Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Lead Prosecutor at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Mr. Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) has challenged the legality of lawyers paying the annual Bar Practice Fee (BPF) through an NBA portal.
In a post he made today on a CITY LAWYER WhatsAPP platform while tagging an NBA Notice on payment of BPF, the fiery senior lawyer argued that there is no legal basis for NBA to receive the fee 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.”
It is recalled that NBA had issued a notice to members thus: “As you may already be aware, the National Executive Council (“NEC”) of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”), at its last NEC meeting held in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on the 16th day of December 2021, resolved that manual Bar Practicing Fee (“BPF”) payments be jettisoned. Consequently, BPF payments can only be made through the NBA Online Payment Portal, with effect from the 1st day of January 2022. Members can now make individual or group payments through the Portal.”
The full text of Okutepa’s post made on his verified handle is below:
In the light of the provisions of the legal practitioner Act, particularly section 7 thereof which is yet to be amended,where does NBA derive its powers to collect practising from lawyers and direct that payment shall be online through portal created by NBA. For added measures, this is what LPA says in section 7 thereof: No legal practitioner (other than such a person as is mentioned in subsection (3) of section 2 of this Act) shall be accorded the right of audience in any court in Nigeria in any year, unless he has paid to the Registrar in respect of that year, a practising fee as is from time to time prescribed by the Attorney‐General of the Federation after consultation with the association.
[1999 No. 31.]
(3) The Registrar shall‐
(a) issue to every person by whom a practising fee is paid in respect of any year a receipt for the fee in the prescribed form; and
(b) as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of January in each year and thereafter from time to time during the year as he considers appropriate cause to be printed in the prescribed form and put on sale a list or supplementary list of the legal practitioners by whom practising fees have been paid in respect of that year; and
(c) pay over to the Association as soon as may be after the end of each year a sum equal to nine tenths of the aggregate amount of the practising fees received by him in pursuance of this section during the year,
and a receipt purporting to be issued and list purporting to be printed in pursuance of this subsection in respect of any year shall be evidence that the person named in the receipt or, as the case may be, that any person named in the list has paid to the Registrar the practising fee in respect of that year.
As lawyers, we must do things according to law. The payment of practising fees is a statutory duty and a creation of law. The law sets/ directs how the payments are to be made by lawyers and who is to issue receipts. It also sets out how NBA should benefit from the payments made by lawyers. 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.
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