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Supreme Court clears air on new payment mode of Bar practicing fee for Nigerian Lawyers

  The Supreme Court of Nigeria has clarified its position on the contentious new mode of bar practising fees by legal practitioners in the c...

 


The Supreme Court of Nigeria has clarified its position on the contentious new mode of bar practising fees by legal practitioners in the country introduced by the Nigerian Bar Association NBA.

 

NBA had in a circular directed lawyerS in Nigeria to henceforth pay their statutory annual Bar Practicing Fees through an online payment portal called.

 

The new practising fees mode has, however, generated controversies and disputes among lawyers on the proprietary or otherwise of the new pay system.

 

Chief Registrar of the apex court, Hajo Sarki-Bello in a statement in Abuja on Monday clarified the authenticity of the system.

 

The statement she personally signed read in part “Our attention has been drawn to the controversies being generated by the order given by the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association directing all legal practitioners in Nigeria to henceforth be paying the statutory annual Bar Practicing Fees via an online payment portal called “Paystack.”

 

“The Supreme Court of Nigeria has meticulously investigated this new development and equally had incisive discussions with the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, with a view to ascertaining the propriety or otherwise of the directive.

 

“From our findings, the new payment plan via the online portal is authentic and equally done in good faith, ostensibly with the sole aim of operating within the ambit of the new global information and communication technology order.

 

“However, those interested in manual payment also have the choice of doing it at any branch of our designated bank, as was previously done.

 

“With the explanations given by the leadership of the NBA, their action has not, in any way, contravened the Legal Practitioners Act 2004, which explicitly confers such role and function on the Chief Registrar of the Court.

 

“The subsisting mode of payment makes the Chief Registrar and NBA President co-signatories to the Supreme Court’s Bar Practicing Fees (BPF) account into which the fee is paid annually by all lawyers in Nigeria.

 

“For the purpose of clarity, the procedure for collecting this fee has been that every year, between 1st January to 31st March, lawyers pay the annual National Bar Practicing fee in line with extant Legal Practicing Fee, as specified in the LPA 2004.

 

“Accordingly, at the end of each year, the NBA takes a sum equal to nine-tenths (being 9/10) of the aggregate amount of the fees received and the Supreme Court, on the other hand, is given one-tenths (being 1/10) of the aggregate amount of the practising fees received, which it now pays into the Treasury Single Account, domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, as revenue generated by the Court.

 

“Section 8 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Chapter L11 LFN 2004, made provision for payment and collection of the National Bar Practicing Fees. For the sake of clarity, Section 8 (2) comes in handy.

 

“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, practising fees as may be prescribed from time to time in accordance with the provisions of this section.”

 

“The Registrar shall 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.

 

“The Registrar shall 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

 

“The Registrar shall 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.

 

“By the foregoing, therefore, there is no particular aspect either in Section 8 of the LPA or in Rule 9 of the Rule of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners that implies that the Chief Registrar can share his/her statutory duty of collecting the BPF, issuing receipts to those who pay, printing and selling the names of those who pay and paying the nine-tenths (9/10) of the total amount collected on annual basis to the NBA.

 

“By virtue of this glaring information provided above, without any equivocation, the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court remains the statutory custodian of all issues relating to the payment of Bar Practicing Fees and all lawyers are, ipso facto, advised to continue paying directly to the extant Supreme Court Bar Practicing Fee Account, which the NBA leadership, in all intents and purposes, has not violated in any way.

 

“Their sole motive for the online payment is to give an innovative boost to the payment method by migrating the tedious and time consuming manual payment mode through the bank to a more modem and less stressful online payment and also to serve as a conduit for seamless payment, as it were.

 

“The only contentious issue emanating from this novel online payment mode is the payment of the “transaction charges” to the online service provider (Paystack), which has now been dropped forthwith, by the NBA leadership.

 

“Similarly, all payments made before now through the online portal will get three refunds of this contentious transaction charges collected in the course of the transactions from the NBA”, the statement said.

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