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‘You lack the power to unilaterally amend lawyers’ professional conduct’, Akpata cautions Malami

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In what would, perhaps, serve as a litmus test for his presidency, fresh on the saddle President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata has taken on the powerful Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over the latter’s unilateral amendment of the 2007 Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.

The NBA president, in a statement titled “Statement by NBA President on the Purported Amendment to the Rules of Professional Conduct for Practitioners 2007”, said the power to amend the Rules does not lie in the AGF alone, but the General Council of the Bar (the ‘Bar Council’).

He, therefore, advised lawyers to ignore the purported amendment by the AGF.

In the amended Rules, the NBA stamp and seal, which is the NBA’s cash cow, would no longer be required to authenticate papers filed by lawyers in court.

Akpata said, “For the avoidance of doubt, the Legal Practitioners Act (as amended) confers the power to issue rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners, and any amendments thereto, on the General Council of the Bar (the ‘Bar Council’). The Bar Council comprises the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (‘HAGF’), the Honourable Attorneys General of the thirty-six states of Nigeria, and 20 members of the NBA. Consequently, the RPC and any amendments thereto may only be validly issued after it has been deliberated upon and approved at a properly convened meeting of the Bar Council.

“As far as the NBA is aware, no notice convening a meeting of the Bar Council was issued to its elected representatives on the Bar Council and no meeting of the Bar Council was convened and/or held to deliberate on the Instrument. To that extent, our position is that no authority or approval was given for the amendment of the RPC. Consequently, the NBA maintains that the RPC has not been amended and enjoins all legal practitioners to remain calm and continue to conduct their affairs in the same manner as they did prior to the issuance of the Instrument.”

Akpata urged lawyers not to worry, assuring them that he would engage Malami on the issue.

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