“I am engaging with the honourable Attorney General on the issue” –
...NBA president speaks on Purported RPC Amendment
The NBA President has in the early hours of this morning issued a statement regarding the purported amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct by the Attorney General of the Federation. It would be recalled that on Saturday 12 September, a publication making the rounds revealed that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN, had purportedly amended the Rules of Professional Conduct, effectively removing certain provisions, including the provisions on stamp and seal for legal practitioners and payment of practicing fee. There have been varying reactions from Nigerian lawyers to this development.
In the NBA President’s statement, he made it clear that as there had been no meeting of the Council of the Bar as required under the Legal Practitioners Act, 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.
The statement read in part, “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.
“By virtue of the Instrument, the following provisions of the RPC are to be deemed deleted: Rule 9(2), which relates to default in payment of practicing fees; Rule 10, which relates to stamp and seal for legal practitioners; Rule 11, which relates to mandatory continuing professional development; Rule 12, which relates to the Annual Practicing Certificate for legal practitioners; and Rule 13, which relates to the obligation to give notice of the commencement of legal practice to the branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) responsible for the jurisdiction in which the practice is located.
The NBA President observed that 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).
He said, “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”). The Bar Council comprises the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (“HAGF”), the Honourable Attorneys-General of the thirty-six states of Nigeria, and twenty members of the NBA. Consequently, the RPC and any amendments thereto may only be validly issued after it has been deliberated upon and approved at a properly convened meeting of the Bar Council.
“As far as the NBA is aware, no notice convening a meeting of the Bar Council was issued to its elected representatives on the Bar Council and no meeting of the Bar Council was convened and/or held to deliberate on the Instrument. To that extent, our position is that no authority or approval was given for the amendment of the RPC. Consequently, the NBA maintains that the RPC has not been amended and enjoins all legal practitioners to remain calm and continue to conduct their affairs in the same manner as they did prior to the issuance of the Instrument.
He thus assured members that the leadership of the association was engaging closely with the HAGF on the issue and will provide further updates on our next steps in the coming days.
“Indeed, as part of the commitment of the current administration of the NBA towards the welfare and capacity building of members and the overall improvement of the Bar, we intend to propose certain amendments to the RPC that will be critical to the attainment of those objectives.”
The NBA President also promised members that in doing this, members will be carried along, with a view to getting their buy-in as critical stakeholders.