Few days after the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters announced date for the public hearing on the “LEGAL PRACTITONERS ACT CAP, C11 LFN 2004 (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2017, Professor Ernest Ojukwu SAN has written to the Committee to advise that the proposed has some amendment which have become obsolete and would require review.
In a letter dated 10th March, 2018 and addressed to the Senate Committee, the Learned Prof advised that further action be stayed on the bill for the reasons highlighted in his letter reproduced below:
My attention has been drawn to the proposed public hearing on the “Legal Practitioners Act (Amend) Bill 2017 (SB.435) and call for memoranda.
I drafted that bill 12 years ago for the Nigerian Bar Association under the oversight of the NBA President Olisa Agbakoba SAN and General Secretary Rabana-Lawal SAN. President Agbakoba had sent that bill to the National Assembly in 2007 under the private sponsorship of Senator Ndoma Egba SAN, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and three other Senators.
The bill was proposed as a result of the failure of the Bar to “push” for the enactment of a totally new Act “The Legal Practitioners Act (Bill) of 2004” which was approved by the Bar towards the end of the tenure of NBA President Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN in 2004. While the 2004 Bill was intended to be a total replacement of the Legal Practitioners Act, the Amendment Bill of 2007 only dealt with specific challenges such as discipline of lawyers, mandatory continuing legal education, statutory backing for NBA and its institute as a corporate body, and so on.
While we must be grateful to His Excellency Senator Akpabio for re-sponsoring this Amendment Bill, we should also urge him to stay further action on the Bill for the following reasons:
- The Amendment Bill was drafted in 2007 and some of its sections are out-dated and unnecessary now;
- Some of the out-dated provisions include: giving NBA a statutory backing, giving the Institute of Continuing Legal Education a statutory backing, domiciling the continuing legal education programme with the NBA, writing detailed rules of a mandatory continuing legal education into the law, giving NBA additional regulatory functions when the current move is to divest the Association of all regulatory functions; and bringing more persons into NBA control when it has been unable to and lacks the capacity to manage the scope of persons under its control at present;
- The current legal profession’s regulatory objective is to concede only a representative role to the Bar Association;
- The Bar has produced a more advanced draft law- titled the “Legal Profession Regulation Act” which hopefully would be sent to you as soon as possible.
- The proposed Legal Profession Regulation Act covers the field and is more likely to address most of the legal profession’s problems today (2018).
I do note that the LPA Amendment Bill has very good provisions that will still need to be included in the proposed Legal Profession Regulation Act, such as the provision on multi-disciplinary committees for lawyers.
Senator Akpabio should be persuaded to withdraw the bill and probably work together with the Bar to push a new holistic Bill. Though it is unfortunate that the Bar has not been able to “push” for the renewal of its foundation legislation since 2004 when we submitted the first reformed Bill, it would be better to get it right now, once and for all times. I therefore suggest that you use your good offices to suspend further deliberations on the proposed Legal Practitioners (Amend) Bill 2017.
I thank you for your responsible leadership.
Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN.