Law teacher and social analyst Mr. Sylvester Udemezue has called the plan by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Benin Branch to commence the enforcement of uniform legal fees for various legal services in the state “Shadow-chasing”.
Mr. Udemezue who faulted the planned picketing noted that without proper planning and pragmatic steps, the exercise is “dead at birth”
Below is his detailed opinion:
With due respect, this is the worst shadow-chasing action of 2022. With due respect, it appears Benin Branch is developed the habit of playing to the gallery, just to impress people. Benjamin Franklin said, “Never confuse motion with action”. I doubt the managers of Benin Branch adverted their minds to Benjamin Franklin’s. This action by NBA Benin amounts to nothing.
Questions for Benin Branch:
How do you monitor and enforce compliance? In your release, you say “a task force” might visit any Lawyer to inspect such receipts! This is the way you’d monitor or enforce compliance? How would such ever work? Which law authorizes you to pry or encroach into any Lawyers’ privacy? You’ve forgotten about human rights ad in Cap 4 of the Constitution? What’s your business with a private contract entered into between a lawyer and his client? Which law enables you to prescribe the various ranges of appearance fees you’ve prescribed? Or, are you a law unto yourself? Or, you want to place something on nothing and expect it to work? Nikki Tobi, JSC, in McCoy v UAC in my mind. LoL 😂😆. Or, did that pronouncement die with his lordship? Baabu!!!
Then, I hope you remember ultra vires. That is a perfect way to describe your proposition to set up a task force to illegally harass lawyers in Benin in respect of agreements between them and their clients!
And how Many lawyers give receipts for appearance fees received? Is there any law mandating such?
Dear NBA Benin Branch, please, if a lawyer says no to your request to inspect such receipts, please what would you do to the lawyer? ▪️Declare him guilty of professional misconduct?
- Drag him to court or before the LPDC?
- Seal his office? ▪️Sack him from belonging to NBA Benin Branch?
- Excommunicate him? ▪️Impose a fine on him? ▪️Apply self help? ❓Exactly what would you do to such lawyer? Under which Law? LoL 🤣😆
I think I know the answer: nothing.
Final set of questions:
What is your headache with appearance fees paid to lawyers by their clients and the amount thereof? What if the lawyer is handling the suit pro bono? If the lawyer undercharges, according to your illegal scale as shown above, what would you do? I assure you, the answer is absolute nothing, just as there’s absolute nothing in any law or the NBA Constitution authorizing what you’ve proposed to do.
Stop this shadow-chasing!
Face reality. If you want to take steps, plan your steps carefully, and carefully ensure you take pragmatic, lawful steps. If you take care of rule of law, the rule of law will take care of you, says one NBA President. Quit this play to the gallery now!! Quit! Else, it’d yield you near-zero results plus lawsuits against you. Besides, it’s impactless, like scratching the surface, leaving substance.
“We all find ourselves in situations that at times seem hopeless. And, we all have the choice to do nothing or take action”. (Catherine Pulsifer). The best way to describe what the situation we’ve found ourselves in the law profession in Nigeria is, now. There is so much confusion and hopelessness because Lawyers have been shortchanged in a society in which they ought to be on the driver’s seat. As a result, some NBA leaders now take actions without thinking about the legal and other impacts of their actions or inactions. Exactly this is what I think explains the action by NBA Benin Branch! Not well thought out!