The Supreme Court of Nigeria yesterday cleared the air on the perceived controversy surrounding the mode of payment of the annual bar practicing fees by legal practitioners in the country.
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) had in a circular directed lawyers in Nigeria to henceforth pay the statutory annual Bar Practicing Fees via Paystack, an online payment portal.
The directive seems to have generated controversy over who is entitled to collect the fees between the NBA and the Registrar of the Supreme Court, who hitherto had been collecting the fees.
However, in an apparent move to clear any misconception, the apex court in a statement noted that the directives by the NBA did not in any way usurped the function of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, who is constitutional mandate to collect the fees.
The statement signed by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Hajo Sarki-Bello, explained that the online portal introduced by the NBA was done in good faith, ostensibly with the sole aim of operating within the ambit of the new global information and communication technology order.
Sarki-Bello, however stated that those interested in still using the manual payment system were free to do so at any branch of the apex court’s designated bank, as was previously done.
“With the explanations given by the leadership of the NBA, their action has not, in any way, contravened the Legal Practitioners Act 2004, which explicitly confers such role and function on the Chief Registrar of the Court.
“The subsisting mode of payment makes the Chief Registrar and NBA President co-signatories to the Supreme Court’s Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) account into which the fee is paid annually by all lawyers in Nigeria.
“For the purpose of clarity, the procedure for collecting this fee has been that every year, between 1st January to 31st March, lawyers pay the annual National Bar Practicing fee in line with extant Legal Practicing Fee, as specified in the LPA 2004.
“Accordingly, at the end of each year, the NBA takes a sum equal to nine-tenths (being 9/10) of the aggregate amount of the fees received and the Supreme Court, on the other hand, is given one-tenths (being 1/10) of the aggregate amount of the practicing fees received, which it now pays into the Treasury Single Account, domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, as revenue generated by the Court,” the statement read in part.