NBA REPLIES OKUTEPA, SAYS PRACTICE FEE PAYMENT VIA PORTAL LEGAL
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has stated that there is nothing illegal in lawyers paying the annual Bar Practicing Fee (BPF) through its portal.
In an apparent response to the charge by fiery senior lawyer, Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN that it is illegal to pay the BPF through NBA’s dedicated portal, the association said that payments made through the portal “are in line with the extant laws.”
Speaking on “Legality issues and Supreme Court Ownership” which was the central theme of Okutepa’s post, the NBA in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Dr. Rapulu Nduka, noted that all BPF payments are “paid directly to an already existing Supreme Court Bar Practicing Fee Account,” adding that NBA merely provides a “gateway or platform for a seamless payment experience to enable its members to easily fulfill their statutory obligations.”
Okutepa had in a post he made yesterday on a CITY LAWYER WhatsAPP platform argued that there is no legal basis for NBA to receive BPF from lawyers, saying: “where does NBA derive its powers to collect practising from lawyers and direct that payment shall be online through portal created by NBA.”
He stated that the Legal Practitioners Act mandates only the “Registrar” to collect BPF, saying: “How did we come to the practice of paying our bar practising fees through the portal of NBA? Can somebody guide me? As lawyers, we must not follow the rules without the backing of the law.”
The full text of the NBA statement which was made available to CITY LAWYER reads:
MATTERS ARISING FROM THE RECENTLY LAUNCHED NBA PORTAL FOR PAYMENT OF 2022 BPF AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES
As you are aware, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) recently announced that payment of the annual Bar Practicing Fee (BPF) will from 1st January 2022 be made online only. Indeed, that process commenced yesterday.
Since the full migration to online payments, we have received several calls and messages regarding the legality of the NBA Online Payment Portal; mode of payment for additional NBA Stamps and Seals; issuance of free stamps; issuance of BPF receipts; the possibility of an automated NBA Branch Dues payment and other related matters.
In the light of the above queries, the NBA wishes to clarify as follows:
1. Legality issues and Supreme Court Ownership – All BPF payments made through the Online Portal are, in line with the extant laws, paid directly to an already existing Supreme Court Bar Practicing Fee Account. The NBA, through the Online Payment Portal, only provides a gateway or platform for a seamless payment experience to enable its members to easily fulfill their statutory obligations.
2. Receipt of Payment – In addition to the Paystack evidence of payment issued after payment of the BPF, all members who pay their BPF will receive a proper receipt in their emails/membership portal with details of their payment and other personal particulars. Currently, those receipts are not being sent automatically due to a technical glitch that is being resolved.
3. Payment by SANs and Benchers*- The Online Portal now has a specific link for payment by SANs/Benchers. Going forward, learned Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Benchers are required to pay using that link *only. SANs and Benchers who already paid only N25,000 as their BPF (due to a system error that has now been resolved) will be contacted shortly on how to pay the proper amount.
4. *Branch Dues*- Payment or collection of Branch Dues is entirely within the control of each Branch of the NBA, and payment of the BPF online does not relieve a member of his or her obligation to pay Branch Dues. While discussions will be held with the Branches to consider migrating to an online payment process in order to ease the process for their members, the existing mode for payment of Branch Dues at each branch (including bank deposits) subsists.
5. Free Stamps and other Benefits – the NBA policy of issuing 2 packs of free stamps to members who pay their BPF and Branch Dues as and when due is still subsisting. All other welfare benefits such as life insurance, accident expense cover, critical ailment insurance, permanent disability cover, etc promised by the leadership of the NBA for all financial members are also still in existence.
6. Online payment for additional Stamp and Seal – In the meantime, the leadership of the NBA is also working to provide an online platform for members who wish to pay for additional stamps and seal (after the free ones are issued). The overall idea is to reduce members direct interface with the banks and make the entire process seamless. For the time being, members are advised to rely on the existing manual payment system for additional stamps.
7. Teething problems – As we are all aware, the updated online payment system has only just been launched and it has so far functioned optimally. However, as is typical with new processes and systems, we expect that there may be some challenges and teething problems. If you encounter any challenges with the payment system, we crave your understanding and kindly request that you contact any member of our BPF Payment Helpdesk and they will be happy to assist you.
8. Helpdesk Contacts – If you need any help with the payment process, please contact our Helpdesk as follows:
1. Ezekiel David – 07037000903
2. Wole Efuwape – 08035479443
3. Adewale Adebayo – 08033803724
4. Sime David-West – 08126306930
5. Glory Lawrence – 08036792832
6. Felix Mutua – 07034940105
Dr. Rapulu Nduka
Nigerian Bar Association
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