Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is set for a show down with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami, over the controversial amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The gazette marked S.I N0.15 of 2020 issued by AGF and dated September 3 specifically affected payment of practising fees, stamp and seal for legal practitioners, the Annual Practising Certificate for legal practitioners, and obligation to give notice of the commencement of legal practice to the branch of the NBA responsible for the jurisdiction in which the practice is located.
Also by the said amended, it is no longer mandatory for lawyers to be part of the NBA or attach the NBA stamp and seal on their court processes to make such valid.But the development did not go down well with the legal community as its umbrella body, the NBA has threatened to commence legal actions against the AGF.
The association president, Olumide Akpata, said the body will meet with the AGF over the issue.
In a statement on Sunday, Akpata revealed that he had been receiving several calls and texts messages on the issue, said the new leadership would take up the matter with the minister. While not dismissing the report, Akpata said there cannot be an amendment of the RPC without a meeting of the council of the NBA.
“I have seen and read Statutory Instrument No. 15 of 2020 (the ‘Instrument’) making the rounds on social media and which purports to amend certain provisions of the 2007 Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (RPC). Since the Instrument was released, I have received numerous calls and messages from lawyers across the country seeking clarification and guidance on the purport of the Instrument.
“The explanatory note to the Instrument suggests that it was done to bring the RPC into conformity with the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act, the Law Officers Act, and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Legal Practitioners Act (as amended) confers the power to issue rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners, and any amendments thereto, on the General Council of the Bar (the ‘Bar Council’),” he said.
He sais the Bar Council comprises the AGF, the Attorneys-General of the 36 states of Nigeria and 20 members of the NBA.
Former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, described the AGF’s action as illegal.
But Femi Falana said though he agreed that the AGF’s action was illegal “it is good riddance to bad rubbish…I have always opposed the stamp and seal because it was meant to restrict access to the temple of justice.”