This basically settles this issue for now. However, my major concern is the use of receipt of payment of stamp and seal as evidence of payment in the legal document or court process instead of the NBA Stamp and seal itself.

So, last week in court, a lawyer filed a process that was without the NBA stamp/seal. Not even a receipt of of payment for the seal. Trust us, authorities started flying around as to whether the court should discountenance the process.

Of course, Senator Bello Sarkin Yaki v. Senator Atiku Abubakar Bagudu & ors (2015) LPELR 25721 SC prevailed. It was held Per S. N. Onnoghen that it is settled that legal processes without stamp or seal are voidable. This is to say, such documents are deemed not to have been properly signed and not that they are invalid. Such documents are redeemed and valid by a simple directive by the Judge or relevant authority at the time of filing the voidable document, for erring counsel to affix stamp and seal as provided for in Rule 10 of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC).

This basically settles this issue for now. However, my major concern is the use of receipt of payment of stamp and seal as evidence of payment in the legal document or court process instead of the NBA Stamp and seal itself.

The provisions of Rule 10 of the RPC are very clearly and unambiguous (I am sure we know the rules of interpretation). What it requires is that the stamp or seal be affixed on the process or document before it can be deemed as properly signed or filed.

In Hon Segun Adewale & Anor v. Hon Solomon Olamilekun Adeola & Ors CA/L/EP/SN/1024/15 it was held that the fact that a legal practitioner has applied for the issuance of the NBA approved seal or stamp to him/her cannot qualify the process signed and filed by him/her to be deemed as properly signed and filed. Such a submission is not tenable in view of the clear requirements of Rule 10 (1) of the RPC. The requirement for the rule is not that the legal practitioner should have paid for the stamp and seal before documents signed by him can be valid. The requirement is that the court process or other legal documents must bear the seal or stamp of the legal practitioner that signed it.

However, a more recent decision in Today’s Car Ltd v. Lasaco Assurance Plc & Anor 2016 LPELR 41260 (CA) holds that having paid for the stamp and seal, all that remained was the domestic affair of the Nigerian Bar Association Secretariat and where like in this situation the Nigerian Bar Association Secretariat is tardy, such tardiness cannot be visited on the Appellant as all required to be done on the part of the Appellant’s counsel has been done.
It is pertinent to add that the rationale behind the requirement for affixing stamp and seal to legal documents seems to be to checkmate quacks in the legal profession, but more importantly, to ensure that legal practitioners fulfil their financial obligations in that regard to the Nigerian Bar Association. The Access Bank deposit slip attached to the Appellant’s brief shows that the Appellant’s counsel has discharged his financial obligations to the Nigerian Bar Association. To hearken to the 1st Respondent’s argument and hold in the diacritical circumstances of this matter that the Appellant’s brief was not properly filed will be turning justice on its head, and in fact inculcate injustice.”
Per OGAKWU, J.C.A. (Pp. 6-86, Paras. C-C)

Again, I guess we know the rule that applies when conflicting decisions come from the same court, the most recent prevails. However, According to Lawyard’s Editor’s Note: While the Court of Appeal’s decision above appears to be a good and desirable consideration of the law, it may remain only persuasive when placed side by side with the decisions of the Supreme Court in Yaki v Bagudu which provides that legal processes without stamp or seal are voidable. However, Such documents are redeemed and valid by a simple directive by the Judge or relevant authority at the time of filing the voidable document.

Bottom line, apply for you stamp and seal early enough to avoid having voidable processes. Peradventure you run out of stamps before you get the new batch, just know your process is voidable at the insistence of the other party or when the court suo moto summons counsel to address him on why you are not complying with the rules until further notice.

Coooooouuuuurrt!

I am going to have to say goodbye now. Thank you for reading. Do share. Your comments are welcome

Pictures credit:Google