Although the Stamp and Seal policy of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has thrown up a large number of fake lawyers in the branches across the country, the association has not been able to begin criminal proceedings against those found not to be genuine lawyers in the court of law.
NBA President, Augustine Alegeh disclosed last week during a meeting held in Lagos with judicial editors to mark the end of the year 2015.
Alegeh said the over 1,000 fake lawyers were discovered when they applied to be issued with the instruments and the secretariat could not find their names in the roll call of lawyers at the Supreme Court.
He explained that the fake lawyers would not have been discovered if their application for the Stamp and Seal had come through the branch executives, especially since some of the fake lawyers happened to have been actively involved in NBA activities and have always paid their practice fee and others as and when due.
While admitting that what the fake lawyers did amounted to criminal acts, the NBA President lamented that the association has not been able to begin criminal proceedings against them because the executives were still trying to clear the challenges created by the judgement of the Supreme Court on the new policy.
He denied claims that the apex court judgement on the new policy was conflicting, explaining that what the second judgement of the court did was to confirm the earlier one and to give further clarification to the judgement.
He however, assured that all those discovered to be fake lawyers would not go scot free but would be made to face criminal proceedings in the court, even after he must have left office in August.
He said his successor would have to cue into his vision and go ahead with the process of prosecution especially since the Supreme Court has bought into the Stamp and Seal policy of the NBA by making it mandatory that all pages of applications and other processes must bear the seal of the legal practitioner who filed them.
Alegeh disclosed that stakeholders in justice sector are already holding various meetings to review the 46 bills passed by the 7th National Assembly on the eve of their departure in May last year.
He said stakeholders will work on the different areas of the bills, after which they would be represented to the new Senate for their deliberation and passage before they would be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari to assent his signature.
The NBA president explained that the meeting of the stakeholders became necessary because it would be illegal and unconstitutional for the sitting president to assent to bills that were passed under the former president.
He said for instance that stakeholders have already held a meeting on the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2015 which according to contained a lot of flaws and duplicated some offences.
He said the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was controversial because there are many versions of the bill prepared by different interest groups as against what is contained in the original bill.
He berated senior lawyers who have taken to commenting on their cases that are on-going in the court, pointing out that the NBA would henceforth view such conduct as an offence.
“We would prefer that senior lawyers don’t speak on their on-going cases in court on the television. If at all they must do it, they must first de-robe before they can discuss the matter in general terms without going into submissions made inside the court”, he emphasised.