The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, is asking the Federal High Court sitting 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.
Malami, SAN 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 8-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 office.
Malami, SAN denied all allegations of wrongdoings brought against him by the NBA in the suit.
Contrary to the NBA 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 and Minister of Justice 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 held on the contentious law, observers however noted that he did not indicate 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, Sunday Ibrahim Ameh on behalf of the NBA.
NBA faulted the rules as being unlawful and prayed the court to void and set it aside in the interest of justice and fairness to practicing 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 NBA Council without the inputs or contributions of other members of the Council or in consultation with them.
The 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 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.