NBA Benin Branch Confronts Estate Agency Company over Encroachment in Law Practice as Firm Discontinues, Pays Reparations

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The Nigerian Bar Association NBA Benin Branch has challenged an estate agency firm upon a complaint of encroachment in legal profession.

The firm was found blameworthy and accordingly held accountable for its misdeeds by undertaking to desist from all of its offending actions and inactions, and pay restitution in lieu of prosecution.

It is to be noted that the legal profession finds its traditional prerogatives under increasing challenge with the push for multidisciplinary professional practices, direct encroachment by a variety of service providers (accountants, consultants, estate agents, paralegals, etc.), and mounting attacks on the profession for its apparent greed (e.g., huge fees from the lawyers, as they increasingly find themselves working not as independent professionals but as employees of bureaucratically organised corporations.

The full report by NBA Benin Branch

Following several complaints and negative reports concerning some real estate firms in Benin, whose mode of operations offend the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) and undermine the legal profession, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin (Lion) Branch, Pius Oiwoh caused an investigation to be carried out with respect to the complaints.

The investigation revealed that some actions of an estate agency violated certain provisions of the LPA. This particular real estate firm employed a lawyer (placed on a monthly salary of about 30 thousand naira) whose job description is basically to prepare deeds of transfer and other legal documents for members of the public who patronizes the firm; while the legal fees for preparing these documents go solely to the estate company. It was also discovered that the said real estate firm makes publications and radio advertisements where it claims to have a legal department in its firm that can prepare deeds of transfer for its customers; as such they need not get a lawyer of their own

As a result of the above findings, the Chairman of the NBA Benin Branch summoned the CEO and Managing Director of the said real estate agency to the NBA Secretariat. The meeting held yesterday the 22nd day of September, 2021 at 6:30pm and in attendance were the NBA Chairman, Pius I. Oiwoh Esq.; some members of the Branch Executive Council (Charles Igiebor Esq., Osarodion Igiede Esq., Osayuki King Agbonghae Esq. and Dennis Osaretin Esq.,); other members of the Bar (Emmanuel Okorie Esq., Abraham Aluna Esq. and Abutu-Olisa Esq.); the CEO of estate agency, the said young lawyer employed by the real estate firm, the Chairman of the Association of Real Estate and Property Managers (AREAPM), Mr. Philip Ebuetse; members of AREAPM’s Executive Council; and other members of AREAPM.

In the course of the meeting, it was discovered that the findings of the Bar with respect to the internal operations and publications of estate agency were true. The Executive Council therefore found this misconduct and misrepresentation unlawful and an invasion of our professional space as lawyers; as only a Law Firms can employ lawyers to render legal services to a third party or members of the public. It was also pointed out that the lawyer employed by the company, who admitted to have prepared over 50 deeds since being engaged in May, 2021, acted in breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for Legal Practitioners, which in turn warrants that the needful be done, i.e, referral to the appropriate disciplinary committee.

To this end, the Chairman of the Bar stated in clear terms that the Bar will take all necessary legal steps to ensure that the law take its course as far as the matter is concerned. However, with the passionate plea of the Chairman of AREAPM and the CEO of the company who at the time was remorseful, contrite and ready to make amends, the Executive Council decided to place the company on a watch list subject to the following:

1. Withdraw the said offensive publication and radio advertisement.
2. Tender an unreserved written apology with an undertaken to discontinue and desist from doing such verboten acts.
3. Make a monetary reparation of N1,000,000 (one million naira) to the credit of the NBA Benin Branch (of which the sum of N500,000 was instantly paid to the branch account.)

The CEO was thankful for the soft landing given to him by the Bar and promised to assist in exposing others who errode our space including lawyers also.

The meeting lasted till 8:30pm.

Executive Council of the NBA Benin (Lion) Branch will always ensure that the legal profession is not undermined in any way as the Bar is willing and ready to ward off any unauthorised body or entity that wanders into the legal market space

Best Regards,

For: The Executive Council, NBA Benin (Lion) Branch

Osayuki King Agbonghae
Chairman, NBA YLF, Benin.

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