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NBA membership now required for lawyers

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By Timothy Akintola

Formation of Law Society of Nigeria to rival the Nigerian Bar Association.

Recently, the Enugu State High Court has affirmed that the membership of the Nigerian Bar Association will now be a compulsory factor for lawyers that are called to the bar and practicing in Nigeria. This decision, which was first deliberated and then delivered on July 29, was however reported by the Nigerian Lawyers on November 1, two days after a fragment of lawyers announced the establishment of a body that is proposed to rival the Nigerian Bar Association.

Prior, Mr. Oloko had filed a suit, demanding that the court declare the Nigerian Bar Association as a non-compulsory association. He pointed that the membership of the NBA was basically a completely private and voluntary organisation of legal practitioners, interested in partaking in the objectives of the association and have exercised their free will to participate in the activities of the association. He also argued that the Nigerian Bar Association lacked the power to increase the yearly practicing fee for lawyers.

Court not privileged with the luxury of swimming against tide.

Reports regarding the establishment of the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) had earlier surfaced, with the society spearheaded by Kunle Ogunba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The formation of this law society which is posed to be a rival association and corrodes the long dominion of the Nigerian Bar Association is an evident insubordination of the recent court judgement which was delivered by the Enugu State High Court. R.O Odugu, the judge who delivered this judgement noted that it was immensely important for every lawyer that has been called to the Nigerian Bar to be a member of the Nigerian Bar Association.

Odugu made mention of differing judicial precedents that he noted had bound him to block all the attempts by lawyers to move from the NBA. Verdicts of the Court of Appeal in related cases such Kehinde versus NBA, Fawehinmi versus NBA and Chinwo versus NBA were cited by the judge for upholding his ruling, further stating that the court was not privileged with a luxury for swimming against the tide. Moving on, he stated that the summary of the present law position, as decided by superior courts was that membership of the Nigerian Bar Association was automatically dependent on being called to the bar.

Chief Registrar of Supreme Court responsible for practicing fee collection.

He also stated that before being called to bar, it was mandatory for the practicing fees to have been paid in the bar practicing year, as well as the need to choose a branch of the NBA to identify with. In the argument, the plaintiff also claimed that the NBA lacked the influence of collecting practicing fees directly from lawyers, which the judge upon citation of segments of the Legal Practitioners’ Act, ruled that it was the obligation of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to see to the collection of the practicing fee from lawyers. As to the provisions cited by this Judge, the Supreme Court’s Registrar was to also pay the NBA a sum equal to ninth-tenth of the cumulative amount of practicing fee received per year. The judge however awarded the sum of N50,000 against the NBA and in favour of the plaintiff.

However, in spite of the court ruling which declared the membership of the Nigerian Bar Association compulsory for legal practitioners called to bar in the country, some lawyers, as of October 30th, publicized the formation of a new association, the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN). Per reports, the establishment of this group was made known during a statement issued by Douglas Ogbankwa, the National Publicity Secretary of the group. This formation was established to compete with the NBA, which had been the sole Regulation umbrella for legal practitioners in Nigeria since its inception in 1933.

LSN built on redefining the ideas of predecessors in the legal profession.

Mr. Douglas, whilst justifying the emergence of the Law Society of Nigeria, noted that the association was built on a major goal for redefining the ideas of the predecessors of the legal profession in Nigeria. This formation has been regarded as the newest attempt by legal professionals to interrupt the Monopoly of the NBA as the only statutorily recognized body of Nigerian lawyers. Recall in 2020, some lawyers from the northern part of the country declared a break away, as a result of the then National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NBA to disinvite Gov. Nasir el-Rufai from speaking at the association’s event. This issue was however salvaged at a meeting by Mr. Apata with some of the leaders of about 40 branches of the NBA in the northern region in September 2020.


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