Reps back legal profession reform bill

• To strengthen disciplinary control of erring lawyers

Members of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, expressed support for the Bill seeking to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act and enact the Legal Practitioners Bill to provide for reforms and regulate the legal profession.

The proposed legislation seek to repeal the Legal Practitioners Act, 2004 and enact the Legal Practitioners Bill to provide for reforms and regulate the legal profession, was sponsored by Hon Onofiok Luke and 25 other lawmakers.

While speaking on the general principles of the bill, Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Hon Luke who disclosed that the Bill was transmitted to the House Committee on Federal Judiciary by the Body of Benchers, described by law as a body of legal practitioners of the highest distinction in the legal profession with the responsibility of formal call to Bar of persons seeking to become legal practitioners, after consultation with stakeholders in the legal profession and the Judiciary.

He explained that the Bill seeks to ensure proper regulation and reform of the legal profession in the country.

The private member Bill when passed into law, will among others, confer statutory responsibility on the Body of Benchers to further strengthen its disciplinary control of erring lawyers, through the creation of more disciplinary committees.

According to him, the proposed bill also seeks to further strengthen and streamline the effective regulation of the legal profession as well as empower the bureaucracy of the Body of Benchers, which hitherto, was merely playing the role of the Body’s Secretariat, for better legal service delivery.

He said: “One of the major purports of this Bill is for Body of Benchers to carry out reforms that will have a far-reaching effect on the legal profession and Nigerians who are in the quest for justice. The provisions of the Bill are structured in a way and manner that meet the required standards and modern-day development in the legal profession.

“This is against the backdrop of the fact that some of the provisions of the extant Act have become obsolete, and need to be updated in order to bring them in line with international best practices.

“For the purpose of emphasis, it should be stated that in the 7th and 8th National Assembly, several attempts were made in order to update the provisions of the extant Act to bring into conformity with modern realities.

“However, these attempts did not yield the desired result. As such, stakeholders from both the Bar and the Bench, through series of consultative and interactive sessions came up with this harmonised Bill, which is before us today for deliberation.”

While ruling, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase referred to the House Committee on Judiciary for further legislative action.

Also at plenary, the House passed for second reading a bill which seeks to amend the Federal Capital Territory Customary Court Act, 2007 to alter the quorum of the Court for the purpose of ensuring timely dispensation of justice, expand the criminal jurisdiction of the Court.

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