The federal high court in Abuja has ordered the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to approve the registration of Nigerian Law Society (NLS), a new professional body of lawyers.
NLS is a rival association to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which has existed as the sole law association since 1933.
The plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2023 contended that they had submitted two separate applications to the CAC for registration as an incorporated trustee but the commission refused to approve any of the names proposed.
According to them, the CAC claimed that the names are similar to that of the NBA and would be misleading.
The plaintiffs contended that the actions of the defendant violated their right under section 40 of the CFRN 1999, article 10 of the African Charter, article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR).
They prayed the court to declare that having “national spread” is not a precondition for registration as an incorporated trustee contrary to the claim of the defendant.
They also prayed for a declaration that all the names submitted, including the Nigerian Law Society, Nigerian Bar Society, Society of Nigerian Lawyers, Nigerian Lawyers Society and Association of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, are not similar to the NBA and not misleading.
The plaintiffs further prayed the court to hold that they do not require a “letter of no objection” from the NBA or any other association as a pre-condition for valid registration.
In total, seven reliefs were sought by the plaintiffs.
Delivering judgment, Gladys Olotu, presiding judge, ordered the CAC “to approve for registration and thereafter register any of the proposed names submitted to it on behalf of the plaintiffs…and issue a certificate of registration to that effect”.
The court granted all the reliefs sought.
The plaintiffs are Bolaji Ayorinde, Audu Mela Nunghe, Garba Gajam, Emeka Ichoku, Chioma Ferguson and Tejumola Adigun.
Although the judgment was delivered on December 15, 2023, the enrolment order was obtained on January 12.
In a statement on Monday, Bayo Akinlade, NLS publicity secretary, said: “It is unfortunate that the NBA leadership would seek to oppose the establishment of NLS”.
“It is unfortunate that some people will use the NBA to work great injustice. It is unfortunate that the NBA whose motto is: “upholding the rule of law” will attempt to use its privileged position to deny its own members of the right to freely associate.
“Nothing more embarrassing than for lawyers to be intimidated and cowered not to fight for themselves and their right to associate freely.
“Was it the intention of our founding fathers to bind us to one association? If that was the intention then NBA shouldn’t have been registered under part C of CAMA.”