LAWYERS4CHANGE

Monday, July 25, 2016

STAMP & SEAL 'WAHALA'

Mr. Chris Owolabi is a legal practitioner and was called to the Nigerian Bar is 1990. So he has seen no less than a quarter of a century in the profession. But today he is not a happy man courtesy of the new policy in the practice of law in the country compelling the affixure of the seal of the Nigerian Bar Association to all documents and processes to make it acceptable for purpose of use in court registries and elsewhere.

Last Friday the Squib ran into the veteran advocate at the secretariat of the Ikeja Branch of the N.B.A where he granted this explosive and thought provoking interview, counting the essentials of his angst about the STAMP & SEAL POLICY.

 As part of our Cover Story, we add the less polemical views of our long-time columnist, on the subject to serve curiously as both a compliment and moderation of the position of Chris Owolabi Esq.

 

SQUIB: Can we meet you sir?

OWOLABI: I am a legal practitioner called to the Bar in 1990. I own my practice.

SQUIB: I can see you standing there displeasing, while processing forms in respect for obtaining the stamps for practice

OWOLABI: You are right, but I am more than displeased, I am shocked and disgusted at the whole exercise. It is a disgrace and clearly illegal and unconstitutional and from the way the exercise is being carried you begin to suspect the integrity of the stated purpose of the whole exercise.

SQUIB: What do you mean sir?

OWOLABI: Let's start with the legality of the exercise. The policy states that your processes, papers and letters must carry the stamps before they can be accepted at the registeries or be considered valid for use otherwise.

People have cited one or two Supreme Court judgments to back this position. I have asked for these cases but nobody has been able to help out in that regard. But even if that’s the Supreme Court position, that position is wrong. Don’t forget that the Supreme is only final, not infallible!

My question is this, who is the issuing authority of the almighty stamp without which a lawyer can no longer practice his trade? The issuing authority is the Nigerian Bar Association. How can that be normal, reasonable and right, when the NBA has nothing to do with my qualification as a legal practitioner?

As we all know, it is the Body of Benchers that call successful students of the Nigerian Law School into the Bar of the Supreme Court, qualifying them as legal practitioners.

Then why should it be that it is not the Supreme Court or the Body of Benchers, the qualifier of legal practitioners that will issue stamps empowering their candidate so to say to practice but the Nigerian Bar Association, which is merely an association of people who are already in the Bar.

When a legal practitioner has run foul of the laws of his profession is it the NBA that sanctions him? No. The warning, suspension or disbarment is done by the Body which qualified him in the first instance into the profession.

So if it is the Body of Benchers who can qualify and disqualify a legal practitioner, how is it that it is another body - an association for that matter that now has the capacity to effectively rusticate him or reduce him to a lawyer only in name?

Yes, that is the effect of the stamp and seal policy. If you don’t have the N.B.A stamp, you can’t practice and that means you can’t earn your livelihood.

Don’t you think it is funny that somebody can be a member of the Inner Bar and yet he cannot function as a legal practitioner despite his office and preferment if he doesn’t have the stamp of the Nigerian Bar Association.

Also is the stamp, my practicing license? I have paid my practicing fees, why can’t I then practice except I have the stamp?

Is the N.B.A stamp now a practicing stamp? And why should it be that my fees for practicing license is not used to cover the stamp assuming the necessity of the stamp exists.

I am not sure that the authorities took time to think through the project before implementing and enforcing.

Look my brother, the imposition of this stamp is worse than double taxation, it is the worst possible form of restraint of trade.

They have by this stamp policy restrained most unfairly a duly qualified lawyer from practice

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