•AGF amends lawyers’ rules of professional conduct, NBA kicks
Controversies have continued to trail the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami’s (SAN) alleged unilateral amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.
Malami is reported to have amended the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 by deleting sections 9(2), 10, 11, 12, and 13 thereby removing the requirement for the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) stamp and seal on court processes; thereby giving everyone – including non-lawyers – the right to file court processes.
The stamps and seals were sold at N4, 000 for 72 pieces and given upon payment of membership dues. With the amendment, the use of the stamp will no longer be necessary to submit court processes, unlike before when a lawyer can only submit any document or letter to the court with the stamp.
This also implies that persons who are not members of the NBA, as well as nonlawyers are now permitted to file court processes. The new rules provide that: “the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.”
Rule 9(2) prohibits legal practitioners from claiming that he has paid his Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) when he is actually in default. Rule 10 deals with stamp and Seal. Rule 11 provides for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. Rule 12 provides for Annual Practicing Certificate and Rule 13 provides for Notice of Legal Practice upon setting up a private legal practice. A former National Secretary of the NBA, Afam Osigwe has declared such an act illegal.
According to him, he noted that had also seen a document which claimed that the AGF in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act, the Attorney General of the Federation has amended the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 by deleting Rules 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.
“A close look at Section 12(4) of LPA referred to as well as the fact that the Bar Council which has the power to make any such amendment, has never met, shows why the document should be discountenanced. “Section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) vests the power to make Rules regulating the Conduct of Legal Practitioners is vested on the General Council of the Bar (“the Bar Council”).
“As provided by Section 1(1) of the LPA, General Council of the Bar shall be charged with the general management of the affairs of the Nigerian Bar Association (subject to any limitations for the time being provided by the Constitution of the association) and with any functions conferred on the council by this Act or that constitution.
“The Bar Council consists of- (a) the Attorney-General of the Federation, who shall be the president of the council; (b) the Attorneys-General of the States; and (c) twenty members of the association. “The twenty members representing the Nigerian Bar Association were elected at the Association’s Annual General Meeting held in Abuja on August 27, 2015.
“The Attorney General of the Federation has not convened a meeting of the Bar Council. The Bar Council has neither considered nor approved any proposed amendment to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007.
Even though the Attorney General of the Federation is the President of the Bar Council, he cannot unilaterally exercise the powers of the Council. “I will therefore like to believe that the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules 2020 which is in circulation on social media lacks credibility”.
Also weighing in, NBA National President, Olumide Akpata, noted that there had been no meeting of the Council of the Bar as required under the Legal Practitioners Act and there cannot have been said to be an amendment of the RPC.
He urged lawyers to continue to carry out their activities as before and assured them that he was engaging with the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and will ensure that the interests of lawyers are reflected in whatever amendments are to be made to the RPC. In his own reaction, Human right activist, Femi Falana (SAN) described the unilateral amendment of the rules of Professional Conduct of lawyers by the AGF as unpardonable impunity.
“Notwithstanding my opposition to the Stamp and Seal on ideological grounds I wish to reiterate my position that the 2020 RPC was illegally made by the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN). To that extent, I will take appropriate steps to fight this latest act of unpardonable impunity emanating from the office of the AGF,” he said. Another lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, while reacting said that disciplinary actions should be initiated against Malami for this amendment.
“On the purported amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers by the AGF, Malami (SAN), the NBA should initiate disciplinary actions against Mr. Malami. The arrogant behaviour of public office holders will continue until public office holders are punished for infractions. “The Attorney General should be made to understand that he is not above the law.
The Justice Secretary in the United Kingdom is currently under fire for stating in parliament that the government will violate international law by breaching some aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement. “Boris Johnson is facing backlash too for expressing willingness to break the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
Two former UK Prime Ministers have publicly rebuked Boris Johnson. Why is it so difficult to punish public office holders in Nigeria? Is Mr. Malami above the law? ” Meanwhile, some lawyers have also initiated a petition to strip Malami of his SAN rank over the amendment matter.