CBN v. EZE & ORS (2021) LPELR-55554(CA)

Principle

LEGAL PRACTITIONER – STAMP/SEAL – Whether affixing an expired stamp on a Court process will render same invalid and liable to be struck out

“Before deciding the substantive appeal, there is need to comment on the complaint by the appellant’s counsel that the 1st respondent’s counsel affixed expired professional seal on processes filed in the appeal, which this Court should, consequently, discountenance. None of the decisions relied upon by the objector dealt with an incident of expired legal practitioner’s seal or stamp. In circumstances similar to the facts in this appeal, in the case of Emechebe v. Cheto International Nig. Ltd. (2017) LPELR – 45365(CA), this Court stated as follows:

“The contention of the Appellant is that the Nigerian Bar Association stamp and seal affixed to the Originating Processes by the Respondent’s Counsel at the lower Court had expired and therefore the processes should be deemed irregular, and that no application had been filed to regularize the said defective processes. The Respondent on the other hand argued that failure to use seal does not nullify Court processes and that in the instant case, there was in existence valid seal of learned Counsel and that the Respondent filed an application to regularize the processes filed before the Court.

In my view, the purpose of the Nigerian Bar Association stamp and seal is to ensure that legal practitioners who file processes in Court have their names on the roll of legal practitioners in Nigeria and that quacks, impostors and meddlesome interlopers do not infiltrate the legal profession and present themselves to litigants as legal Practitioners.

As I stated recently in ROSOLU vs. FRN (Unreported Appeal No. CA/L/271/2013), Page 63 delivered on 24th February, 2017, “the requirement and purpose of Rule 10(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 is that the legal practitioner who signed the legal process must affix his stamp and seal.

The rationale behind this requirement in my view, is to checkmate quacks in the legal profession and ensure that legal processes are filed by genuine legal practitioners who are registered members of the Nigerian Bar Association and are truly qualified to practice law.” To hold as the learned Counsel for the Appellant strenuously urged us to do will amount to enthroning technicalities over substantial justice, no matter how ornamental, fancy and high-sounding submissions of Counsel may appear to be, we must elevate substantial justice over and above technicalities, it is a matter of duty for the Court to do.

See: TODAY’S CAR LIMITED vs. LASACO ASSURANCE PLC & ANOR (2016) LPELR-41260 (CA) Pg. 6-86, Paras. C-C. The originating processes were duly signed and stamped by the learned Counsel for the Respondent, and a stamp of the legal Practitioner affixed even though expired, in my view, there is no sufficient basis to strike out the said processes, so doing in my view will amount to pushing technicities too far… In the instant case, since the Respondent’s Originating processes contain a stamp which bears the name and number of the Counsel who filed the said processes and it is not that the Respondent had failed to affix any stamp at all, and even if the Appellant’s contention is upheld herein, it is at best an irregularity, which can be remedied by affixing the unexpired stamp and seal, which from the records before us, learned Counsel for the Respondent no doubt has, having been clearly affixed to other Applications filed at the lower Court.

Since the material constitutes part of records before us, I am bound to take judicial notice and hold that the submission of learned Counsel for the Appellant on this point lacks merit and must be and is hereby discountenanced by me.” Per ABUBAKAR, J.C.A (Pp. 15-18 paras. A) The circumstance in this appeal is similar to what occurred in the cases cited above, in the judgment referenced. The appellant’s counsel affixed his Nigerian Bar Association professional stamp to the processes complained about, which confirms his status as a legal practitioner.

The 1st respondent did not move the Court, formally, to discountenance the processes of the 1st respondent in the appeal. This Court will act on and make use of the 1st respondent’s processes in the appeal.” Per OLABODE ABIMBOLA ADEGBEHINGBE, JCA (Pp 15 – 19 Paras E – B)

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