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One established tradition in
our legal system is that lawyers who wish to carry on practice as legal
practitioners shall participate in and satisfy the requirements of ‘Continuing
Professional Development’, this rule has been deep-rooted through practice in
conjunction with the backing of law. Our above stated obligation as lawyers in
this vein, ushers in, however, a bit of conundrum to many. Why so?

It is observed that the body
tasked with the responsibility of administering the mandatory Continuing
Professional Development (CPD) Program is the Nigerian Bar Association. This
trend has been accepted since the repeal of the Legal Education Act 1962 which had
earlier established the Nigerian Institute for Continuing Legal Education. Nevertheless,
the laws empowering a body such as the NBA to administer this function appear
to be at variance with each other.

A thorough study of the
Rules of Professional Conduct 2007 particularly in Rule 11 categorically states
thus:

“A lawyer who wishes to carry on
practice as a legal practitioner shall participate in and satisfy the
requirement of the mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) Program
operated by the Nigerian Bar Association 

In contrast, the still
extant Legal Education (Consolidation, Etc) Act 1976 with focus on Section 3
states that:

The Council (of legal education)
shall in addition to the function conferred on it by section 1 (2) of this Act
have responsibility for those matters in respect of which, before the
commencement of this Act, the Nigerian Institute for Continuing Legal Education
had the responsibility”.

Clearly the dichotomy between
this enabling provisions is centered on the question, who should be the body
administering the function of continuous learning for legal practitioners? It
is glaring, however, to note that the functions of these bodies are not
codified into a single document. The Rules of Professional Conduct highlight
some of the duties of the NBA as well as the Legal Practitioners Act. The
Council of legal Education on the other hand derives legitimacy from the Legal
Education Act and its functions are stipulated therein with support from the
Legal Practitioners Act.

At this junction, the
principle as has been interpreted by the most superior court in case of University of Lagos v. Aigoro (1985) NWLR
(Pt. 1) 143
must be applied, therein the court was of the opinion that when
there is variance in a legal position between the “Act” and the “Rule” the Act
shall supersede. Flowing from this train of thought, the Rules of Professional
conduct as made under the powers of the AG federation which empowers the NBA to
take up the function of Continuous Legal Education, must give way to the Legal
Education Act, as made under by National Assembly, which provides that the
Council of Legal Education is in truth, the right body to handle such mantle.

In consonance with this line
of reasoning A. Obi Okoye in his book “Law Practice in Nigeria” opines that:

“…the substantive statutory provision in
the Legal Education (Consolidation Etc) Act supersedes the Rules of
Professional Conduct…The provision of the RPC is contrary to the Act should be
void to the extent of its inconsistency. A subsidiary legislation may not be
capable of annulling the substantive provision of an Act or Law as the case may
be.” [1]

The Nigerian Law School is
established as the teaching arm of the Council of Legal Education as empowered
by Section 1 (2) of the Legal Education (Consolidation) Act. Before now, the
Nigerian Law School has only performed the function of churning out new wigs.
The provisions of the law, as seen in Section 3 of the Legal Education
(Consolidation) Act, obviously demands more than this singular function.

Conclusively, many who are
of the view that the NBA should carry out its function notwithstanding the
principle and position of law are strongly advised to canvass for the repeal or
amendment of the enabling Act.


Eseoghene
Palmer

Legal Practitioner



[1] Obi
Okoye, Law in Practice in Nigeria:
(Professional Ethics and Skills);
2nd Edition pages 94 (footnote section) ;SNAAP
Press Nig. Ltd Enugu