Legal Nigeria

NBA faults judgment backing rival lawyers’ association

The Nigerian Bar Association has faulted the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordering the Corporate Affairs Commission to register a new association for lawyers in the country.

Established in 1933, the NBA has aimed to be the exclusive organisation for Nigerian lawyers, fending off opposition from groups and individuals attempting to establish alternative associations.

But in a judgment delivered on December 15, 2023, Justice Gladys Olotu ordered the CAC to register an alternative association for lawyers in the country.

The judge held that the right to peaceful assembly and association, guaranteed under Section 40 of the Constitution, Article 10 of the ACHPR, and Article 20 of the UDHR, covered the formation of an alternative association for Nigerian lawyers.

Speaking on the judgment for the first time last week, the NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), said the plaintiffs and the judge were wrong not to have joined the NBA in the suit.

Doing that, he said, denied the NBA the right to be heard in the matter.

Maikyau said, “We should have been sued because the reason for the rejection of that registration was the Nigerian Bar Association. Now you go to court to challenge that decision of the Corporate Affairs Commission and you removed the NBA? Why didn’t you want the NBA to come and also ventilate its own position?

“Because I, as president, also wrote an objection to the registration of any of those names. The NBA has recognition by statute; the NBA is recognised in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Maikyau, however, said the CAC and the NBA would appeal the decision of the high court.

He said, “Every single lawyer, everyone who is admitted to practise law in Nigeria as a barrister and a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria is compulsorily a member of the Nigerian Bar Association. The Corporate Affairs Commission, I am aware, that is a party, will appeal that decision, because you cannot make an order that affects a person adversely when you haven’t given him the opportunity to be heard. Both the parties in that suit have the duty to either tell the court that the NBA is a necessary party, call the NBA, or let us hear the NBA. The court too, by the rules of the court, is empowered in a situation like that to order the joinder of the necessary party; but that was not done.

“But I can assure you that the NBA, because we are interested because we are who we are by law, not by choice, by law, we will challenge that decision at the Court of Appeal because we are interested. An order cannot be made against the party when you have not given that party the opportunity to be heard.”

The NBA president said the association had maintained a sealed lip on the matter because it was “inconsequential”.

He said, “You didn’t hear from us because that thing is inconsequential. It does not scratch the lowest surface of the NBA. We are not perturbed. You can see the NBA is growing stronger and stronger.”
Source: The PUNCH