UK lawyers practice in Nigeria: NBA mobilise members for protest

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Wednesday, said it was mobilising its members for a possible nationwide protest, should the Federal Government go ahead to allow United Kingdom, UK, lawyers practice in Nigeria.

Noting that Minister for Investment, Trade and Industries had said the earlier statement credited to it was in error, NBA said its objection to any such agreement persists.

NBA President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, said: “On Tuesday, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Government of the United Kingdom signed the Enhanced Trade Investment Partnership, ETIP, agreement.

“The agreement covers a number of economic sectors including legal services. The initial statement from the office of the Minister for Investment, Trade and Industries stated that the agreement will allow lawyers licensed in the United Kingdom to practice in Nigeria.

“We note the Minister’s recent comment that this was a statement made in error.

“Irrespective of the Ministers clarification, we want to state clearly that the objection of the NBA to the said agreement persists.

“The NBA has been involved in several meetings where the idea of allowing UK licensed lawyers in our legal space was discussed.

“We are therefore very clear about the intention of the agreement. In all these meetings we unequivocally said that the state of the Nigerian economy presently does not allow for such agreement.

“Government is saddled with the responsibility of creating opportunities not only for its more than 140,000 lawyers currently practicing across the country, but also the over 4000 new wigs that are called to the bar yearly.

“Only yesterday, the Council of Legal Education approved the result of the last Bar Final Examination with over 4000 lawyers due to be admitted to the Bar in March 2024.

“It is very sad that while the UK government is creating opportunities for its lawyers outside the United Kingdom, the Government of Nigeria by its action or omission seeks to shrink the legal space for an already burdened legal practice.

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“What efforts has the government of Nigeria made to ensure that Nigerian lawyers have access to the UK legal environment?

“What is even more tragic is that the agreement was entered into without engaging the NBA on the text of the agreement.

“This is a clear indication of the limited recognition the Government of Nigeria attaches to its professional bodies.

“We are certain that the UK government will not treat its law society and bar council in such despicable manner.

“For avoidance of doubt, let me say clearly, that the NBA reject the agreement in so far as it relates to legal services. We fully intend to seek judicial review of the agreement including up to the supreme court if necessary.

“This is the same situation as with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, ACFTA.

“While we must accept the reality of globalisation and open our borders for transnational trade

and exchange of services, this must be done strategically, purposefully, without and endangering the already exposed and weakened Nigerian market.

“We, therefore, request for a wholistic review of all the agreements under the ETIP and the AfCFTA, particularly in view of the developments in the ECOWAS sub-region.

“In addition, we have begun the process of mobilizing our members for a possible nationwide

public demonstration in objection to this agreement,” he added.

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