As an attorney, leaving Nigeria to live and practice in another country is not always an easy undertaking. In addition to studying and getting acquainted with laws that are often times different from Nigeria’s, you will also be required to get proof of your admission and current good standing with the Nigerian Bar. Not being physically present in Nigeria, the latter can seem to be an uphill task. It need not be. I got mine without much difficulty. To get a certificate of good standing without going to the Supreme Court, simply write and send a letter of application for same addressed to: The Chief Registrar Supreme Court of Nigeria 3 Arms Zone Aso Villa Abuja FCT Nigeria
The letter should contain the date of your admission to the Bar and your enrolment number. You can see your enrolment number on your call to bar certificate (SCNO….) but if, like me, you were called around 2008, your certificate may not contain your enrolment number. However, if you took part in the data verification exercise conducted in 2011 by the NBA for the building of the Nigeria Lawyers database, your enrolment number should have been given to you then. That was when I got mine. You may also want to mention your branch of the NBA if you practiced for a while in Nigeria and whether or not you have had to appear before the disciplinary committee. The information helps in processing your application. Finally, state the jurisdiction that requested the certificate and their address so that the Supreme Court can address/send the certificate to them. Don’t forget to attach a copy of your certificate of call to bar because that is the only way to verify your identity as the person making the application.
Fee and Processing Time
At the time I applied for my certificate ( February, 2012), no fee was payable for obtaining the certificate. I hope that is still the case. Mine was ready within two weeks and an email was sent to me by the Information Technology Unit of the Supreme Court to notify me of that fact. I had my brother pick it up from the Supreme Court and mail to me. The Jurisdiction I submitted mine to (California), did not require direct delivery from the Supreme Court. If however you want the Supreme Court to send it by courier to any destination, you will bear the cost of the delivery.
Change of Name
For those who may want the certificate to bear a name different from the one on their call to bar certificates, they will have to apply for a deed poll and that will cost them some money. I didn’t go through that so I do not know the procedure. The Supreme Court does not accept newspaper publication as evidence of change of name. Though I had married and changed my name since my admission to the bar, the jurisdiction I submitted the certificate accepted a certificate of good standing bearing my maiden name. If you need the deed poll, you can contact the Supreme Court with the contact below.
Applying from Abroad
For those outside Nigeria, you don’t need to mail a hard copy of your application. Just scan your call to bar certificate and email it with your application to: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow it up with a call to +2348091318059 or +2348152576253.
I hope you are as lucky as I was. I applied from the US, paid no cent and had mine ready within ten days. I still remain grateful to those diligent civil servants who processed my application without much hassle. I hope others learn from them what it means to be truly at the service of others. God bless them and goodluck to you!
Important Update: I wrote this post in 2012. I understand from recent reports that the phone numbers and email address no longer work–Nigeria problem. In any case, if you try getting your certificate and are unable to, email me at email@example.com.