Nigeria | What Are Ethics and Legal Professionalism Like in Nigeria?
Contributed by CJP Ogugbara, CJP Ogugbara & Co (Sui Generis Avocats), Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the relationship between the Law Firm and the creditor is that of utmost good faith and fiduciary, hence it is expected to the rules of professional engagement would be very active. Thus, for a creditor resident in China, who had engaged a Nigerian Lawyer to recover debts, it is expected that the first port of call for the recovered sums of money is the Lawyer himself. There is therefore apprehension of misuse, conversion and withholding of the recovered money. The awareness of the ethics is very important considering the ethical implication of some of the actions that would take place in the relationship between a Lawyer and his client as regards to the proceeds of the recovery proceedings. This is important.
By the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners in Nigeria (RPC) 2007, a lawyer is not allowed to convert or misappropriate the property of his client which came into his possession in the course of executing the instruction of his client. He is also not expected to mix it with his own money or other such money coming into his possession. The law expects him as counsel to open a trust Account for his client and deposit whatever money he recovers from debtors, where it becomes impossible to transfer or pay over to his client all the money recovered. Rule 23(2) of the aforementioned RPC 2007. Also under Rule 23(1), since the recovered money is not his, he is not also allowed to use it to his own benefits. The lawyer is also to avoid any act of conflict of interest. The totality of Rules 14 to 23 of the RPC details the obligations of a legal practitioner to his client. A legal practitioner shall without delay pay in all monies he receives or holds on behalf of a client into client account. he may decide to open an account in his name with the title of client. This account may be opened by the lawyer with a bank for the purposes of depositing any money held or received by the lawyer on behalf of all his clients. No personal money of the lawyer should be paid into this account except as authorized by the Rules. Alternatively, a lawyer may choose to open a separate account in his name for a particular client where he pays in all monies belonging to the client. Such account should also be in the name of the lawyer. Once an account has been opened by a lawyer and such an account is designated as client account, all monies paid into such account should not be withdrawn by the lawyer except in the manner specified by the Rules.
In the event a lawyer breaches his duty as a legal practitioner, such as converting the client’s money, the client is encouraged to put up a petition against the lawyer for unprofessional conduction. Section 10 of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1975 establishes the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee. The Committee has the duty to consider and determine cases where it is alleged that a lawyer duly called to the Nigerian Bar has misbehaved in his capacity as a legal practitioner. Under section 11 thereof, there are spelt out penalties against any lawyer who had acted unprofessionally. These include, suspension, admonition and striking out the name of such lawyer from the roll. Where the act complained of, amounted to a crime in Nigeria, a further petition to the Nigeria Police Force or Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the client for Criminal Prosecution.
Contributor: CJP Ogugbara
Agency/Firm: CJP Ogugbara & Co (Sui Generis Avocats)(English)
Position/Title: Founding Partner
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This post is a contribution from CJP Ogugbara & Co (Sui Generis Avocats). Established in 2014 as a Partnership Firm in Nigeria, CJP Ogugbara & Co has been working along and engaging in dispute management, litigation and arbitration, commercial practice: real estate and investment advisory, tax practice and energy consultancy. Apart from the core practice areas, they also facilitate and extend practice to the development of clients’ businesses and corporate interests, especially as they apply to the Nigerian economy and investment circle.
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