First Bank’s Advertorial: Olumide Babalola Sues Bank, AGF for Violation of the LPA and RPC

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Following an advertorial in Thisday Newspapers of July 2, 2020 by First Bank to the public that it provides legal services to small and medium scale businesses, Olumide Babalola, the secretary of human rights committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (Lagos Branch) has approached the Federal High Court for certain reliefs against the bank and the Attorney General of the Federation (President of the General Council of the Bar).

In Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/61/2020 filed on behalf of the Plaintiff by the duo of Abdulwasiu Esuola, Esq. and Chukwudi Ajaegbo, Esq., the Plaintiff prays for the following reliefs:

A DECLARATION that by virtue of the combined provisions of section 150 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and section 1(1) and (2)(a) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA), the 2nd Defendant as the President of General Council of the Bar is duty bound to take action to ascertain compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct made pursuant to the Legal Practitioners Act.

2. A DECLARATION that by virtue of rule 8(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners made pursuant to the Legal Practitioners Act, legal practitioners under salaried employment in the 1st Defendant bank cannot prepare, sign, or frank pleadings, applications, instruments, agreements, contracts, deed, letters, memorandums, report, legal opinions or similar instruments or process or file any such document for their employers and/or their employer’s customers.

3. A DECLARATION that by virtue of rule 8 (2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, any pleadings, applications, instruments, agreements, contracts, deeds, letters, memorandums, report, legal opinions or similar instruments, report, or process, prepared and/or signed by a lawyer in salaried employment for his employers and/or employer’s customers are invalid, null and void.

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4. A DECLARATION that by virtue of rule 8 (2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, that the preparation and/or signing of pleadings, applications, instruments, agreements, contracts, deeds, letters, memorandums, report, legal opinions or similar instruments, report, or process, or the filing of any such document by a legal practitioner in salaried employment for his employers or employer’s customers constitute professional misconduct and are liable to be punished under the Legal Practitioners Act.

5. A DECLARATION that the 1st Defendant’s advertisement published at page 7 of ThisDay Newspapers on July 2, 2020, with respect to provision of legal services violates the provision of rule 39 (2) (b) and (3) (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners.

6. PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 1st Defendant’s employees from further preparing and/or signing of pleadings, applications, instruments, agreements, contracts, deeds, letters, memorandums, report, legal opinions or similar instruments, report, or process for their employers and/or employers’ customers and/or advertising same in the media or any other platform.

By his originating summons, the Plaintiff also distilled the following questions for the determination of the court:

i. Whether or not by the interpretation of section 150 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and section 1(1) and (2)(a) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA), the 2nd Defendant as the President of General Council of the Bar is duty bound to take action to ascertain that the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners are complied with?

ii. Whether or not by the interpretation of rule 8(2) and (3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, the 1st Defendant’s lawyers in salaried employment can prepare, sign, or frank pleadings, applications, instrument, agreement, contract, deed, letters, memorandum, report, legal opinions or similar instruments or process or file any such document for their employers and/or their employer’s customers?

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iii. Whether or not by the interpretation of rule 39 (2) (b) and (3) (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, the 1st Defendant’s advertisement published at page 7 of ThisDay Newspapers on July 2 2020, with respect to provision of legal services violate the said provision of of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners?

iv. Whether or not by the interpretation of rule 55(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners, the rendering, preparing, signing, or franking of pleadings, applications, instruments, agreements, contracts, deeds, letters, memorandums, reports, legal opinions or similar instruments or process or filing any of such document for their employers and/or their employer’s customers, constitutes professional misconduct punishable under the Legal Practitioners Act, LFN 2010?

The suit is yet to be assigned to any judge of the Federal High Court.

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