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Controversy Trails Exclusive Online Payment Of 2022 Bar Practicing Fees Of Lawyers

The recent mode of payment of the Bar Practicing Fee (BPF) has generated several commentaries especially with regards to the costs charged by NBA’s long-standing service provider (Paystack) for settling transactions on the BPF Online Payment Platform.

There were also concerns raised as to the legality of the decision of the National Executive Council to migrate exclusively to online payment.

 According to a post by Learned silk JS Okutepa “In the light of the provisions of the legal practitioner Act, particularly section 7 thereof which is yet to be amended, where does NBA derive its powers to collect practising from lawyers and direct that payment shall be online through a portal created by NBA. For added measures, this is what LPA says in section 7 thereof: No legal practitioner (other than such a person as is mentioned in subsection (3) of section 2 of this Act) shall be accorded the right of audience in any court in Nigeria in any year unless he has paid to the Registrar in respect of that year, a practising fee as is from time to time prescribed by the Attorney‐General of the Federation after consultation with the association.

[1999 No. 31.]

(3) The Registrar shall‐

(a) Issue to every person by whom a practising fee is paid in respect of any year a receipt for the fee in the prescribed form; and

(b) as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of January in each year and thereafter from time to time during the year as he considers appropriate cause to be printed in the prescribed form and put on sale a list or supplementary list of the legal practitioners by whom practising fees have been paid in respect of that year; and

(c) pay over to the Association as soon as may be after the end of each year a sum equal to nine tenths of the aggregate amount of the practising fees received by him in pursuance of this section during the year,

and a receipt purporting to be issued and list purporting to be printed in pursuance of this subsection in respect of any year shall be evidence that the person named in the receipt or, as the case may be, that any person named in the list has paid to the Registrar the practising fee in respect of that year.

As lawyers, we must do things according to law. The payment of practising fees is a statutory duty and a creation of law. The law sets/ directs how the payments are to be made by lawyers and who is to issue receipts. It also sets out how NBA should benefit from the payments made by lawyers. How did we come to the practice of paying our bar practising fees through the portal of NBA?”

There were other concerns and another lawyer had the following thoughts to share on the issue;“The details of this process becomes all the more important when one considers that there’s an additional transaction fee of about #300 attached to every payment made using this new supposedly smooth and easy payment method (you can verify this if you’ve not made your own payment), 

A simple rough calculation of that commission of about 300 by about 250,000 practising lawyers in Nigeria gives you a total of approximately 75,000,000 on payments commission alone!
Is this not enough to ruffle the consciousness of even the most casual observer and inspire the following questions of;
who does this commission go to? Is it to paystack or NBA? Is it shared between Paystack and NBA?? Do you know of other payment gateways that charge that much on simple payments? What are the terms of this agreement between NBA and Paystack? 

As lawyers trained to be meticulously perceptive and analytic, shouldn’t the details of this agreement as has been raised by the learned silk agitate our minds especially in this age of freedom of information? shouldn’t such information be made available or accessible to members for who’s benefit the agreement was made? 

Are we also aware that the receipt issued after payment is done using the platform is generic and doesn’t contain any information of the payee but only the amount paid, date of payment and last four digits of the payees card? 

Are we also aware that the receipt is a customized receipt of Paystack which on the face of it purports to have been issued by one [email protected] as against the Registrar of the Supreme Court as contained in the act? 

Am sure we are aware that the previous bank tellers were customized tellers of the Supreme Court account in the bank specifically for payment of BPF? 

Let’s take time to appraise objectively relying on our legal minds the observations of learned silk as no amount of quick, slick, commonsensical knee-jerk explanation will becloud the very important legal implications of this supposedly innovative process.”

These and many other questions beg the attention and response of the NBA.

Chiamaka Judith Alum
Author: Chiamaka Judith Alum

Good Governance and Human Right Advocate, Content Editor and Data Analyst

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