.
For example, in Africa, investors look at Africa’s natural resources, the quality of the environment and politics. To attract investors, Nigeria has to first deal with the environment for it to be business friendly. From the mandate given to the NIPC, Nigeria has given its best, especially in the last 12 months. Nigeria has made it easy to do business by improving in the business ranking. She further noted that in terms of direction, Nigeria is on track, but just moving at a very slow pace. In 4 out of 5 years, Nigeria has improved on the ease of doing business. According to her, importation should not just be for consumption. Ms Sadiku noted that the NIPC encourages people to invest in Nigeria, carries out policy advocacy to ensure that policies meet the needs of investors, and is moving to ensure local content in investments. These actions will create jobs for Nigerians in desired sectors of the economy.
The first discussant - Professor Jonathan Aremu, a Professor of International Economic Relations from Covenant University spoke on the topic “Negotiation Strategies in International Investment Law and Practice”. He emphasized that Nigerian government officials involved in the development of investment policies and the negotiation of investment treaties need to have a comprehensive understanding of the substantive and procedural obligations contained in these treaties and appreciate the fast-moving policy landscape in the area.
Mr George Etomi, FNIALS, Principal Partner, George Etomi & Partners and the second discussant, narrowed his discussion to investment incentives. He identified good governance as a main factor, adding that corruption has a negative effect on investment. He noted among other things that for a system of incentive to be crowned effective, it must be ascertained that the government has not only experienced a rise in revenue since the grant of that incentive, but also that the rise is due to an influx of investments which would not have been made but for the introduction of the incentive. Also, such additional revenue, plus social benefits derived from the additional investment must outweigh the revenue lost by the government by granting the incentive and the indirect cost of administering that incentive (like salaries to employees of offices set up to grant the incentive permits).
Mr George Etomi congratulated the Institute for the collaborations and trainings which they always conduct, concluding with an emphasis the importance of training and re-training.
The third discussant, Professor Paul Idornigie, SAN, Director of Research NIALS, focused onthe sub-theme - dispute settlement/resolution. He noted that dispute settlement/resolution was a fundamental part of any contract. On issues in Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT), Professor Idornigie stated that every BIT has a section on definition which includes who an ‘investor’ and a ‘national’ is. He noted that the ICSID emerged to allow foreign nationals, both individuals and corporation to bring claims directly against a sovereign State and to remove the risk of disputes escalating into inter-state disputes thereby enhancing confidence in the investment community.
He identified the criticisms on ICSID which include lack of transparency, impartiality and inconsistency of arbitral awards. He observed that there is currently an amendment to the rules of ICSID in response to the criticisms in order to modernise and simplify the rules. He stated that over 30 states and 20 organisations have responded to this amendment but Nigeria has not. Speaking on the need for an improved legal framework to facilitate international trade and investment, he identified the roles of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in developing a framework in pursuance of the mandate of furthering the progressive harmonisation of the laws of international trade.
On lessons for Nigeria, Prof. Idornigie noted that there is a need for a National Working Group to represent the country’s interests in both the ICSID and UNCITRAL deliberations. He condemned the issue of alternating representatives from Nigeria to sit in on international investment deliberations, describing it as unhealthy. He recommended that Nigeria should take the lead and champion the course of the permanent Court for Investment Disputes in Africa, to ensure that all African disputes are resolved in Africa, using African arbitrators and arbitral institutions.
6. Remarks from the Ajomo’s Family
The eldest son of the Late Professor Michael Ayodele Ajomo, Engr. Oladapo Ajomo responded by giving a brief biography of his father. On behalf of the Ajomo family, he thanked the Director General and the organizing team for the symposium organized in honour of his father.
7. Vote of Thanks
The vote of thanks was given by Dr. Adebisi Arewa, Head of Department, International Law, NIALS.
In his concluding remarks, the Director General. Prof. Adedeji Adekunle SAN, thanked the Ajomo family for attending the symposium, and expressed the hope the event will continue in subsequent years. The DG expressed his thanks to the lead speaker Yewande Sadiku and other discussants for their enlightening and thought-provoking treatise. The Director General also thanked the book reviewer Hon. Justice Omorogbe and invited guests for their patience.
The programme ended with the second stanza of the National Anthem and departure of guests.