On Friday, 15th December, 2023, the Federal High Court sitting at Abuja coram Hon. Justice G. K. Olotu delivered its judgment in favour of the Plaintiffs in Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN & 5 ORS V. Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) (FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2023).

The Plaintiffs (Chief Bolaji Ayorinde SAN, Audu Mela Nunghe, Ambassador Garba Gajam and Ors.), represented by Mr. Clement Onwewunor SAN and Mr. Kingdom Okere, a human rights lawyer, argued in their Originating Summons that the Plaintiffs submitted two separate applications to the Defendant for registration as an incorporated trustee but the Defendant, under the leadership of the former Registrar General, Mr. Garba Abubakar, refused to approve any of the names proposed, claiming that the names are similar to that of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and would be misleading. The Defendant also claimed lack of spread and national character.

The Plaintiffs on their part contended that the actions of the Defendant violated their right under section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, Article 10 of the African Charter, and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR).

The Court, in its judgment rejecting the argument of the CAC in both the Preliminary Objection and the substantive Suit, held that the right to peaceful assembly and association guaranteed under Section 40 of the CFRN 1999 covers the kind of association the Plaintiffs intend to register, likewise Article 10 of the African Charter and Article 20 of the UDHR.

The Court also stated that it cannot find anywhere under sections 823, 824 and 825 of CAMA where spread and national character was stated as pre-conditions for registration of an incorporated trustee by the Defendant.

On the issue of similarity with NBA , the court stated that the name ” Society of Nigerian Lawyers” does not share any similarity with the Nigerian Bar Association and that ” Nigerian Law Society” (NLS) only shares one word with the NBA, which is “Nigerian”.

The court further held that “Association of Legal Practitioners” only shares one word with the NBA, which is “Association” but does not mean that the names stated above are identical to that of the NBA and capable of misleading the public. Hence, there is no iota of justification for the Defendant’s rejection of any of the proposed names on the grounds that the names are identical to the NBA and are capable of misleading the public and so should not be registered.

On the issue of the Plaintiffs seeking approval from the NBA, the court further held that NBA is not a government department or body but just an incorporated trustee and cannot change its status from an incorporated trustee to government department/body. Therefore, the contention of the Defendant in this regard cannot hold water. Accordingly, the court found in favour of the Plaintiffs.

NLS has since notified the CAC which is expected to register the name under the leadership of the new Registrar General, Hussaini Ishaq Magaji, SAN, to formally register same.

The year 2024 promises to be a wonderful one for the legal profession and the Judiciary as many radical, dynamic and impactful changes appear to be on the front burner.

Bayo Akinlade Esq
Publicity Secretary NLS

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