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NBA Kicks Against Agreement Allowing UK Lawyers To Practice In Nigeria



The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has kicked against the federal government’s bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom, allowing English lawyers to practice in Nigeria.

Nigeria and the UK had on Tuesday formalised a new trade agreement to boost trade and investment between both countries.

The agreement tagged Enhanced Trade and Investment Partnership (ETIP) is also expected to unlock new opportunities for UK and Nigerian businesses.

The aspect of the agreement that bothers the NBA will commit Nigeria to work towards allowing UK lawyers to practise in Nigeria without any hindrance.

Many Nigerian lawyers fear that it will considerably increase the import of legal services to Nigeria to their disadvantage.

The NBA in a statement issued in Abuja said the agreement puts Nigeria at a disadvantage, threatening to resist it by all means necessary within the ambit of the law.

“We want to make it very clear that the ETIP agreement, in so far as it relates to legal services is unacceptable in its entirety. The NBA will take all necessary measures provided by our laws in support of our position on this matter.

“The agreement will compromise our legal space.”

Describing the deal as a “tragic reminder of our colonial past,” NBA President , YakububMaikayau SAN wondered why the Nigerian government would take such a decision with likely monumental impact without consulting with the NBA.

“It is indeed unfortunate that this tragic reminder of our colonial past is being gleefully celebrated at the highest level of the Government of Nigeria. What is more disheartening is the fact that a decision of this magnitude that adversely affects the well-being and livelihood of millions of Nigerians, could be taken without any consultation, especially with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

“For the avoidance of doubt, the NBA had no foreknowledge or inclination of the text of the said agreement. We could not therefore have contributed to it. I have since assuming office as President of the NBA clearly opposed any agreement that will compromise our legal space. At all the meetings.”

The NBA President further submitted that a provision of the agreement allowing lawyers from the UK to ply their trade in Nigeria is reminiscent of “our colonial past.”

He explained that Nigerian lawyers do not possess the requisite skills to match their British counterparts even if the UK was to reciprocate the gesture to Nigeria.

“I emphasised that we are not yet at a place for such an agreement and that even if we are to enjoy reciprocity with the UK (which is not an acceptable position), the knowledge and skills gap is so wide that we cannot favourably compete with the lawyers from the UK.”

Maikyau added that the British government would not undermine its own body of legal professionals in such a manner as the Nigerian government has done.

“It is truly tragic that while the government of the UK is seeking opportunities for its own lawyers beyond its constrained environment, the government of Nigeria is attempting to deprive Nigerian lawyers and their millions of dependants of means of livelihood.

“To embark on such a venture without recourse to the NBA is the height of insensitivity to the plight of the legal profession in Nigeria, and this is totally unacceptable,” the statement added.