Falana berates lawyers criticising court order on control of commodity prices

Falana berates lawyers criticising court order on control of commodity prices
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Falana berates lawyers criticising court order on control of commodity prices

Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer and senior advocate of
Nigeria (SAN), has berated lawyers criticising a court order directing the
federal government to control commodity prices.

 

On February 7, 2024, the federal high court ordered the
federal government to fix the prices of certain food commodities.

 

A wide range of items were included, from necessities like
milk, flour, salt, and sugar to vehicles, bicycles, and motorcycles, as well as
their spare parts.

 

The judge gave the order while delivering the judgment in a
suit filed by Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer.

The price control board and attorney-general of the
federation were the first and second defendants, respectively in the case.

 

In a statement released on Sunday, Falana said lawyers are
hypocritical questioning the court’s price control order on essential goods
while standing on their mandatory fees and NBA stamp.

 

According to Falana’s statement, several Nigerian court
rulings have established the legal legitimacy of mandatory practising fees and
the NBA stamp.

“Notwithstanding that Nigeria operates a so-called free
market economy, no profession is more regulated than the legal profession in
Nigeria,” Falana said.

 

“Interestingly, the lawyers who have criticised the order of
the Federal High Court which has directed the Federal Government to control the
prices of essential commodities by the federal government have not campaigned
for the right to practice law without any form of regulatory interference.

 

“It is pertinent to review the laws that regulate and some of
decided cases on the regulation of the practice of law throughout the country.

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“First, pursuant to section 8(2) of the Legal Practitioners
Act, no legal practitioner shall be accorded the right of audience in any court
in Nigeria in any year, unless he/she has paid, in respect of that year, the
prescribed practising fee Second, the Stamp and Seal produced and sold by the
Nigerian Bar Association must be purchased and affixed on legal processes,
legal documentation and legal correspondences.

“In several cases, Nigerian courts have upheld the legal
validity of the compulsory payment of practising fees and the NBA stamp.

 

“Yet, apostles of neoliberalism in the legal profession have
not challenged such judicial decisions on the grounds that they infringe on the
fundamental right of every citizen to access the court for legal redress in
accordance with section 36(1) of the Constitution.”

 

According to Falana, legal fees in Nigeria are now subject
to minimum pricing outlined in the 2023 Legal Practitioners Remuneration Order.

 

“Like the Price Control Act, the law covers the remuneration
charged by legal practitioners for business, legal services and legal
representation unlike the revoked order of 1991 which covered only remuneration
for legal documentation and other land matters,” he said.

 

“The 2023 Legal Practitioners Remuneration Order contains 4
scales in the 1st schedule according to which a legal practitioner shall charge
his/her legal fees as follows: Consultations and Legal Opinions – Scale 1,
Incorporation or registration of companies and business names – Scale 2,
Litigation – Scale 3 and Property transactions – Scale 4.”

 

According to the legal expert, fees chargeable on the scales
provided by the Legal Practitioners Remuneration Order 2023 are not negotiable.

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Falana said that while the law recognises the right of
lawyers to do pro bono legal services under the Legal Aid Act or for family
members, it stipulates that any lawyer doing pro bono service on grounds of
kinship or affinity shall submit to the remuneration committee an affidavit
disclosing the facts and circumstances justifying the pro bono work.

 

“The provisions of the new Order are binding on all legal
practitioners immediately after it came into effect on the 16th day of May
2023,” he said.

 

“The breach of the provisions of the new Order is
professional misconduct. Lawyers are encouraged to report any breach of the new
legislation to the Remuneration Committee.

 

“The Remuneration Committee shall investigate the reports
and lodge a report to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee if a case
of infraction of the new Order is established.

 

“In view of the compulsory payment of practising fees and
NBA Stamp, and having regard to the binding provisions of the 2023 Legal
Practitioners Remuneration Order which has fixed the professional fees of legal
practitioners,

 

“It is the height of hypocrisy on the part of lawyers to
question the order of the Federal High Court which has directed the Federal
Government to control the prices of essential commodities in Nigeria, in
conformity with a subsisting written law.”

 

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
(FCCPC) has warned businesses against aiding hikes in the prices of food items.

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