A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has welcomed the decision of the court to establish an alternative association for Nigerian lawyers.

Justice Gladys Olotu of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in a December 15, 2023 judgment ordered the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to register the Nigerian Law Society (NLS) as an alternative association for lawyers in the country.

Agbakoba said that he was not opposed to having more than one association of lawyers because the Constitution said anyone was free to associate.

His words: “I don’t see why we can’t have more than one NBA. There’s no reason. The accountants have two. So, personally speaking, I’m not opposed to having more than one association of lawyers because the Constitution says that anyone is free to associate.

“It’s a decision that has been supported by the constitution. But whether the new association can become popular is a different question. But whether it’s entitled to be registered is also a different question, because you may get registered like ICAN and ANAN; but nobody hears of ANAN; It’s only ICAN (that is known).

“This same argument was raging about 30 years ago when ICAN was the only accounting body. And a new one came and said they also wanted to be registered. So, at the end of the day, it’s not about whether it’s only one NBA; it’s about what the NBA does for its members. So I have nothing against having more than one body of lawyers.” 

Former Chairman of NBA Security Agencies\ Relations Committee (NBA-SARC), Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN also welcomed the judgment, saying it is a victory for the Nigerian Constitution and lawyers in Nigeria.

He commended the judiciary for the judgment, adding that the Nigerian legal practice sector will now witness competitive development owing to the possible multiplicity of lawyers’ associations.

He congratulated the leadership and members of the Nigerian Law Society (NLS) on the victory recorded against the Corporate Affairs Commission in the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2023 between Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN & 5 Ors (as Promoters of Nigerian Law Society) v. Corporate Affairs Commission.

But another former NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN), made a case for all Nigerian lawyers to remain under the NBA.

Usoro said: “This is not a question of what the Constitution says or what the Constitution doesn’t say. I’m talking more about what is the best thing for the country and for the body of lawyers. What is best? What would be more meaningful?” 

Justice Olotu 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.

The judge ordered the CAC “to approve for registration and thereafter register any of the proposed names submitted to it on behalf of the plaintiffs, being: the Nigerian Law Society, Nigerian Bar Society, Nigerian Lawyers’ Society, and the Association of Legal Practitioners of Nigeria and issue a certificate of registration to that effect.”

The NBA, established in 1933, has consistently striven to be the sole association for Nigerian lawyers. In recent years, there have been rising agitations for the formation of alternative associations, which the NBA has been resisting.

Efforts by THE PUNCH to get the reaction of the NBA President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), and the association’s spokesperson, Akorede Lawal, to the judgment proved abortive as multiple calls to their lines were not answered. They also did not respond to text messages sent to their mobile lines.

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