A Claimant Counsel that gives evidence in support of an alibi, results to prejudice and this violates the Rules of Professional Conduct that extensively provide for the need to avoid conflicts that may elicit embarrassment to the Counsel. Legal practitioners shall not agree to take on any matter if counsel knows or ought to reasonably know that the Counsel or another Counsel in the firm, may be called upon as a witness, unless the testimony is of a formal nature based on uncontested facts, or where the testimony is as to the nature or value of the legal services rendered to the client. It is extremely detrimental to a case that Counsel should give evidence in a case in which same Counsel appears professionally. If the evidence of Counsel is thought necessary, Counsel is advised to decline representation.

In Nigeria, Part B of the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS, 2007 regulates lawyers as witnesses for clients. Rule 20(1) state as follows:

(1) Subject to sub-rule (2) of this rule a lawyer shall not accept to act in any contemplated or pending litigation if he knows or ought reasonably to know that he or a lawyer in his firm may be called or ought to be.
(2) A lawyer may undertake an employment on behalf of a client and he or a lawyer in his firm may testify for the client-
(a) if the testimony will relate solely to an uncounted matter;
(b) if the testimony will relate solely to a matter of formality and there is no reason to believe that substantial evidence will be offered in opposition to the testimony;
(c) if the testimony will relate solely to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case by the lawyer or his firm to the client; or called as a witness.
(d) as to any matter if refusal would work a substantial hardship on the client because of the distinctive value of the lawyer or his firm as particular case.
The imperative for counsel to avoid conflicts and perhaps embarrassment cannot be overemphasized.

LEGALTIPS is anchored by Ms CIA Ofoegbunam, an Abuja-based lawyer who is passionate about legal practice.
LEGALTIPS offers quick hints on substantive law, as well as rules of practice and procedure, and serves as a handy reference guide to lawyers, especially in court.
Published on a weekly basis, the LEGALTIPS Series is CIA’s modest contribution to legal development in Nigeria.