By the provision of Section 4 of the 2015 NBA Constitution (hereinafter “NBA Constitution”), there are two categories of membership; Full Membership and Honourary Membership. While “Honourary Member of the Association shall be any member of the Legal Profession within or outside Nigeria who is admitted as such by the Annual General Meeting on the recommendation of the National Executive Committee…”, a “Full Member of the Association shall be any person duly enrolled at the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a legal practitioner and registered with a Branch of the Association”.
One of the core of the Constitution of the NBA is the election of National Officers of the Association. Section 3(b) of the NBA Constitution provides that “A member of the Association shall be qualified to hold a National Office if he/she is in private legal practice”. For the avoidance of doubt, a legal practitioner is deemed to be in “private legal practice” if and only if he practices law in a law firm.
A careful look at the provision of Section 4 of the NBA Constitution would suggest that full membership of NBA for Lawyers is automatic upon their enrollment at the Supreme Court. The moment you are enrolled (which makes you an automatic member of the NBA), payment of Practicing Fee become incumbent. In fact, by the provision of Section 4 of the NBA Constitution, “a failure or neglect to pay the Annual Practicing Fees and Branch Dues as and when due, shall be deemed to be an act of professional misconduct” for which a defaulting practitioner may be recommended for disciplinary actions.
Upon call to the Bar, a practitioner is at liberty to practice law in any sector he/she chooses. A legal practitioner may choose the corporate world, government agencies, ministries of justice, private establishments, amongst others. Indeed, not all legal practitioners would want to work in a law firm. Regardless of where ever a legal practitioner chooses to practice, the provision of Section 4 of the NBA Constitution mandates him to pay the practicing fees. However, in a discriminatory manner, Section 8(3)(b) of the NBA Constitution restricts the right to occupy National Office of the Bar to those who choose to work in Law Firms. This is indeed discriminatory.
What could be the reason for this outright discrimination? Has it not starved the National Offices of more qualified people who for reason of career choice are practicing the Legal Profession from other important offices other than the law office?
We surely need a rethink on this!!!