Tax Clearance Certificate: Only the Legal Practitioners Act exclusively regulates Legal Practice in Nigeria – NBA Oji Replies Chief Judge

…..NBA Oji River Issues Resistance…

The Nigerian Bar Association Oji River has reacted to the directive on the need to introduce the production of Tax Clearance Certificate as a requirement for filing court processes in courts in Enugu State.

In a reply by the Chairman of the Branch, Sir Kingsley Chukwudi Olemeforo noted that Only the Legal Practitioners Act exclusively regulates Legal Practice in Nigeria.

Read the full reaction below

Your letter ref. J/S.193/vol. XIII/76 dated 7th February, 2024 and the originating mail from the Executive Chairman Enugu State Internal Revenue Service dated 151 February, 2024 both on the above subject matter refers.

First is to observe that the proposal leading to the directives in a decision of this magnitude that adversely affects the wellbeing and livelihood of thousands of lawyers in Enugu State particularly Oji River Branch members could be taken without any consultation with the branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). No doubt, this is capable of perforating the warm and growing relationships between the bar and the Judiciary in Enugu State.

My Lord CJ, the legal practice in Nigeria is strictly and exclusively regulated by the Legal Practitioners Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria L. 11 2004.

Equally My Lord CJ, Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners, 2023 which came into effect on 1st January, 2024 made provisions for avoidance of intermediary in the practice of the law. See chapter 1 (4) (thereto dealing with administrative memos and directions as the case in point) stated “A lawyer shall not permit his professional services to be controlled or exploited by any lay agency, personal or Corporate, which intervenes between him and the client”. See Rule 4, Rules of Professional Conduct for legal Practitioners 2023. The uncouth and uncharitable words in the forwarding letter dated 1o February, 2024 quote “Recall that the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service on the 11″ December, 2023 drew the attention of your Lordship to its observations over the non-payment of income tax by citizens of Enugu State and lawyers in particular and prayed your help in ensuring that lawyers in Enugu State comply with this constitutional provision by a mandatory attachment of their tax clearance certificate (TCC) to all processes filed in court” (emphasis mine) these unfounded claims are not only discriminatory of lawyers, denied lawyers opportunity of a fair hearing before making those destitute observations.

Tax clearance certificate relates to assessment of taxes paid for earned income; whereas filing of court processes by lawyers arising from the brief of a client do not translate to perfection of brief or earning on the legal services from the client. At the point of filling the lawyer has not earned his fees hence cannot be expected to furnish Tax clearance certificate.

It is humbly submitted that the legal requirement for filing of processes in any court in Nigeria by legal practitioners, are clearly outlined in Rules 9(1) (2) (3); 10(1) (2) & (3) of the rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners 2023.

That those extant provisions above, cannot be altered, amended or added to, by any state, administrative directions, or practice direction; suffix it to say that administrative memos and or practice direction cannot override the provisions of the enabling rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners 2023.

Finally, we want to make it very clear, that the directives contained in the memo under-reference are unacceptable in its entirety. The NBA Oji River Branch will take all necessary measures provided by our laws in support of our position in this matter.

May My Lord the CJ be pleased.
©️Sir Kingsley Chukwudi Olemeforo, FICMC. Chairman Oji River Branch, Nigerian Bar Association.
President, Nigerian Bar Association.

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