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Senior lawyer, Uche Val Obi launches book on ‘Class Action’, first in Nigeria

Why has your Firm decided to inaugurate Alliance Law Firm series?

It has always been our model to give back to the society. So it is part of our corporate social responsibility programmes to embark on such a project. After this maiden edition, the aim is to hold it annually and the theme is not restricted to legal topics or issues.

Similarly, the faculties and facilitators will cut across board. It will be an avenue to get top experts share their experiences on impactful topical issues. It will be a platform to promote national and global dialogues which may sometimes assist in policy formulation and nation building. It is also an opportunity to host our high profile clients, colleagues and others to a luncheon.

Your Firm will be holding the maiden edition of its Public Lecture Series and Luncheon on May 31, 2018. What informed your choice of theme for the Lecture `Contemporary Corporate Governance Issues in Nigeria?’

The choice of theme for this maiden edition was influenced by its topicality and relevance across the broad spectrum of the business community and regulatory authorities and its overall impact to the economy especially now that the Federal Government is making efforts to improve the country’s Doing Business Index.

Uche Val Obi SAN

Like you know, a sound corporate governance culture is a measure of transparency, integrity and better management of resources and this
helps to project a country as a conducive investment destination. So as a nation in dire need of economic growth through massive influx of Foreign Direct and Portfolio investments.

Who are the speakers expected at the event and what informed their elders choice?

They include Professor Pat Utomi, Mr. Dotun Sulaiman of Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria as Lead Speaker, Ben Akabueze DG, Budget Office of the Federation, Ms. Mary Uduk Acting DG of SEC, Mr. Oscar Onyema CEO Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Austin Avuru MD/CEO SEPLAT Petroleum, Mr. Toyin Sani CEO, United Capital Plc and Prof. Fabian Ajogwu SAN.

I think that the theme is quite topical and the personalities involved being passionate stakeholders are naturally interested in a
discussion on contemporary issues and trends of Corporate Governance in Nigeria. They appreciate its importance of our quest to grow the economy and improve our competitiveness at the global level.

They must have seen it as a call to national duty not just our effort as a Firm, and that is the only way to explain the convergence of such high
powered panel of experts.

The Concept of Corporate Governance is one that Nigerians are still trying to understand. How do you intend to drive home its meaning and importance at this Luncheon?
 Corporate Governance is a set of rules and corporate behavioral patterns that regulate and guide corporate entities in their organization, proceedings, control, management and operation in a lawful, transparent, efficient and integrity driven manner so as to protect the interest of all stakeholders. These stakeholders are not limited to interest or shareholders, but include employees, creditors, service providers, host communities, governmental authorities and the general public. At this Lecture the experts will be examining the contemporary issues around it which would cover the present state, expected new codes, the practice and the way forward.

The event is supposed to be a convergence of law, Regulators, Leaders of the Bar, Captains of Industries, Operators and Academics. What about legislators?
Those categories of people are the real stakeholders on matters of corporate governance, as they help to formulate and influence the policies, codes, behavioral patterns of corporates and implement them.

The legislators are more involved in law making through sponsorship and passage of bills into Acts of the Parliament with presidential
assent except when it is overridden. So by the end of the day the National Assembly makes statutes. However, the codes of Corporate
Governance  are either regulatory or driven rules and practices which may operate broadly or sectorally. So the Legislators are not directly
involved in formulating the codes of corporate governance primarily.
However, the body of laws already passed by the National Assembly are useful materials in promoting corporate governance rules to ensure
that the later does not conflict with the former.

It is understood that Alliance would use the event to launch your much awaited book titled `Class Action in Nigeria’. Kindly share with
us snippets of this groundbreaking publication, the first of its kind in Nigeria

Class Action is a legal procedure or a form of suit in which a large group of people collectively bring a claim to Court or in which a class of defendants are being sued. The outcome of the suit will bind them and others falling into the same class whether or not they were named as parties.

So there is finality of the outcome of the suit over the subject matter of class suit.

The importance of Class Action include the following:
It enhances access to justice. It is arguably one of the greatest most effective legal mechanism to remedy mass wrongs in a fast and evolving globalized world order, where the effect of a single wrong in a particular territory could affect millions of consumers in the country or across the world.

–  Aggregation of claims increases efficiency of the legal process, and lowers the costs of litigation especially (in cases sharing common
questions of law and facts) as those claims are heard under a single suit.
– It also helps to avoid multiple suits arising from the same subject matter which can result into conflicting decisions of Courts or different outcomes.

– In limited fund cases, a class action ensures that all plaintiffs receive reliefs and that early filing plaintiffs do not raid the fund or rid the defendant of all its assets before other Plaintiffs are compensated.

– It can be used to change the behavior of a class of which the defendant is a member.

The book is a pioneer work basically dealing with an understanding of the concepts, the state of affairs with our various Rules of Court,
and the pros and cons.

About a decade ago I was engaged to defend a Bank in a certified class action at the Federal High Court in which the claim was quite substantial. I then set out to gather local
authorities to use but was quite shocked at the paucity of local materials both in reported cases and published works. So, I largely depended on foreign sources. I thought there was a gap to be filled and this book was therefore my attempt to respond to this yearning gap.

In the course of writing the book I tried to   examine the state of the Rules of Court at the date of publication and expressed my views on their adequacy or otherwise. I also introduced the concept of Class arbitration as an emerging trend which is gaining faster grounds in some foreign jurisdictions like USA.

I have the feeling that an efficient deployment of Class Action mechanism would assist in
promoting access to justice as more people can have their grievances resolved under a class suit without having to afford independent
suits. It will also assist in decongesting the Courts as hundreds or thousands of actions on the same subject matter can be litigated under
one suit.

I think that the practice should be consciously promoted by the leaders of the bar and bench, the academia and the public at large, as part of the demoralization of legal process.

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