NBA Stamp and Seal: Its general implication to lawyers and Litigants BY Bayo Akinlade, Esq. (Former Secretary NBA Ikorodu Branch (2012 – 2014), Fmr 1st and 2nd Asst. Secretary Lagos Branch (2002 -2004)
Lets begin with debunking the notion that lawyers are resisting the implementation of the NBA Stamp and Seal directives because they support fake lawyers and categorically state that there are no doubts as to what the law requires and lawyers do not oppose the law. What the law did not provide for is how the NBA is to “approve” the use of stamps and the policy surrounding the acquisition of the Stamp
Question 1: Does Rule 10 give NBA the power to sell, manufacture, distribute or whatever else the National Body is doing to enforce this rule?
Question 2: How does the Supreme Court Ruling on the subject impact on (a) the law of evidence and admissibility of documents (b) the Law of contract (c) the right of a Legal Practitioner etc
Question 3: Who is a legal Practitioner? (Can I address the court and present documents filed, stamped and signed by another lawyer? If I can then, what will be the relevance of such stamp……in short can one lawyer stamp documents for another lawyer to argue in court? If that is the case then a Law firm of 20 lawyers will need just one lawyer or its principal to acquire the stamp)
Question 4: Why does a legal practitioner pay his practicing fee and what rights does he have when he does pay
Question 5: Is the Bar Association an association as understood by the Constitution or does the LPA’s mention of the NBA supersede the constitution’s definition of an association
There are many questions to be asked concerning the NBA’s directive on the stamp and seal but my position on the matter is simple:
1. The Stamp should be made free upon payment of practicing fees
2. The Supreme Court’s decision has the effect of making NBA a compulsory association to belong to which is contrary to the Constitution of the FRN. This is so because the requirement for obtaining a stamp is not only the payment of your practicing fee but also payment of Branch dues which is not uniform (Ikorodu Branch dues is 50% of your Practice fee while other Branches in Lagos have a fixed graduating dues starting from N500)
3. The stamps can only be obtained through one source causing delay and hardship for lawyers and litigants alike thereby limiting access to justice (another violation of constitutional rights)
4. The justice sector should not be plagued with too many formalities as it is the last hope of the common man
5. Why should pleadings and documents that do not have a stamp and seal of a legal practitioner be incompetent but a mere contract signed by individuals will be competent or a litigant deciding to bring an action in his personal capacity or defend himself can do so without a seal (double standards)
6. What is now the legal position of Notary publics and SANs if they do not purchase the stamps
7. What Stamp do you give a retired Judge?
8. What happens with probono practice?
9. How can a state counsel or lawyer in the public/company/ university domain act on behalf of his family and friends in a personal capacity if only restricted to the red stamp
NBA administrations before this one all failed to sustain some form of identity for a lawyer for his own protection because they all failed to implement that which the law had already provided for i.e. payment of practicing fee and the benefits of such payments.
Lets not forget that the BPF where unilaterally increased a few years ago and lawyers are still finding it hard to come to terms with it. Now we have to go to the bank, queue up pay for BPF, pay for verification, pay branch dues, submit all forms and wait for ABUJA to respond………..bureaucracy goes before a fall
I call on NBA National to withdraw its policy on payment for the stamps as it has provoked dispute and litigation. Something so fundamental should not raise so much opposition except it is glaringly oppressive and not well considered.