Court nullifies Malami’s amendment of lawyers’ professional conduct rules




 

The Federal High Court in Abuja, Wednesday, nullified the unilateral amendment of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for legal practitioners in Nigeria by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN.

A former vice-president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, filed the suit challenging the amendment of the rules of professional conduct for lawyers by Malami.

Malami had in 2020 singlehandedly amended the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), expunging the mandatory use of NBA stamp and seal for lawyers. He also removed the provisions requiring lawyers acting for the government, ministries or corporations to pay Annual Bar Practising fees.

The stamp and seal, by the rules, is required to be affixed to any document signed by lawyers for such document to be accorded recognition with lawyer’s imprimatur.

Apart from helping to check quackery, the stamp and seal is also a major source of revenue for the NBA, besides the practising fees paid by lawyers.

Lawyers had criticised the AGF’s action expunging the relevant provisions from the rules, saying it is an attempt to weaken the NBA.

Some members of the NBA had pulled out to form the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA) due to allegations of partisanship and poor welfare of members.

But, in the suit filed by Ubani alongside other lawyers, including Okoro Nkem, Clement Chukwuemeka and seven others, the plaintiffs challenged Malami’s powers to “unilaterally make and or amend the rules of professional conduct for lawyers.”

In his judgement on Wednesday, the judge, Donatus Okorowo, declared the AGF’s amendment of the rules “illegal and invalid.”

Okorowo held that the AGF lacked the power to alter the rules.

The judge first dismissed Malami’s preliminary objections before granting all the plaintiffs’ reliefs.

In dismissing the objection, the court declared that the General Council of the Bar which has the authority to amend the RPC is constituted by several members, and the RPC cannot, therefore, be legitimately amended by the singular desire and action of an individual.

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