IMPACTS AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE RPC AMENDMENT, 2020, ON NBA AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION

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    The Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2007-herein after referred to as the RPC-was amended by the Chairman of the Bar Council (the Chairman of the Bar Council being the Honourable, the Attorney-General of the Federation) by an official gazette.The gazette which amended the 2007’s RPC is marked S.I N0.15 of 2020 dated September 3, 2020, which reads in part, “In exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act Cap L11, LFN 2004 and of all other powers enabling me in that behalf, I, AbubakarMalami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and President, General Council of the Bar, make the following rules: “The Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, 2007 is amended by deleting the following rules, namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13. “These rules may be cited as the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules, 2020.”.This paper aims at considering the impacts and implications of the amendment to the RPC, 2007 by the RPC, 2020, hence this topic.

    One of the impacts of the 2020 amendment of the RPC is the deleting and or cancellation of the outlined Rules of the RPC as contained in the gazette namely: 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.: The word ‘delete’has been carefully used which according to the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, means among other meaningsas: to eliminate especially by blotting out, cutting out, or erasing;. It also has the synonyms of the following words ‘blue-pencil, cancel, cross (out), dele, edit (out), elide, kill, scratch (out), strike (out), stroke (out), x (out).  Also, the word ‘cancel’ as a synonym of ‘delete’ used in the amendment RPC, 2020, which according to the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, means among other meanings, ‘to destroy the force, effectiveness, or validity of: ANNUL’.Those Rules of the 2007’s RPC that were amended by the 2020’s RPC contain the following information: The Rule 9(2) prohibits legal practitioners from claiming that he has paid his Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) when he is actually in default; Rule 10 deals with stamp and Seal; Rule 11 provides for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education; Rule 12 provides for Annual Practicing Certificate; and Rule 13 provides for Notice of Legal Practice upon setting up a private legal practice. The implication of the cancellation of these Rules 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the RPC, 2007 is that they have been: eliminated especially by blotting out, cutting out, or erasing, ‘blue-pencilled, cancelled, crossed (out), deled, edited (out), elided, killed, scratched (out), struck (out), stroked (out), xed (out)destroyed, rendered ineffective and invalid and or annulled that is to say, they cease to exist in the legal profession any more while the 2020 RPC amending them take effects.

    Furthermore, a glossary look at Rule 9(2) of the RPC, 2007, that has been amended and or now cancelled by virtue of the amendment of the 2020 RPC, reveals that it prohibits legal practitioners from claiming that he has paid his Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) when he is actually in default. It provides in details thus ‘9(2) (2) A lawyer shall not claim in any court or before a judicial tribunal that he has paid his Annual Practicing Fee when he is, in fact, in default’. The implication of the cancellation of this Rule 9(2) of the RPC, 2007 is that the nonpayment of the Annual Practising Fee by a lawyer is no more an issue or consideration for the appearance of  such lawyer in any court of law. Also, it has the implication that the payment of practicing fee as a consideration for other portfolios in the legal profession such as: application for a notary public, appointments in the legal profession, etc is no more valid. Also, a glossary look at Rule 10 of the RPC, 2007, that has been amended and or now cancelled by virtue of the amendment of the 2020 RPC, reveals that it provides for the mandatory use of an approved stamp and seal by the Nigerian Bar Association-herein after referred to as the NBA. The said Rule 10 of the RPC, 2007, provides thus ‘. (1) A lawyer acting in his capacity as a legal practitioner, legal office or adviser of any Governmental department or Ministry of any corporation, shall not sign or file a legal document unless there is affixed on any such document a seal and stamp approved by the Nigerian Bar Association. (2) For the purpose of this rule, “Legal documents” shall include pleadings, affidavits, depositions, applications, instruments, agreements, deed letters, memoranda, report, legal opinions or any similar documents. (3) If without complying with the requirements of this rule, a lawyer signs or files any legal documents as defined in sub-rule (2) of this rule, and in any of the capacities mentioned in sub-rule(1), the document so signed or filed shall be deemed not to have been properly signed or filed.’. The cancellation of this Rule 10 of the RPC, 2007, means in my humble view that without complying with the requirements of the Rule 10 of the RPC, 2007, a lawyer can now sign or file any legal documents which shall include pleadings, affidavits, depositions, applications, instruments, agreements, deed letters, memoranda, report, legal opinions or any similar documentsin any of his capacity as a legal practitioner, legal office or adviser of any Governmental department or Ministry of any corporation, sign or file a legal document without affixing on any such document a seal and stamp approved by the Nigerian Bar Association. And any such documents shall henceforth from the date the gazette has been issued shall be presumed to have been properly signed. What this cancellation also means is that a lawyer can now file his processes or documents without affixing any seal and or stamp approved by the NBA on such document and or process and such document and or process is valid and competent in any capacity of the lawyer. This also has the implication that the NBA needs not produce any seal or stamp for its members. Also, legal practitioners need no more apply for any seal and stamp from NBA and need not pay for any such seal and or stamp to the NBA. One impact of these Rule 9(2) and 10 of the RPC, 2007 now cancelled by the RPC, 2020, is that it reduces the revenues generated by the NBA, since 90% of the lawyers’ Annual Practising Fee goes to the account of the NBA. Though, in my humble view, the NBA is much more vibrant and indefatigable as a private legal practitioners’ professional association than to be affected by the non-mandatory of the payment of the Annual Practising Fee and application for stamp and seal fee! The NBA cannot run down or run into bankruptcy as its strength is rooted more in other means of revenues generation than these fees being cancelled!

    Furthermore, a glossary look at Rule 11 of the RPC, 2007, that has been amended and or now cancelled by virtue of the amendment of the 2020 RPC, reveals that it provides for the Mandatory Continued Professional Development (CPD). It provides in full thus ‘11. (1) A lawyer who wishes to carry on practice as a legal practitioner shall participate in and satisfy the requirements of the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programme operated by the Nigerian Bar Association.

