Former vice-president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onyekachi Monday Ubani, has instituted a suit against Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), over the amendment of the rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners (RPC), 2007.
The AGF had amended the RPC deleting the provisions which require lawyers to attach the NBA stamp and seal on court processes.
Some lawyers had described the move as an attempt to weaken the NBA.
Olumide Akpata, NBA president, had kicked against the amendment, arguing that due process was not followed.
In protest, some lawyers signed a petition to strip Malami of the rank of senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
In a suit filed before a federal high court, Ubani asked the court to determine whether the AGF has the power to “unilaterally, alter, amend and or make any rules of professional conduct, without a proper meeting of the general council of the bar, duly convened, and notices thereof, issued to other members of the general council of the bar.”
Ubani submitted that section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act in which Malami relied upon to make the amendment, does not donate unilateral power to the AGF to amend the rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners.
Rather, he said sections 1(1&2) and 12(4) of the Act confer powers on the general council of the bar, which consists of not just the AGF, but also attorney general of states and 20 members of the NBA.
He, therefore, prayed the court to declare the said amendment as “unconstitutional”.
To enable him proceed with the suit, Ubani also asked the court to nullify section 23A of the Legal Practitioners Act (as amended), which prohibits a person from instituting legal action with respect to the management of the affairs of the NBA, for being inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution.
Some aggrieved lawyers had pulled out of the NBA to form the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA).
The new group had written to Malami to inform him of its action but NBA said the group lacked legitimacy.
The factional NBA was formed as a result of the controversy that ensued after the NBA withdrew its invitation to Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, following a petition against him.