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Nana Nwachukwu: A morning encounter with a street lawyer
by Nana Nwachukwu
Early this morning, I was woken by a message from the NBA reminding me to pay my practising fees. I squeezed my face and hurled expletives at my phone. As if my phone heard me, it fell down in annoyance. Poor phone, poor me.
The text message gleefully reminded me that the Attorney-general of the Federation has approved (graciously) the reduction of the fees to the following;
- 50,000 – SANs and BENCHERS
- 25,000 – 15 years or more
- 17,500 – 10 years or more
- 10,000 – 5 years or more
- 5,000 – less than 5 years.
Interesting isn’t it? Just in case you are wondering, it is all in Naira and you ought to pay before 31st of March every year.
We are lawyers and we are proud of that fact. It’s not easy to sit down for Five (5) years listening to a drone of voices, spend another one year shining the egos of another set of voices then fall out the next year to realize that your education just began.
Anyway, I got to work determined not to be the only one riled by the text message. I began my gospel of the day “Just like your taxes, pay your practising fees,” I began to explain to every lawyer who cared to listen on how to be a good lawyer cum citizen. I won some of the arguments and lost most. I had an interesting ‘customer’ in my argument stall.
He came in looking all burly and commanding. He was also a contractor. As usual, I said to him, Oga, please come back by 2pm. The notice was on the door. That ticked him off. He went gangster on me…”who do you think you are?” “how dare you ask me to be back by 2pm?” “I call senators at any time and they answer me” (Please, how does that affect the price of salt?) “You think you are a lawyer? Let me tell you, I am rushing for a matter in Court. I control even the registrar and the Judges in that Court (blasphemy)”
Trust me, I ignored him totally for 20 mins. After he had reduced himself to the point of foolishness and finally calmed down, I said to him. “Oga, have you paid your practising fees?”
The man went into a raucous laughter. (Ehen, at least I brightened his day). He said to me, “which law did they write that one down”. I looked at the man’s bib, I shook my head in my superior (so I assumed) knowledge and said “It’s in the LPA and in the Rules of Professional Conduct sir” (I wore my best sarcastic look).
What he said next shocked me. “Lawyer, sit down.” He began to school me. Do I know why laws do not function in Nigeria? I stared. Yes, lawyer, because most of the laws are repugnant to natural justice! (Hian! I hope I have not engaged a mad man here?). Tell me how many lawyers in Abuja earn more than Thirty Thousand Naira? That alone is injustice in the order of humanity. You want a man to dash NBA, Ten Thousand Naira out of his Thirty Thousand because he has worn a wig and a gown for Five years? Now, tell me how many times the Judge has asked for evidence of your practising fees before allowing you appear in Court? That is because he has looked at the wig, at the shirt, at the gown and most times have felt like dashing that lawyer money. Look, most of those rules are not realistic. Imagine the RPC saying we should not engage in trade? Please my sister, leave these things o! All of you carry the Brazilian wigs and clothes into Court sef, you haggle and bargain in the court reception. Judges have shops in Wuse market too. Who is fooling who? Wetin you think say lawyer dey do sef? How can you say a lawyer cannot be a commissioned agent whilst practising law? These houses and lands, who will sell them? Is the commission not more attractive than the nonsense salaries you are paid? I attempted a feeble “but law is a noble profession sir”
What nonsense nobility ehn? Let me tell you, Nigerians are very forgetful particularly of poor people. Who will remember a poor lawyer? Lawyers who default the RPC have their sins forgotten and forgiven if you disbelieve me, look at Andoakaa, they made him an Attorney-General sef. Lawyers forget and forgive faster even. We agitated for better wages till some of us got cozy and comfy and our mouths got shut. Where is Falana’s activism? Where is Keyamo? You young lawyers are in trouble I tell you.
My dear, he said a lot more but at the end, I attended to him before 2pm and began to plot against NBA…
Disclaimer: Kindly keep to the Rules of Professional Conduct, sell you wares after your wigs and gowns are out of sight…Oops!