    (2) The activities in which a lawyer is required to participate for the purpose of the CPD Programme of the N.B.A. shall include-

    (a) attendance and participation in accredited courses;

    (b) lectures, seminars, workshops and conferences on law approved by the N.B.A.

    (c) writing on the law and its practice in books or Journals and Newspapers approved by the Nigerian Bar Association.

    (d) study towards professional qualifications approved by the Nigerian Bar Association; and

    (e) other approved means of acquiring legal professional knowledge and experience.

    (3) A lawyer shall be certified as having satisfied the requirement of the CPD Programme if, and only if, during the relevant year, he earns the number of credit hours of participation in the programme which is required under the rules made by the Nigerian Bar Association.

    (4) Until rules are made and provide other wise, the number of credit hours required for each year shall be as follows-

    (a) For lawyers from Admission up to 5 years…………..24hours

    (b) for lawyers just five years up to ten years……………18hours

    (c) for lawyers above ten years…………………………..12hours

    (5) The Nigerian Bar Association shall establish a Continuing Professional Development department in its office for the operation of the Programme.

    (6) The Nigerian Bar Association shall make rules for regulating the operation of the CPD Programme and such rules may provide for the following matters-

    (a) the number of credit hours of participation required of a legal practitioner;

    (b) the types of activities and studies that are acceptable for earning the credit;

    (c) persons that may be exempted from the requirements of the programme; and

    (d) other matters which in its opinion are necessary for the operation of the Programme.’. This cancellation in my humble view, has the implication that a lawyer who wishes to carry on practice as a legal practitioner is no more required to participate in and satisfy the requirements of the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programme operated by the Nigerian Bar Association. This also means that such a lawyer has been set free from any such mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Programme operated by the Nigerian Bar Association as such is no more mandatory on him to participate.

    Also, a glossary look at Rule 12 of the RPC, 2007, that has been amended and or now cancelled by virtue of the amendment of the 2020 RPC, reveals that it provides for the Annual Practicing Certificate. The said Rule 12 of the RPC, 2007 now cancelled by the amendment RPC, 2020 ‘12. (1) Not later than a date in every year specified by it, the Nigerian Bar Association shall-

    (a) publish a List of legal practitioners who have complied with the requirements of the CPD Programme and have paid their practicing fees and are, therefore entitled to practice as legal practitioners in that year (hereinafter referred to as the Annual Practicing List); and

    (b) issue a Practicing Certificate to a legal practitioner whose name is on the said Annual Practicing List, certifying that the has paid his Practicing Fee for the programme for the year under the rules made for the purpose by the Nigerian Bar Association.

    (2) A lawyer shall obtain an Annual Certificate issued under this rule by the Nigerian Bar Association certifying that he has fulfilled the approved CPD Programme under rules made for the purpose by the Nigerian Bar Association.

    (3) A lawyer, unless he holds an Annual Practicing Certificate issued by the NBA under this rule, shall not, as a legal practitioner-

    (a) conduct or take part in any proceedings in the court, judicial tribunal, panes or Enquiry: or

    (b) sign any documents, pleadings, affidavits, depositions, application, instruments, agreements, deed, letters, memoranda, reports, legal opinions and similar documents and processes; or

    (c) file any such documents as a legal practitioner, legal office, or adviser of any Government Department or Ministry or any company or corporation.’. This cancellation of the Rule 12 of the RPC, 2007 has the implication that a lawyer is no more required to possess and or obtain any Annual Practicing Certificate from the NBA before he can:(a) conduct or take part in any proceedings in the court, judicial tribunal, panes or Enquiry: or

    (b) sign any documents, pleadings, affidavits, depositions, application, instruments, agreements, deed, letters, memoranda, reports, legal opinions and similar documents and processes; or

    (c) file any such documents as a legal practitioner, legal office, or adviser of any Government Department or Ministry or any company or corporation.

    Finally, a glossary look at Rule 13 of the RPC, 2007, that has been amended and or now cancelled by virtue of the amendment of the 2020 RPC, reveals that it provides forNotification of legal practice. This cancelled Rule 13 of the RPC, 2007, provides in full thus ‘13. (1) Every person who set up private legal practice either alone or in association or partnership with another or others shall, not later than thirty days after commencement of such legal practice and if he continues to carry the practice, deliver a Notice in the prescribed form to the Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association within whose jurisdiction the law office is situated.

    (2) The Notice referred to in sub-section (1) of this rule shall state-

    (a) the name of the legal practitioner;

    (b) the address where the legal practice is carried on;

    (c) the date when the legal practitioner was called to the Bar in Nigeria; and

    (d) the date when his name was entered in the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria.

    (3) The Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association to which the Notice is delivered shall enter the particulars in the Notice in a Register or Database kept for that purpose.

    (4) Every legal practitioner, who after having been registered under sub-rule (3), changes his name or address for legal practice, shall deliver to the Branch where he is so registered a notice in the prescribed form showing particulars of the changes made.’. This cancellation in my humble view, has the implication that a lawyer does not need to give any Notice in the prescribed form to the Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association within whose jurisdiction his law office is situated before he could be enabled to practise in that branch. This means that a lawyer can practise at and or within any branch of the NBA or within any area in Nigeria that he desires and enjoy his free rights: of association and movement as conferred on him by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) without any limitation and or restriction.

    In conclusion, the above impacts and implications are my personal thoughts and I believe that the reader could think more of the impacts and implications of the amendment RPC, 2020, on the RPC 2007, the NBA and the legal profession.

    God bless us all!

     

    Email: hameed_ajibola@yahoo.com

     

     

     

     

     

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