By Alex Enumah
Worried by the harsh economic environment in the country, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Monday, inaugurated the Legal Practitioner’s Remuneration Committee to look into the remuneration of lawyers in the country.
The committee was inaugurated in conjunction with the attorneys general (AGs) of the 36 states of the federation and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Speaking at the occasion, Malami observed that finding a reasonable remuneration for legal services in Nigeria has been an issue of great controversy for legal practitioners, adding that: “It has, and is still eliciting heated intellectual and non-intellectual debates by various countervailing interests.”
According to the minister, despite the existence of a scale of charges for legal services in Nigeria, there have been repeated debates for and against its existence.
He stated that while some have argued that a lawyer’s fees cannot and should not be pigeonholed to a scale of charges due to the unique nature of the legal profession, others, who canvass for its continued existence said it has created order and certainty in the expected remuneration for legal services.
“The committee will among other things regulate and standardize legal practitioners’ remuneration which for us is overdue for review,” he said.
According to him, a situation where legal practitioners are paid pittance for the legal services they render must be thoroughly looked into and necessary steps taken to, not only safeguard the livelihood of lawyers, but ensure that legal practitioners are treated with the dignity and prestige they deserve.
He said that the committee therefore has the responsibility to critically review the scale of charges, taking into consideration the prevailing challenges and experiences by legal practitioners as well as the nation’s current economic realities.
In carrying out its functions, Malami admonished the committee to be fair and to discharge its statutory responsibilities without fear or favour and stressed that particular consideration should be given to the new wigs and young lawyers, as a way to encourage their dedication and commitment to justice delivery.
He assured the committee that his ministry will continue to fulfil its mandate of improving the administration of justice in Nigeria, by providing necessary support to the NBA and ensuring that the association is well positioned to address the legal needs of legal practitioners and Nigerians as a whole.
In his speech, the President of the NBA, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), said the Legal Practitioners Remuneration Committee, which is a statutory committee, in line with the Legal Practitioners Act, allows it to look at lawyers’ remuneration.
He said the last time lawyers’ remuneration was looked at was in 1991 and commended the AGF for his collaboration with the NBA in ensuring efficient administration of justice delivery in the country.
In his speech, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), said the scale of charges is to help the client, who needs the service of lawyers and also assists the lawyers themselves.
“If you want to consult a lawyer, you will know from the scale of charges what your legal fee will be. It provides for more transparency when it comes to lawyers’ charges. It is for the better for all us,” he said.