The Supreme Court of Nigeria has issued guidelines for lawyers to effect change of name on the roll of legal practitioners’ at the apex court.

Titled “REQUIREMENTS FOR CHANGE OF NAME,” CITY LAWYER investigation shows that the elaborate 12-point list has been on the apex court’s verified website for over five years.

Following a recent Supreme Court letter on the matter, longstanding Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Prosecutor at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN said in a CITY LAWYER report that it is mandatory for lawyers to effect change of name at the Supreme Court before practicing with the new name.

Saying that a breach of this requirement amounts to professional misconduct, Okutepa warned that “Lawyers enrolled to practice in the names they enrolled. Once a lawyer starts practicing in a name other than the name on the roll then that itself is professional misconduct.”

But prominent Law Teacher, Mr. Sylvester Udemezue disagreed, saying: “Since he has successfully gone through the process of change of name, he is entitled to practice law in his new name. Practicing law in his new name is neither illegal nor unprofessional, although he’s negligent in having failed to give notice to the Supreme Court to enable the latter update its records.”

Continuing, he said: “I repeat that giving such a notice to the Supreme Court of Nigeria is not a part/step in successful change of name in Nigeria; thus a change of name by a lawyer could be successfully concluded without recourse to the Supreme Court. This means, I submit, that a person who is duly called to the bar but who later validly changed his name, is not estopped from using his new name only on account of the fact he has not sent notice of the change to the supreme court.”

Among the requirements listed by the apex court for an effective change of a lawyer’s name on the roll are Application Letter Addressed to the Chief Registrar; Deed of Change of Name duly stamped at the Stamp Duty Office; Affidavit of Change of Name; Photocopy of Call to Bar certificate, and original for citing, and Photocopy of Qualifying Certificates, and original for citing.

Other requirements include Birth certificate or sworn declaration of age; Local Government Indigene Certificate; Marriage Certificate; Newspaper Publication; Passport Photograph; Verification letter from Nigerian Bar Association, and Letter of introduction from the Nigerian Law School. The apex court however states that “Men Are Not Required to Submit Marriage Certificate.”

According to a 2018 online post by Ifeoma Peters, a senior lawyer, “You are required to personally present the above document at the Supreme Court where you will in your own hand, again write your new name on the roll of legal practitioners and sign your new signature. The Chief Registrar or the schedule officer will cross off the previous name in your presence. It’s a very solemn exercise. FINALLY, an official letter shall be issued to you signed by the Registrar of the Supreme Court. Please Note: A change of name in the newspaper does not change your name in the roll of legal practitioners.”

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