According to a new gazette by the Attorney General of the Federation(AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), AGF has amended the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, removing the requirement for the NBA stamp and seal on court processes.
The Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 which was amended are the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13 which is to the effect that a legal practitioner is prohibited from claiming he has paid his Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) when he is actually in default, the issue of stamp and seal, mandatory continuing legal education, annual practicing certificate and notice of legal practice upon setting up a private legal practice. Prior to the amendment, 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.
The effect of the above is that without the stamp, a lawyer could not submit any document or letter to the court. Now, the issue is whether or not the amendment is legal or otherwise?
Going by section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act, the AGF is vested with the power to amend the provisions of the RPC as the the President of the General Council of the Bar.Though the NBA released a statement stating clearly they were not aware neither were they informed of the amendment until the amendment went public and thus, due process were not followed.
Numerous Senior Advocates of Nigeria like Femi Falana SAN,Adegboruwa SAN had pronounced the amendment as illegal due to the fact that necessary stakeholders were not consulted. Contrary to that,another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Akintola SAN who is a member of the General Council of the bar, claimed there were consultations leading to the amendment carried out by the AGF but he went on to state that he cannot really say whether the consultations were wide enough.
It can be inferred that both sides had fair arguments and my humble opinion is that the matter be taken to court in order to determine the legality of the amendment. Another fundamental issue is the consequences of the amendment of the RPC.The earlier position of the RPC is that without the stamp, a lawyer could not submit any document or letter to the court. But now, the opposite is the case.
Moreover, the sale of the stamp and seal was one of the major sources of NBA’s revenue which has made them self-sufficient over the years, the recent amendment may render the institution broke and vulnerable to the influence of Politicians. Despite the fact that compulsory stamp and seal has been seen as a means of exploiting lawyers on the part of the NBA, it has been also been a means of identifying fake lawyers. My fear is that we might get to see large influx of fake lawyers in the country.
Another good side of the amendment is that litigants will now have access to the temple of justice especially when litigants have the constitutional rights to either appear for themselves or be defended by legal practitioners of their choice. All in all, the amendment has its positive and negative effects and all steps within the ambit of Law should be taken to ensure that the said amendment is legal even if it has to involve going to court.
God bless the Legal Profession!
God bless Nigeria!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Toheeb Mustapha Babalola is a pupil of law; a blogger; a student of Faculty of Law, Bayero University Kano; the founder of Lex Updates Publications, and the Litigation Secretary of Libra Legal Consultants in Kano State. He is interested in advocacy, academic writing, legal writing/history, activism, and a plethora of positivism. To reach him, email:[email protected], or contact/Whatsapp:08106244073.
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