The amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has continued to generate controversy among lawyers.
Amendment by Malami which
removed the requirement for the Nigerian Bar Association stamp and seal on court processes, were believed by some lawyers that it was an attempt to weakens the association power.
Before now, membership of the NBA was compulsory for all lawyers and the stamps and seals were sold at N4,000 for 72 pieces and were given upon payment of NBA dues.
Without the stamp, a lawyer could not submit any document or letter to the court and the sale of the stamp and seal was one of the major sources of NBA’s revenue.
However, with the amendment of the process by Malami, the use of the stamps was no longer necessary.
This also implies that persons, who are not members of the NBA including non-lawyers, are allowed to submit court processes.
The gazette – marked S.I N0.15 of 2020 issued by AGF and dated September 3, 2020, reads in part, “In exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act Cap L11, LFN 2004 and of all other powers enabling me in that behalf, I, Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and President, General Council of the Bar, make the following rules:
“The Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.
“These rules may be cited as the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules, 2020.”
However, while some senior advocates and lawyers described Malami’s action as illegal, others disagreed.
NBA spokesperson, Dr Rapulu Nduka, said that the development was surprising, adding that the association was not carried along.
“We were not carried along and we will definitely ensure that it is reversed. We just woke up to the news of the amendment like every other person. We are consulting with stakeholders and we will make a decision on the next step,” he said.
A human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said Malami ought to have consulted widely before making the move, which he said would greatly affect the revenues of the NBA.
He, however, said it was unlikely that the AGF had taken sides with the splinter NBA group.
Adegboruwa also said once the seal and stamp were no longer used, the development could lead to an increase in the number of fake lawyers in the country.
Also, a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, described the AGF’s action as illegal.
In a series of tweets, Odinkalu said he was not surprised that Malami, “who has a penchant for disobeying court orders”, would not take such illegal action.
However, former president of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Olasupo Ojo in a statement issued on Tuesday, throwed his weight behind the amendment by Malami.
“I have taken my time to react to the recent amendment of the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) by which the AGF deleted the mandatory provision for every lawyer to affix NBA stamp and seal to all legal documents prepared for legal validity whether they are members of the NBA or not.
“I have never met or discussed with the AGF because I have no cause to and I don’t belong to any political party. I used to be a very active member of the NBA and I know enough to assure the AGF that the NBA dare not challenge his amendment of the RPC to delete and remove the NBA mandatory stamp and seal from the subsidiary legislation.
“The merchants of NBA are all interested only in licking the juicy honey dripping into the NBA purse illegally from statutory manipulation.
” The stamp and seal ought to be issued by the Body of Benchers and proceeds there from paid into the Federation account since it came about from a Federal subsidiary legislation.
” The NBA is not a Federal Statutory institution. It is a private association registered under CAMA by some lawyers for the welfare of their profession. We all know it is illegal for a private association to be mentioned in a Federal legislation and or to benefit therefrom. I boldly write this and I know none of them will talk about this legal principle of statutory law but the fraud must stop.
“The free fountain of unmerited money is at the root of desperate and fraudulently schemed and rigged election to capture the NBA.
Let the NBA go and earn it’s legitimacy from its members.
Let the NBA go and justify to its members why they should be paying annual due without getting value for their money”, the statement read in part.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) , Seyi Sowemimo also aligned his self with the submission of Ojo. He said the amendment made by Malami was a welcomed development, noted that NBA begins a private affair need no government input on how it would generate it revenue.
On his own, Dr. Babatunde Ajibade (SAN), said the situation was unfortunate development for the legal profession and it portend Ed great danger for rule of law.
“My view is that this is a most unfortunate development for the legal profession in Nigeria. It portends great danger for the rule of law.
‘The NBA as an association representing lawyers in Nigeria, if united, is the strongest vehicle through which the rights of citizens can be protected.
“However, when the body that is supposed to protect citizens and society from incursions into their rights becomes incapable of managing its own internal affairs cohesively, this is what you get. There is a need for urgent rethinking in the profession”, he said. .