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Lawyers urged to tap into possibilities of digitalization  

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Chairman of the NBA-SBL, Olumide Akpata

The need for legal professionals to be conversant with new trends in technology so as to provide best services to their clients and offer adequate regulatory advice has been emphasised.

This was the crux of discussions at the 15th yearly conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law (NBA -SBL), which held for three days with the theme, ‘Re-tooling Businesses for Change: Leveraging the Tech Explosion.”

President, NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, noted that with the growth of technology comes an unending struggle of law to keep pace with technological developments and disruptions, particularly in the business space as the fourth industrial revolution continues to emerge and the world confronts the economic realities of COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Like many aging industries, the legal profession in Nigeria has been slow to perceived external threats, and slower still to respond to new patterns of service delivery and is still characterised by absence of necessary infrastructure and gadgets in the courts as a result of which the judges are still forced to record proceedings in long hand, analogue filing and documentation management system, large volumes of law and law reports.

“All of these conspire to cause the delay and congestion of cases in courts and have direct adverse impact on commercial transactions, in-bound investments and overall economic development,” he said.

Speaking on alternative currencies in the digital age, Founder, Freeme Digital, Micheal Ugwu, said that if there is no effort to constantly update one’s knowledge in this era, a lot of information would be missed daily.

On the advantages of crypto currencies, he noted that they are used for settling transactions swiftly devoid of bank delays and can also be used as assets for collateral. He added that remittance is another use of crypto as opposed to use of moneygram or western union.

He explained that the crypto market is easily accessible as it just requires you to play within the rules and anyone can benefit from the space. “The market is undervalued so it is important to understand it for your self and the financing around it,” he added.

Ugwu explained that Digital Finance (Difi) is a hot topic today, adding that, as cash is tangible and easy to interchange, the digital age has a lot of intangible assets.      

“With Non-fungible Token (NFT), which speaks to trade of digital assets that represent real objects like arts, videos among others, our knowledge is still limited and we haven’t scratched the surface of the possibilities in this area. Conversations around crypto has clouded conversations on blockchain, which is really broad,” he said.

He urged lawyers to look into NFT and what it has for copyright. 

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Deputy Managing Director, Afrinvest, Victor Ndukauba, explained that the raging debate surrounding crypto was due to concerns and questions on what the currencies represent and how much worth should be placed on it in terms of store value.

“Other questions where what is crypto, who controls it, what volume can be traded and what affects pricing?”

He noted that for financial services, there has been greater adoption in the past year, which was driven by COVID-19.

He, however, said that there is inherent conflict as most central banks are concerned of their inability to control the currency and the possibility of crypto to become mainstreamed.

Speaking on the authenticity of crypto currency, he said: “There are concerns deriving from the fact that there was a lot of dark activity happening in the crypto space, but for whatever criminal activity that happened, the same and even more happens in mainstream systems. Crypto networks are actually still bad way to support crimes because transactions are transparent.”

He said due to the way blockchains are built, fraudulent activities might not be easily identified but that the FBI has come up with solutions to that.

He added that the earlier Nigeria understands the role of crypto in the digital age, the better regulation can be set up.

Partner, Bayo Ogunyemi & Co, Rotimi Ogunyemi, noted that crypto space is a regulation heavy sector and explained why regulators are scared of the inventions.

“They need to have healthy understanding of what is going on as it would produce right response. Regulators should understand that the conversation should go beyond crypto into adopting a national block chain strategy,” he stated.

He applauded regulators for their interest in the stability of the currencies.

He also stressed that issues around privacy should be explored in the space, as personal data would be easily accessed.

According to Ogunyemi, when blockchain is considered as the overpinning technology, there has to be alignment with all government agencies.

He called on the players in the industry to innovate with regulation in mind by engaging regulators proactively and help shape policies.

Rotimi stressed the need for a crop of lawyers with the skills and ability to guide emerging players in this space to navigate the complex regulatory environment.

“We need lawyers who would understand, adapt and influence government regulations and to ensure an enabling environment is created for the sector to thrive,” he said.  

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Speaking to the topic, Techpreneurs: Building Nigeria’s talent pipeline, Founder, Terragon, Elo Umeh, said entrepreneurs in the technology space would build sustainable businesses and material wealth creation for national development.

He stated the need to find a cluster within Africa that can churn out talents in the space and merging that with raw talent.

Co-founder, Piggyvest, Odunayo Eweniyi, said that technology would save the nation, adding that businesses that have been sustained in recent times relied on digitalisation.
 
In tech, you see a form of wealth creation where someone who starts in the industry within two years is earning much more than someone in his experience in another industry.

“It is important to have people learn the basics of technology before leaving primary and secondary school. The quality of our education system is very worrying. Elements of our education is still the same and nothing is the same as at last year, talk less of eight years ago. There are basics we are missing out as a nation,” he stated.

Founder, Women Technology Empowerment Centre, Oreoluwa Lesi, noted that the attribute of a successful techpreneur, is ones ability to learn, unlearn, lead, build, solve problems, be creative and solve old problems in a new way.

“We need to go back to the drawing board, where people need to learn to think outside the box. There’s so much the educational system in Nigeria is lacking. We all have our different roles to play and it is important that we keep doing that,” she added.
 

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