NBA warns First Bank against offering legal advice to SMEs, Nigerians

*Bank not in Supreme Court’s roll of lawyers, lacks competence to offer legal advice, says Bar Association

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

For the financial institution’s move to offer legal advice to small and medium scale (SME) business owners and other members of the Nigerian public, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), through its Section on Legal Practice, has requested First Bank Nigeria Limited to withdraw its newspaper publication of July 2, 2020, in this regard.

The NBA, in a letter addressed to Raymond Mgbeokwere, General Counsel/Legal Adviser of First Bank, asked the bank “to immediately cease and desist from this unlawful and unauthorised offer of legal services to SMEs or to the public under any guise.”

Olusegun Abimbola, Chairman of NBA-Section on Legal Practice, and Tonye Krukrubo, the Secretary, in a letter dated July 3, 2020, and made available to journalists, stated that the bank, not being listed on Supreme Court’s roll of lawyers, lacks the competence to offer legal advice to SMEs or the general public.

The letter read in part: “First Bank is not a legal practitioner with the definition of the provision of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L.11, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

“Section 2(1) of the LPA provides that a person shall be entitled to practise as a barrister and solicitor if, and only if, his name is on the rolls of lawyers at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“The question then is in what capacity is First Bank offering the public or SMEs the opportunity to get legal advice for their business?”

According to the Association, the said publication by the bank also violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, which it stressed bars all lawyers “from aiding non-lawyers in the illegal practice of law or offer of legal serves.”

The NBA-Section on Legal Practice had obtained the mandate of the NBA President “to enforce the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act against any company or organisations found to be in breach of this law, hence this notice to your bank,” said the NBA in the letter.

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