THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE BAR: AGI ANNE U. PRESENTS 5 THINGS TO KNOW

As the date for the NBA 2022 national elections approaches, the Electoral Committee of the NBA (ECNBA) has rolled out several guidelines to candidates to guide them through the process.

This year, apart from midwifing the process which will produce the National Officers to direct the affairs of the NBA for the next two (2) years, the ECNBA will also conduct elections for representatives of the Association on the General Council of the Bar (GCB).

As this process of choosing the representatives for the GCB is somewhat novel, several members of the Bar have sought to know a thing or two about the General Council of the Bar particularly what its functions are in relation to the Bar and why the ECNBA was conducting elections for membership into the Council.

Space Age reports was opportuned to speak to Ms AGI, ANNE URUEGI, a candidate for election as NBA Representative to the GCB and she shed some light on the GCB, its functions, the composition thereof and how NBA Representatives are selected to sit on the Council.

In the interview, excerpts of which are presented below, *Ms Agi* presented about *5 things to know about the GCB* which we are happy to share with you.

1.) ESTABLISHMENT
Do you know that the General Council of Bar” (GCB), referred to as “Bar Council” was established by virtue of Section 1(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA), CAP L11, Laws of the Federation ofNigeria, 2004 (“Legal Practitioners Act”).

2.) COMPOSITION OF THE GCB
Do you know that by Section 1(2) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA), the GCB is composed of the following?:

i. The Attorney General of the Federation who shall be the President of the Council
ii. The Attorneys General of the States and
iii. 20 Members of the NBA and not less than 7 of them shall be legal practitioners of not less than 10 years standing.

3.) ELECTION OF NBA REPRESENTATIVES TO THE GCB.

Do you know that by virtue of Section 1(3) of the LPA, Section 10(6) of the NBA Constitution (as amended) and Part V, Paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule to the NBA Constitution 2015 (as amended), positions for the 20 NBA representatives to the GCB, just like the National officers, shall be filled by election in which all members of the Association are entitled to vote (universal suffrage) and by electronic voting, with each zone producing at least 6 representatives to the GCB (making 18 members); the 2 highest losers in the election shall makes up the 19th and 20th NBA slots on the GCB. The 3 Zones are Eastern Zone, Northern Zone and Western Zone. This implies that representation into the General Council of the Bar (GCB) is on zonal basis, and duly so stipulated in the NBA Constitution.

Tenure: By Section 10(6), the twenty (20) members representing the Association in the General Council of the Bar shall be elected for a term of two (2) years and shall only be eligible for re-election for another term of two (2) years.

4.) FUNCTIONS OF THE GCB

1ST FUNCTION

By Section 1(1) of the LPA, the GCB is charged with the general management of the affairs of the Nigerian Bar Association (subject to the limitations provided by the Constitution of the NBA) and with other functions conferred on the Council by the Act or the NBA Constitution.

WHAT ARE THESE LIMITATIONS?
By Article 7(1) (a) – (d) of the NBA Constitution 2021 (as amended), the powers of the General Council of the Bar shall not include:
i.) Any control over the budget or finances of the NBA;
ii.) The power to appoint representatives of the NBA to any statutory, executive/judicial or other bodies;
iii.) The power to issue any statement purporting to express the views of NBA on matters of public interest or matters affecting the legal provision generally;
iv.) The power to make any arrangements whatsoever (including the drawing up of an agenda or choice of venue) for the annual general conference or any other general meeting of NBA.

2ND FUNCTION
By Article 7(2) of the NBA Constitution, “if at any time, due to unavoidable circumstances or any emergency, an election cannot be held at the appropriate time or the National Executive Council is incapable of functioning, the General Council of the Bar shall be convened with powers to constitute a 10-member caretaker committee of members of the Association to run the affairs of the Association for not more than the unexpired tenure of the National Officers or until when new National Officers shall be elected.

3) Provided however that the General Council of the Bar acting under Section 7 (2) hereto shall not be subject to any limitation of its powers under Section 1(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act, until the expiration of the unavoidable circumstances or emergency.

Thus, if the Bar Council exercises its power to constitute a Committee of NBA Members to run NBA affairs in emergency or unavoidable circumstances, the limitations provided in Articles 7(1) of the NBA Constitution will not apply.


Any decision of the Bar Council may be reviewed or modified by the Annual General Conference or at any other general meeting of the Association.

3RD FUNCTION

By Section 20(1)(a) to (d) of the LPA , the Bar Council is empowered to make rules of account to be kept by legal practitioners of client’s moneys received into their custody, held or paid by them for or on account of their clients.

The Council is also to make rules as regards the opening and keeping of an account at a bank for moneys of any trust of which a lawyer is the sole trustee or co-trustee with one or more of his partners, clerks or servant.

The GCB is also empowered to take such action as it thinks necessary to enable it to ascertain whether the rules are being complied with.

4TH FUNCTION

By virtue of Section 12(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act 2004 (incorporating the provisions of the Legal Practitioners) (Amendment) Decree No 21, 1994) published as Supplementary to the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the GCB is also empowered to make and revise the rules of professional conduct. The said sub-section reads: “It shall be the duty of the Bar Council [General Council of the Bar] to make rules from time to time on professional conduct in the legal profession and cause such rules to be published in the Gazette and distributed to all Branches of the [Nigerian bar] Association.”

  1. AMENDMENT OF THE RPC BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FED
  2. Do you know that the sitting Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN in September 2020 amended the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for Legal Practitioners and gazetted same as (Amendment Rules 2021 (S.1 No. 15 of 2020).

In the said amendment, the AGF deleted the following rules, namely: Rules 9(2), 10, 11, 12 and 13.

# Rule 9(2) prohibits legal practitioner from claiming that he has paid his Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) when he is actually in default.

# Rule 10 deals with stamp and Seal.

# Rule 11 provides for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education.

Rule 12 provides for Annual Practicing Certificate and

# Rule 13 provides for Notice of Legal Practice upon setting up a private legal practice.

On January 24, 2022, the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA has challenged his powers to unilaterally amend the Rules without convening a meeting of the Bar Council. The matter is currently sub-judice (FHC/ABJ/CS/77/2022).

AGI ANNE URUEGI

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