Not fewer than 300 lawyers have backed a petition seeking to strip Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami of the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The petition, registered by a lawyer, Izu Aniagu on change.org, had received 378 signatures by 7:48pm.
The petitioner claimed among others that Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister unilaterally deleted the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) which provide for stamp and seal as well as bar practice fee for government lawyers.
According to Izu, Malami had no such power.
Malami was conferred with the SAN rank, in 2008, 16 years after being called to the Bar.
Malami courted controversy last week when he purportedly amended the RPC for Legal Practitioners 2007, removing the requirement for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stamp and seal on court processes.
The gazette also seemingly abolished the requirement of payment of annual practice fees by government lawyers.
Membership of the NBA has been compulsory for all lawyers and the stamps and seals were sold at N4, 000 for 72 pieces and were given upon payment of NBA dues.
Without the stamp, a lawyer could not submit any document or letter to the court and the sale of the stamp and seal was one of the major sources of NBA’s revenue.
However, with the amendment of the process by Malami, the use of the stamps is no longer necessary.
The explanatory note to the Instrument suggested that it was done to bring the RPC into conformity with the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act, the Law Officers Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
This is the second time the AGF will be facing attempts to strip him of his title.
In July 2019, Malami was reported to have agreed to appear before the disciplinary panel of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee to face two petitioners seeking to strip him of the title for alleged misconduct.
A petition was filed against him by some family members of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, while another one was filed against him by a firm ‘Interstellar’.
NBA President Olumide Akpata asked lawyers to shun Malami’s directive.
Akpata stated that according to the Legal Practitioners Act, only a resolution of the Bar Council, comprising the AGF, Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the Federation and 20 members of the NBA can issue or amend rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners.
He suggested that the AGF usurped the Bar Council’s powers.
The petition comes in the wake of a unity crisis in the the NBA and a breakaway attempt.
Two Kaduna- based lawyers in July announced the formation of a ‘New NBA’ and subsequently wrote a letter to the AGF and the Attorney-Generals of the 36 states, informing them of their decision to break away.