Can a Nigerian-trained lawyer practise outside the country?

AN X (formerly Twitter) user, @LifeofNapaul, has claimed that a Nigerian-trained lawyer cannot practise the legal profession abroad.

He made the claim following the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) which upheld the victory of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election held on February 25, 2023.

The judgement did not sit well with supporters of opposition parties especially the Labour Party and Peoples Democratic Party who filed the petitions against Tinubu’s emergence as Nigeria’s democratically-elected president at the poll.

The post, published on his X page on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, reads:


“You know what’s funny about studying law in Nigeria?! You can’t practice anywhere else in the world. It’s either you practice here in NG were the law books ain’t respected or you go abroad & wash plate.” 

The post has since garnered over one million views,  more than 900 reposts and over 3,000 likes as of Friday, September 8, 2023.

CLAIM 

Nigerian-trained lawyers cannot practise abroad.

Screenshot of the viral social media post

THE FINDINGS 

Findings by The FactCheckHub show that the claim is MOSTLY FALSE

Checks show that a Nigerian-trained lawyer can practice outside the country depending on the requirements set by the host (foreign) country on the practice of law in their nation. 

Nigerian lawyers who sit for and pass law exams in a foreign country, right in their home country, can have multi-jurisdictional qualifications which allow them to practise law in that country and in Nigeria simultaneously, ThisDay newspaper reported. This was also corroborated by a Daily Trust report published in 2022.

However, this isn’t solely an embargo on lawyers trained in Nigeria; traditionally, any foreign lawyer seeking to practice in a different country must fulfil requirements set by the country. This requirement exists due to the potential differences in laws between countries, which makes it important for foreign-trained lawyers to familiarize themselves with the legal framework of their intended practice location.

Even in Nigeria, a foreign lawyer intending to practise must pass the Nigerian Bar exams. Upon successfully passing the Bar final exam, such a foreign-trained lawyer will be admitted to the Nigerian Bar to become eligible to practise law in Nigeria.

A foreign lawyer cannot practise law in Nigeria without passing through the law school except a limited extent where they obtain a warrant from the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) for the purposes of a specific proceeding or appeals arising from such proceedings.

In Canada, it’s based on province. An applicant must apply to the law society of that province and meet its requirements before they can be licensed to practise. The licence is subjected to assessment and examination that will be conducted by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA), a committee responsible for evaluating foreign-trained lawyers seeking admission into the Canadian bar. This is followed by taking the Barrister Licensing examination and the Solicitors Licensing Examination, 10-month internship and character fitness test.

In United Kingdom, a lawyer is either addressed as a barrister or a solicitor. Therefore practising in the United Kingdom means an applicant will have to apply and be qualified as either of the two.

To qualify as a solicitor, the requirements include a law degree equivalent to a UK law degree, passing solicitors’ qualifying examinations (SQE1 and SQE2), two years of qualifying work experience, and passing the character and suitability test. 

To qualify as a barrister, the applicant must possess a law degree, equivalent to a UK law degree, pass the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), complete a one-year studentship with a barrister’s chambers and also pass the character and suitability test.

Speaking with The FactCheckHub, a Nigerian-trained lawyer, based in the United States, Israel Olawunmi, confirmed that Nigerian-trained lawyers can be licensed in the United States and other countries. 

“Nigerian-trained lawyers can easily get licensed in European and North American countries. It’s why you see  Nigerian-trained lawyers in law firms in these parts of the world,” he said. 

He pointed out that tons of Nigerians take the New York and California bar exams yearly, and they get licensed to practice in both states.

“The thing is, the US, UK, Canada, Australia and some of these popular destinations are common law countries; the same legal system practised in Nigeria. So, it makes transitioning easier,” Olawunmi stated.

He explained that Nigerian-trained lawyers can still get licensed to practice in non-common law countries, subject to fulfilling the requirements to practice in the given country.






     

     

    “The Nigerian training is no barrier to practising in other countries. In fact, as a foreign-trained lawyer in Nigeria, to practice in Nigeria, there are some requirements such a person must satisfy, including attending the Nigerian Law School among others,” he added.

    In few cases, he explained that Nigerian-trained lawyers may not even need to attend the law school of the countries they intend to practice.

    He noted further: “In fact, in the UK, if you have practised satisfactorily as a barrister in Nigeria, you do not need to take any exams, you can apply for a waiver and would be ultimately admitted as a barrister in England and Wales.”

    THE VERDICT 

    The claim that a Nigerian-trained lawyer cannot practice outside the country is  MOSTLY FALSE; findings revealed that if the person passes all the necessary requirements of the foreign country where he intends to practice law, then they will be licensed to practice law outside their country.

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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