All Legal Practitioners in Nigeria are expected to pay their practicing fee on or before the 31st of March every year. A failure or neglect to pay the Annual Practicing Fee shall be deemed as an act of professional misconduct.
So many privileges and rights are tied to the payment of practicing fees. Section 4 of the NBA Constitution provides in part that “Notwithstanding the provision of Section 4(a)(i), any member who fails or neglects to pay the prescribed Annual Practicing Fees before the end of March in each year shall, for as long as he/She remains in default, have no right:
a) of audience in any court in Nigeria;
b) to prepare, authenticate or frank any legal documents including Memorandum and Articles of Association;
c) to hold office whatsoever by virtue of his/her qualification as a legal practitioner;
d) to vote or be voted for at any election of the association.
I have seen a few notices from Senior Lawyers offering to pay practicing fees for select Young Lawyers. This is a kind gesture that should ordinarily be encouraged. Because of the period we are in, election year, every act of kindness is treated with suspicion. Here are the thoughts that came to mind when I saw the notices:
Has my legal career become so deplorable that I can’t pay the sum of N5,000 as my practicing fee?
Would these senior lawyers be around to fend for other crucial needs of my legal career?
Is this just for the purpose of being able to vote for their preferred candidate when the occasion demands?
Whatever the reason, I would prefer a sustainable gesture. Dear Seniors, please do not give me fish, teach me how to fish. Payment of Practicing Fee of N5,000 is the least of the immediate concerns we have as young lawyers. We really need to live good life. Our family members are very expectant, waiting for us to deliver the goods of our being called “the law”.
My fellow Young Lawyers, don’t forget our solemn declaration in the forth coming elections:
I shall carefully evaluate all contestants before throwing my weight behind him/her
I shall find out the kind of practice he/she runs. The structure, success and failure of his practice would suggest how he would conduct the affairs of the bar.
I shall find out what welfare package the contestant has for the juniors in his/her office. Whatever he does to his juniors in his office would be a perfect litmus test for what I shall expect from him if elected.
I wound never take seriously whatever promise the contestant makes. Talk is cheap. The world now favours “doers” not “talkers”. I would find out how much service he has rendered in the past in the legal profession.
I shall not receive money or any money from the contestant as a motivation/favour.
I am a professional. I would not be rascally in my engagement of issues on the election. I would address issues and engage contestants intellectually.
I shall ensure I exercise my franchise in the best interest of the bar