The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) says the recent amendment to the rules of professional conduct of legal practitioners (RPC), 2007 has brought ridicule to the association.
The RPC sets out the professional duties of lawyers when dealing with clients, courts and their colleagues.
Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, in an amendment to the RPC earlier in September, had eliminated the use of NBA stamp and seal on court processes.
Under the new provision, the use of the stamps is no longer necessary, giving room for non-lawyers to also submit court processes.
However, the NBA, in a letter to the AGF and signed by its president, Olumide Akpata, noted that the amendment to the RPC appeared to have been done without following due process.
“Our position, Honourable Attorney-General, is that the Legal Practitioners Act (as amended) confers the power to issue or amend the RPC on the General Council of the bar (‘Bar Council’) albeit under your leadership. Consequently, the RPC or amendments thereto may only be enacted and issued after they have been duly approved at a properly convened meeting of the Bar Council,” the letter, which was dated September 15, 2020, read.
“I have been duly informed by NBA representatives on the Bar Council and other members of the Bar Council who have reached out to me, that to the best of their knowledge, no meeting of the Bar Council was convened to discuss any amendment to the RPC or to approve the Instrument. It therefore appears that the Instrument was enacted without proper authority.”
The NBA also raised concern over certain portions of the amended RPC which it said would allow quacks take advantage of the profession.
“Above and beyond the proper authority to amend the RPC, the purported deletion of some provisions of the RPC is also curious. A number of those provisions are aimed at checking the infiltration of quacks into the profession; protecting the turf and revenue of lawyers; improving professional standards through mandatory continuing professional development; and keeping track of the number of law offices operating in Nigeria at various branches of the NBA,” Akpata said.
“It is therefore concerning that these provisions, many of which are forward-looking and seek to place the Nigerian legal profession at par with other self-regulatory professional associations around the world, will be targeted for deletion.”
Akpata, who admitted that certain provisions of the RPC were unacceptable in modern practice and needed overhaul, urged the AGF to give the association time to make the necessary amendments.
“My administration therefore intends to propose a series of amendments to the RPC to bring it into conformity with the realities of modern legal practice for the benefit of Nigerian lawyers and and the society,” he said.
“To speed up the process, I will immediately be setting up a committee with the responsibility of thoroughly reviewing the RPC and making appropriate recommendations to the Bar Council through your good office.
“Pending such holistic reforms to the RPC, I urge you to rescind the Instrument in the interest of the rule of law, the unity of the bar and the sanctity of the legal profession.
“The NBA has been subjected to needless controversy and ridicule on the account of the Instrument, and this does not augur well for the sanctity of the profession, of which you are a key stakeholder.”
The recent amendment to the RPC by the AGF has attracted varying reactions, including a lawsuit by a group of lawyers, seeking to strip the AGF of his title of senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The amendment was done weeks after a splinter group, the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA), wrote to Malami requesting recognition.