Skip to content
Back to Global Rankings

NIGERIA: An Introduction

Contributors:
Sofunde, Osakwe, Ogundipe & Belgore Logo
View firm profile

TRENDS THAT HAVE IMPACTED THE NIGERIAN LEGAL SPACE OVER THE PAST YEAR

The Nigerian legal profession has witnessed some significant occurrences over the past year. This article seeks to highlight some of these trends and to provide some commentary on their implications on the profession.

LEGAL TRENDS  

1. Amendment of the AMCON Act, 2019. 

On 12 November 2021, a bill to amend the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Act, 2019, became law.

The Act contains a new Section 34 (1) (b) which provides that notwithstanding that a debtor has provided security for its indebtedness, where such security is insufficient, AMCON is empowered to acquire legal title over other, unencumbered, assets of a debtor. It is expected that this provision will witness AMCON seeking to collect the bad debts.

2. Court of Appeal Rules 2021 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be seen in the administration of justice by courts. Like many other courts in Nigeria, the Court of Appeal has introduced new provisions intended to make use of technological advancements that can make the judicial process more effective. These include provisions for the electronic filing of process, regulating the use of court room technology using court recording, transcribing systems and videoconferencing. 

The fact that the technology now being sought to be deployed has been available for a few years does not detract from the value of their introduction. The obvious concerns, however, continue to be whether their introduction will produce any noticeable improvements.

3. Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2022 

In 2013, following the signalling by the federal government to enforce provisions of the 2011 Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act against Designated Non-Financial Institutions (“DNFIs”) with more vigour, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) commenced proceedings before the Federal High Court that sought to declare unconstitutional and ultra vires provisions of the 2011 Act, in so far as they sought to regulate the legal professions. The defendants to that action were the federal Attorney General, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). In December 2014, the NBA’s action succeeded in the High Court. The appeal against the decision (pursued only by CBN) was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in June 2017.

During the pendency of the CBN’s appeal to the Supreme Court, the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2022 came into force. Legal practitioners are, once again, included in the definition of DNFIs, which has, effectively, overruled the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. It is anticipated that the NBA will seek to further challenge this development, albeit that at the time of writing, nothing appears to have been done to challenge the new legislation.

4. Technological Advancements 

The legal profession is one of the most conservative professions in the world. The evolving technologies have pushed the conventional practice of law to the background. Legal practice is now more complex and competitive today than ever due to the evolution of technologies, and the effects of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic on the profession.

As indicated under 2 above, most of the rules and Practice Directions of the Courts in Nigeria have incorporated virtual hearing in them. This will enable clients who are based abroad to give evidence virtually.

Across the globe, industries are responding to the fourth industrial revolution and the legal sector is no exception. Increased automation and artificial intelligence are fundamentally altering the way we live and work, and with the outbreak of COVID-19, this transition has been accelerated. We saw a lot of law firms increase their digital footprints to accommodate remote working amongst other changes. 2022 is poised to see a continuation of these trends.

With the addition of technology techniques, lawyers will need to remain agile with the business landscape to build stable and profitable practices.

5. Economic and Political Realities Affecting Legal Practitioners and Clientele

Current economic and political realities have taken their toll on many areas of economic activity. The legal profession has not been spared. Effects on legal practice have included its continuing inability to attract the best minds into the profession or to retain its best practitioners within Nigeria.