By Robert Egbe
The cold war between the Ministry of Justice and the lawyers over the amendment to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for Legal Practitioners 2007 by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Ministry has blown open.
The association insisted no alteration has been made to the rules and therefore directed its members to ignore a gazette on the issue while it engages the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in talks over the matter.
Some lawyers have however begun the collection of signatures to strip Malami of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) tittle over the amendment to the rules.
The controversial gazette which was issued after the controversial amendment to the rules abolishes the payment of legal fees by lawyers.
The instrument also removes the requirement for NBA stamp and seal on court processes.
NBA argued in a statement on Sunday by its President, Olumide Akpata, that the gazette or instrument was crafted to weaken its powers.
The stamps and seals are sold to lawyers at N4,000 for 72 pieces and given to them upon payment of NBA dues.
Without the stamp, a lawyer cannot submit any document or letter in the court.
The sale of the stamp and seal is one of the major sources of NBA’s revenue.
Thus with the coming of the gazette, the use of the stamps is no longer necessary.
In the statement, Akpata pointed to the Legal Practitioners Act which states that only a resolution of the Bar council, comprising the AGF, attorneys-general of the 36 states of the federation and 20 members of the NBA can issue or amend rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners.
Akpata accused Malami of amending the rules without taking cognizance of the other parties that are legally supposed to be involved in the process.
Akpata assured lawyers that he had begun speaking with Malami on the issue and would update them in the coming days.
About 378 lawyers have signed a petition seeking to strip Malami of the title of SAN.
The petition registered by Barrister Izu Aniagu on change.org, claimed among others that Malami unilaterally deleted the provisions of the RPC which provides for stamp and seal as well as bar practice fee for government lawyers.
According to Izu, the AGF had no such power to do so.
The petition comes in the wake of a crisis in the NBA and a breakaway attempt.
Two Kaduna based lawyers in July announced the formation of a ‘New NBA’ and subsequently wrote a letter to the AGF and the Attorney-Generals of the 36 states, informing them of their decision to break away.