More Lawyers in Aviation Industry will improve the framework needed to grow Sector – Stakeholders

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Ajibola Dalley
Chairman, Aviation Committee, Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Ajibola Dalley
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More Lawyers in Aviation Industry will improve the framework needed to grow Sector – Stakeholders

As legal practitioners and stakeholders in the aviation industry converged to ‘Unlock the potential of the aviation law and practice in Nigeria,’ at the Westwood Hotel on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos on Tuesday 31st of October 2017, it was unanimously agreed that there is need for the involvement of more lawyers in the industry; to improve the framework needed to grow the sector.

Olumide Akpata
Chairman, Section on Business Law, Mr. Olumide Akpata during his opening remarks at the seminar
Ajibola Dalley
Chairman, Aviation Committee, NBA-Section on Business Law, Mr. Ajibola Dalley, addressing participants at the seminar.

The Chairman, Aviation Committee, Section on Business Law of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Ajibola Dalley, said on Tuesday that it had become important that the laws guiding aviation in relation to carriers and passengers should remain certain.

Dalley, who spoke at the NBA-SBL’s Aviation Committee Annual Seminar on “Unlocking the potential of aviation law and practice in Nigeria”, said there should be a legal framework in the industry, to help place Nigeria as the largest hub for air travel in Africa.

The pioneer chairman of NBA Section on Business Law, George Etomi, who chaired the first session said, “The growth of the Aviation Sector has come a long way from when we had only one dominant carrier to what it is today. However, a lot still needs to be done to achieve an industry that can be a catalyst for economic growth in Nigeria and Africa.

The foremost commercial lawyer further told Newswire Law and Events Magazine that, “There is absolutely no reason why we cannot attain the status of the continental hub for aviation activities. From providing maintenance services to operating aircraft services, there is no limit to what we can achieve. It is therefore important for young practitioners to acquaint themselves with this very lucrative area of practice.”

Etomi commend the SBL for opening up new frontiers of legal practice to members of the legal profession. “It was delightful to see some of the finest aviation industry practitioners honour the SBL with their presence and sharing their knowledge with our young members” he concluded.

The Managing Director, Landover Company Limited, Capt. Edward Boyo, said “Aviation in Nigeria is yet to take off because air transport is complex and like every complex matter, it requires learning and simple legal input to function properly,” he said.

Boyo said, “It was a conflict of interest for the government to be both a regulator and an operator, adding that the development was due to the lack of legal framework.”

He also called for the review of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Act, which he said “has given the agency so much power; so much that even the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria cannot regulate FAAN.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Maevis Nigeria Limited, Mr. Tunde Fagbemi, said the country had a problem with the registration of aircraft, adding that with the right framework, the private sector could lead the initiative.

“We must have the right interpretation for contract of carriage law. When a regulator is not guided by law, there is a problem,” he said.

A partner with Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Mr. Oluseye Opasanya, SAN, said the airline industry had the potential to employ more lawyers.

According to Opasanya, who is also the receiver manager for Arik Air, aviation is governed by rules and regulations but they are never obeyed in Nigeria.

He said the first step for the country to reposition the industry was for stakeholders to discipline themselves.

The Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, who was one of the discussants of the topic of the second session of the conference, ‘The Scope of Legal Practice in Nigeria’s Aviation Sector: Creating Opportunities for Lawyers’ said only a handful of lawyers could properly handle aviation briefs.

Onyema noted that aviation would not grow except lawyers got their acts together and be involved in all aspects of aviation negotiation.

“We are not there yet”, he said. “We need to tell ourselves the truth. Take a look at consumer rights. I am talking from the perspective of both a lawyer and an airline operator. When some lawyers write you on behalf of their clients, saying ‘Air Peace did this and did that’, you will weep. Sometimes I pick up the phone and call the lawyer and say, ‘What have you just done? You’re not representing your client well. Did you ask your client questions?” Sometimes they even cite non-existent conventions…There are a lot you (lawyers) can do. I’m not putting you down, I am only trying to challenge you,” he said.

The airline chief advocated a law making lawyers’ involvement in the acquisition of aircraft and other key aspects of the aviation industry mandatory, saying a lot of the rules regulating airline business in the country were impracticable.

“Except lawyers begin to get their acts right, the aviation industry will continue to go down.”

“I am even soliciting that it should be made compulsory that every aspect of negotiation or acquisition of an aircraft, a Nigerian lawyer should be there.”

The insurance industry fought for theirs, making it compulsory to go through a Nigerian insurance company before you can insure your aircraft. And let me tell you, all the insurance companies in Nigeria put together cannot insure one Boeing 737, yet you’re forced to go through them before you can get to the Lloyd’s of this world. But where are the lawyers? This is where you should come in. If the insurance companies in Nigeria can do it, lawyers should fight for it.” he said.

The third session which was chaired Mr. Lawrence Fubara Anga, Partner at the law firm of Aelex, was an excellent panel of legal practitioners, including senior advocates of Nigeria, who specialised in the field of aviation law. They reviewed the recent decisions on the scope of the Federal High Court’s Jurisdiction in respect of aviation matters.

The fourth and final session, was the presentations on the liability provisions of the Montreal Convention (application law) for delay, damage to baggage and cargo, injury and death.

The whole idea of this year’s seminar; ‘Unlocking  the Potentials of Aviation Law and Practice in Nigeria’ is to enlighten legal practitioners on the expectation of the industry leaders, possible growth areas for lawyers in the sector and ways in which lawyers can contribute towards building the sector.

The speakers and panelists were handpicked as a result of a survey conducted amongst key members of the aviation industry:

Names of the Speakers/Discussants at the seminar: 

First Session:  George Etomi, Capt. Edward Boyo, Tunde Fagbemi, Fati Garbarti and Aaron Munetsi

Second Session:  Nnamdi Udo, Oluseye Opasanya (SAN), Allen Onyema, Pekun Sowole, Dikko Nwanchukwu.

Third Session:  Lawrence Fubara Anga, Etigwe Uwa (SAN), Uko Essien Udom (SAN), PatrickOsu, Ajibola Dalley

Fourth Session: Chinasa Unaegbunam, Gbenga Oshikoya

Published by Newswire Law and Events Magazine

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