The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to dismiss a legal action instituted against him by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to challenge the validity of the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers in the country.
Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said that the NBA’s suit against him was incompetent and lacking in merit because its facts were founded on falsehood and hearsay.
The AGF, in a reply to the NBA’s court action, maintained that he was constitutionally empowered to formulate and amend the Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners in Nigeria.
In his counter-affidavit against the suit and filed by his lead counsel, Maimuna Lami Shiru, Malami insisted that he did not unilaterally amend the contentious law for lawyers as alleged by NBA.
His eight-paragraph affidavit against the suit was deposed to by one Oni Michael, a litigation officer in the Civil Litigation and Public Law Department in the AGF’s office.
He denied all allegations of wrongdoings brought against him by the NBA in the suit.
Contrary to the NBA’s claim that he unilaterally amended the rules, Malami stated that members of the General Council of the NBA were invited and held a meeting with him on the issue.
The counter-affidavit read in part, “The defendant (AGF) did what he is statutorily empowered to do strictly within the confines of the law as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and the President of the General Council of the Bar.
“That a meeting was called and members of the Council were duly notified and present at the meeting.
“That the Attorney General of the Federation is statutorily empowered to improve the professionalism of legal practice in Nigeria.
“That the plaintiff (NBA) is bringing this court action based on mere speculation and hearsay as he is not a member of the General Council of the Bar.”
Malami specifically averred that all those who made averments on behalf of the NBA did so without recourse to the provision of the law as they are not members of the body vested with powers on the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.
The AGF, therefore, asked the court to dismiss the suit against him for being incompetent.
Although Malami claimed a meeting was held on the contentious law, DAILY POST however noted that he did not indicate the date and venue of the meeting in his counter-affidavit.
The Incorporated Trustees of the NBA had dragged the AGF before the court challenging the validity of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Rules 2021 (S.I. No. 15 of 2020) enacted by the Attorney General of the Federation.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/77/2022 was filed against Malami on January 24 2022 by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Sunday Ibrahim Ameh on behalf of the NBA.
NBA faulted the rules as being unlawful and prayed the court to void and set them aside in the interest of justice and fairness to practising lawyers in Nigeria.
The association specifically asked the court to interpret sections 1, 11, 12 and 20 of the Legal Practitioners Act and determine whether the AGF, who is just one member of the bar, can act alone in the discharge of functions of the NBA Council without the inputs or contributions of other members of the Council or in consultation with them.
NBA also prayed the court to further interpret the sections of the Act and determine whether the AGF can validly and without any recourse to the General Council of the Bar or consultations with other members to amend, purport to amend or to have amended the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners through the instrumentality of the Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners dated September 3, 2020, and contained in Nigeria’s official gazette number 140, volume 107 of September 7 2020.
Upon proper interpretation of the sections of the Act, the NBA asked the court to declare that the AGF, who is just one member of the General Council of the Bar, cannot act alone in the discharge of the functions of the Council without the input or contributions of other members of the Council or in consultation with them.
NBA prayed the court for an order setting aside or nullifying the purported Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners as purportedly made unilaterally by the AGF on September 3, 2020.
The NBA also applied for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the AGF, his agents and servants from giving effect or further giving effect to the contentious Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners Rules 2020 purportedly made on September 3, 2020.
Meanwhile, a hearing in the suit will hold on May 12 before Justice Donatus Okorowo.
Though the hearing was initially slated for March 24, and Malami served with a hearing notice in the suit marked FHC/ ABJ/ CS/ 77/2022, he neither appeared in court nor was represented by a legal practitioner while no explanation was offered for his absence.