The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has reacted to the controversial trade deal between Nigeria and the United Kingdom which opens up Nigeria’s legal market to UK lawyers.

In a strongly worded statement personally signed by NBA President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau SAN, he berated the Federal Government for inking the deal without consultation with NBA, saying that “It is indeed unfortunate that this tragic reminder of our colonial past is being gleefully celebrated at the highest level of the Government of Nigeria. What is more disheartening is that a decision of this magnitude that adversely affects the well-being and livelihood of millions of Nigerians could be taken without consultation, especially with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).”

According to Maikyau, “It is truly tragic that while the government of the UK is seeking opportunities for its own lawyers beyond its constrained environment, the government of Nigeria is attempting to deprive Nigerian lawyers and their millions of dependants of a means of livelihood. To embark on such a venture without recourse to the NBA is the height of insensitivity to the plight of the legal profession in Nigeria, which is totally unacceptable.”

He warned that NBA would take all necessary measures to express its rejection of the trade deal, adding: “As a starting point, I have convened a meeting of senior lawyers today with a view to devising an appropriate litigation strategy.

“We intend to fully challenge the legality of this agreement all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. This is without prejudice to other intervention measures that may be necessary to express our rejection of this agreement. I want to use this opportunity to call on all members of the NBA to brace up for the struggle ahead. Under my leadership, the NBA will not allow any incursion into our legal space.”

CITY LAWYER recalls that the rival Nigerian Law Society (NLS) had yesterday also expressed its rejection of the trade deal, even as it was celebrated by top Nigerian and UK trade officials.

While many lawyers frowned against the trade pact, a UK based lawyer told CITY LAWYER that “I would like to think it will be on equivalent basis with the English ‘Registered Foreign Lawyers’ scheme whereby you can register with the SRA and carry out some limited unreserved legal work and nothing more. If you are an RFL, you can practise the law of your home state, advise on English and Welsh law and provide unreserved legal services.”

He however said that African lawyers may be experiencing some disadvantage in the UK accreditation process. His words: “Having said that, my observation is that the SRA gives higher recognition to lawyers from non African Commonwealths like Australia and New Zealand over those from Nigeria and Ghana for example. The NBA should seek same level of reciprocity as the UK accords Australians from the SRA.”

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