By Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
It remains a great surprise to me to still find some opinions against the validity and or legality of the recently amended Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2020-herein after referred to as RPC, 2020 (which seeks to amend the 2007’s Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners-herein after referred to as the 2007 RPC), which was made by the Chairman of the Bar Council- the Chairman of the Bar Council being the Honourable, the Attorney-General of the Federation the 2007’s Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners-herein after referred to as the 2007 RPC).!
Quite more surprising it is to me that many if not all of these persons who form these opinions are legal practitioners, with due respect to them! The argument among other arguments is that the Chairman of the Bar Council lacks the statutory powers to make any such amendment without the resolution of the Bar Council in that regard since the Legal Practitioners’ Act, 2004 has only conferred powers of rules of professional conducts on the Bar Council. It was also the argument that there is no RPC except the 2007’s RPC (despite the facts that the amended 2020’s RPC has been gazette)! Some if not all of these lawyers have called for a disregard of the said RPC 2020! These lawyers (with due respect to them) have refused, rejected and or neglected to approach a court of law to challenge the RPC, 2020, being criticized for reasons best known to them! It is a great surprise to me that these arguments still continue till date despite that none of the critics have applied to a court of law to set aside this RPC, 2020. It is much more surprising to me when I hear and or see some of these lawyers challenging a law such as the RPC, 2020, verbally (or on social media) and calling for a disregard of such subsidiary law which enjoys the presumption of genuineness under our Evidence Act, 2011, without applying to a court of law to set aside the said law being challenged! Nevertheless, this paper is of the respectful view that having regard to the ‘spirit’ of the ‘requirement of affixing seal on processes’, it shall be sufficient for a lawyer to write his Supreme Court of Nigeria’s enrolment Name and Number on his processes and that would prove that he is a legal practitioner on the enrolment list and that resolves as a presumption of authenticity about his legal status of such facts.
In my respectful view, where the mischief of the spirit of using the approved Nigerian Bar Association seal is mainly to discover those that impersonate themselves as being lawyers. This spirit and or mischief can be resolved or achieved (having regard to the amendment to the RPC, 2007, by the General Bar Council (until the contrary is proved)), where lawyers write their full name as they are on the Supreme Court’s list and then quote their enrolment number underneath or accompanying their names on their court process or “Legal documents” including pleadings, affidavits, depositions, applications, instruments, agreements, deed letters, memoranda, report, legal opinions or any similar documents . This is what I humbly urge all of us genuine lawyers to do and this resolves the issue of fake lawyer! The courts can have a comprehensive list of all lawyers in Nigeria on their Personal Computer where they search for such name or the registry of court might take this duty before a process is filed in court and this process shall be called ‘Verification Process’. At the court of appeal, when a process is filed, one is always required to verify the authenticity of the appeal in the register and this has always worked and there has been no issue or problem. Therefore, either the court or the court’s registry (both superior and inferior court of records) would do this and that would be sufficient, else, insisting on approved NBA seal would be tantamount to taking technicality too far!
Finally, I humbly urge us as lawyers to adopt this practice of writing our full names as they are on the Supreme Court’s list and then quote our enrolment numbers underneath or accompanying our names on all court processes or “Legal documents” including pleadings, affidavits, depositions, applications, instruments, agreements, deed letters, memoranda, report, legal opinions or any similar documents and I urge our courts and or the registry of the court to verify lawyers’ practice status whenever there is need for them to file any process in court or whenever they appear before them. This in my humble view would be sufficient!