The Legal Implications Of A Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Seal
By Stanley Alieke
A lawyer issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of his client over the weekend. The client happened to be a celebrity, the celebrity posted the cease and desist letter from the lawyer on her social media pages. Millions of people saw the letter and started ridiculing the lawyer who issued the letter on the ground that the lawyer affixed an expired NBA (Nigerian Bar Association) stamp and seal on the letter because the seal affixed on the letter by the lawyer was written: “valid till March 2023”.
Netizens called these lawyers unprintable names. It was so painful that the lawyer was subjected to ridicule due to the ignorance of social media users on matters like these.
For the social media user that takes much comfort and pride in their tomfoolery and ignorance; an expired seal does not invalidate a legal process or a legal correspondence. That is the position of the law. A lawyer can affix a seal issued 10 years ago on a process or letter if he still has it available and that does not invalidate the process or make it void.
There is a judicial position on this; In the case of Emechebe v. Ceto Intl ( Nig) Ltd. ( 2018 ) 11 NWLR (Pt 1631) 520. The Court of Appeal held that the primary purpose of the NBA stamp & seal affixed on legal processes and legal correspondences is to checkmate the influx of quacks lawyers, imposters & meddlesome interlopers, so they don’t infiltrate the legal profession & present themselves to litigants as legal practitioners. In the above case, the counsel affixed an expired seal on the process and the opposing counsel raised an objection on the ground that the counsel affixing an expired seal on the suit has invalidated the suit and therefore asked the court to strike out the suit. The court held that striking out the process would amount to pushing technicalities too far and that an expired seal does not and can not invalidate a process. This was the same position adopted by the Supreme Court in the case of Central Bank of Nigeria V. Eze & Ors (2021) LPELR.
The same goes for not affixing a seal at all on a legal process or legal correspondence, it does not and cannot invalidate the correspondence or the letter. This was the position of the Supreme Court in the case of All Progressive Congress v. Gen. Bello Sarki Yaki(2015) LPELP(25721) 1 at 6-7, where it held that failure of a lawyer to affix the seal and stamp on a process will not render such documents void, but a mere defect which can be cured by affixing the requisite seal and stamp.
Social media should take note that a lawyer is not quack for affixing an expired seal and the expired seal or not affixing any seal at all does not void a process or a legal correspondence.