The idea that lawyers should have stamps and seals have been around for quite some time. But it was not implemented until the Austin Alegeh led administration of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which completed its tenure in August 2016.
Hitherto, Lawyers had been used to a lax implementation or enforcement of certain important policies and requirements in the profession. For example, payment of the Annual Practising fees was made compulsory by the Legal Practitioners Act, in fact, it is a precondition to a lawyer’s having a right of audience before the Courts. But because no one hardly demands for evidence of payment of practising fee, the provision was normally observed more in breach.
However, in implementing the requirement for stamps and seals, the Alegeh led National Executive of the NBA seems to have sought and obtained the cooperation of the Judiciary, such that a lawyer could no longer file any Court process without affixing his stamp. This stamp is issued only by the NBA to individual lawyers who has been verified and who apply through the local Branch. The Bar, therefore, both at the Branch and National levels took the opportunity to enforce the payment of both the Branch dues and the Annual Practising fees.
In terms of revenue generation for the Bar, it was an excellent move. But lawyers grumbled. Some are seriously of opinion that they ought not to have been required to pay separately for the stamps, which payment, they say ought to have been made part of the Annual Practising fees. Others are not happy that the stamps carry expiration date.
The Jurisconsult sought the opinion of some lawyers and found that the consensus seems to favour the idea but that some adjustments to its implementation would be desirable.
According to Dapo Oduwole Esq., “The requirement for Stamp and Seal is good but I’m of the view that the implementation should be improved to effectively cover all legal practitioners. Documents prepared by legal practitioners without the seal should be regarded as voidable.
The advantage is that it will increase brief to lawyers and reduce a situation where clients reproduce agreements and other legal documents prepared by legal practitioners. The annual renewal will help to prevent a situation where missing seals become worthless after a year. I’m of the view that payment for it should be incorporated into the annual practising fee rather than for lawyers to be required to make additional payment.”
In the view of Ademuyiwa Abe Esq., “The stamp and seal regime is a good development. However, it is being poorly implemented. For instance, there is no basis for putting an expiry date on the stamp. Secondly, to obtain a second pack of stamps, you go through the same processes you went through when you were applying for the first time. This should not be so in view of the fact that the Association already had your data captured in its System when you were applying for the first time. These are issues that should be addressed in order to enhance the implementation.
It should not be discarded however! It should rather be improved in line with the comments above. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. For instance with strict implementation, quackery will be a thing of the past. Secondly, its implementation also dignifies the legal practice and finally enhances practitioners’ income.”
This is what Babatunde Alaka Esq., has to say about the matter: “The introduction of the stamp and seal is good but poorly implemented. It should not be discarded but its implementation should be improved upon by extending the validity of the stamp till the beginning of each legal year. It has the advantages of eradicating touting and improving the financial status of NBA.”
And finally, Mrs Oluwaseun Adebusola Adedipe says “The stamp and seal requirement of legal practitioners is a very good one. However, it is poorly implemented probably because it’s introduction is still new and proper structure has not been put in place for the implementation. The delay between the application for the stamps (especially) and actual receipt is much. Also, many young lawyers have complained that they don’t get to exhaust the stamps issued to them within a legal year before they are to apply for another batch in the next legal year. This brings me to the suggestion that the stamps should not have a time lag. Lawyers should be made to apply for more stamps only after exhausting the previous ones issued.
Also, care should be taken in issuing stamps to female lawyers especially where they were called to bar in their maiden names and they have changed their names and it has been so verified. It is my opinion that once you have been verified, the form to be issued to you for your stamp application should be different from that of those who have not been so verified in order to avoid the mistake of issuing stamps in their maiden names.
Another issue is about the seal. It is my opinion that it should be done centrally to ensure uniformity. Leaving it to individual lawyers may give more room to impersonators to fabricate.
One of the advantages of using the stamp and seal is that it will ward off fake lawyers or impersonators. It will also authenticate or make a lawyer’s work appear more authentic to the layman.”