In The Future Bar – Professional Conduct Committee Replaces LPDC

Prof Ernest Ojukwu SAN

Under the proposed Legal Professional Regulation Act, the present Disciplinary Committee that is set up by the Body of Benchers will be replaced with the Professional Conduct Committee.

The responsibility of the Professional Conduct Committee is the duty of considering and determining any case where it is alleged that a person who is a member of the legal profession has been involved with misconduct or should for any other reason be subject of proceedings under the Legal Profession Regulation Act.

An Appointment Panel that would be created by the Legal Profession Regulation Council of Nigeria will be responsible for constituting the Professional Conduct Committee.

The Professional Conduct Committee shall be five persons one of who must be a lay person. The appointment of members of the Professional Conduct Committee shall be by open competition and appropriate arrangements, including advertisements and publication on the Bar Association’s electronic platform, to ensure that qualified persons who meet the criteria put their names forward.

The problems or challenges with the provisions relating to the Professional Conduct Committee are as follows:

1 The qualification for membership of the Committee is not stated in the draft bill;

2 The bill pronounces that “there shall be a Committee of the Legal Profession Regulation Council of Nigeria which shall be known as the Professional Conduct Committee”. The fact that the Bill pronounces “a Committee …” is exactly the mischief we had discussed to cure but the draft has continued with the mischief. One of the setbacks to discipline in the profession has been the fact that there is only one Disciplinary Committee at Abuja dealing with myriad of cases from all over Nigeria. It takes too long to know the outcome of a case. And without an effective communication of outcomes, lawyers usually continue with their impunity since people hardly ever get to know if anybody was sanctioned for infamous conducts.

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This mischief was cured by the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Bill that was submitted to the National Assembly in 2007 by the Bar and sponsored by Senator Ndoma Egba. In that Amendment bill, section 35 provides that “The Body of Benchers may set up Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committees to deal with allegations of professional misconduct against legal practitioners.”

The disciplinary body ought to be an adhoc body and we should be able to set up as many disciplinary committees as possible at different parts of the country at the same time for limited number of cases as terms of reference.

The future bar would be served best if this error in the draft bill is reversed.

3 The draft Legal Profession Council bill provides an open and transparent process for the appointment of members of the Professional Conduct Committee. One of its requirements is that advertisement for appointment of members of the Committee be published in the Association’s (NBA) electronic platform. Meanwhile, the Bill sets out to remove the regulatory authority of the NBA. Why then make them responsible for the advertisement. Would the Legal Profession Regulatory Council of Nigeria to be established under the bill not have its own electronic platform? The Legal Profession Regulation Council of Nigeria would be regulatory body for the legal profession and the buck should stop there.

The best way to predict the future is to create it. – Peter Drucker

Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN (Chair of the Future State of the Legal Profession Subcommittee of the LPRRC)

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