Lagos – The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Tuesday reversed a Federal High Court decision which restrained the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) from collecting practising fees from lawyers.
The lower court had restrained the NBA from embarking on the collection, pending the determination of a substantive suit on the fees.
Upturning the verdict, the presiding judge of the appellate court, Justice Shagbor Ikyegh, said that the NBA would suffer financially if the decision of the Federal High Court was allowed.
Ikyegh ordered that the substantive matter be assigned to another judge and that it should be granted accelerated hearing.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that following the NBA’s increase of practising fees in 2012, five lawyers went to court to challenge the hike.
On Feb.18, 2013, Seth Amaefule, Amaka Aneke, Celestine Nwankwo, Charles Ola-Oni and Tayo Arojo filed a suit challenging the new fees.
The lawyers filed the suit before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the lower court, seeking an order restraining the NBA from implementing the new fees, which they described as “too exorbitant”.
They listed the NBA President Mr Okey Wali; the General Council of the Bar, the Attorney General of the Federation, Chairman, Lagos branch of NBA, and Chairman, Ikeja branch of NBA as defendants.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia had on March 28, 2013, granted an interim order for lawyers to abide by the old fees, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the court, the defendants filed an appeal at the appellate court, for a reversal of the lower court’s ruling, while the substantive matter was adjourned indefinitely pending the outcome.
NAN reports that in their motion, the plaintiffs had averred that the General Council of the Bar, by a circular dated April 6, 2012, made an upward review of the fees for lawyers in the country.
By the review, lawyers who are less than five years at the bar were directed to pay N10, 000 as opposed to the former N2,000.
Those above five years at the bar were told to pay N20, 000, up from the previous N4,000.
Also, those above 10 years at the bar were directed to pay N35, 000, as opposed to N7,500, while those above 15 years were told to pay N50, 000 as opposed to N10,000.
The review also saw the fees for Senior Advocates being raised from N20,000 to N100,000.
In their motion, the plaintiffs had argued that a handful of lawyers would suffer hardship if the defendants were allowed to proceed with the collection of the new practising fees.
The plaintiffs had, therefore, prayed the court to restrain the defendants from implementing the new scale for payment of practising fees.
NAN reports that the plaintiffs have indicated their intention to appeal the decision of the appellate court which upturned the lower court ruling.(NAN)