The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, has urged the attorney-general and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, to rescind the controversial amendments made in the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for lawyers.
Mr Malami recently amended the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), expunging the use of NBA stamp and seal by lawyers, and provisions requiring lawyers acting for government, ministries or corporations to pay annual bar practising fees.
This development was met with stiff opposition from members of the bar who posited that it is an attempt to weaken the association, particularly at a time it is laden with crisis. As a result, a former vice president of the NBA, Monday Ubani, filed a lawsuit challenging Mr Malami’s action.
Mr Ubani, alongside nine other lawyers, argued that Mr Malami has no such rights in the constitution to effect those amendments single-handedly.
Meanwhile, in a letter dated September 15, Mr Akpata said the RPC or amendments to it may only be enacted and issued after they have been duly approved at a properly convened meeting of the bar council.
“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.”
He added that a number of provisions aimed at checking the infiltration of quacks into the profession and protecting the revenue of lawyers have been deleted without proper consideration.
“It is therefore concerning that these or 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.”
The president also noted that although some of the provisions of the RPC are outdated, his administration is making efforts to make necessary amendments in the proper way.
“I said this much to Nigerian lawyers during the recent electioneering that brought me in as President of the NBA.
“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 the society. To achieve this, I look forward to working with the Bar Council under your leadership to properly amend the RPC and regulate the legal profession in Nigeria.
“To speed up the process 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 proposed holistic reforms to the RPC, I urge you to immediately 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 account of the Instrument, and this does not augur well for the sanctity of the profession, of which you are a key stakeholder.”