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Why new lawyers’ association may not affect main body

Some lawyers say the newly formed Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) announced recently as an association for professional lawyers may not outlive the existing Nigerian…

Some lawyers say the newly formed Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) announced recently as an association for professional lawyers may not outlive the existing Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) due to likely credibility issues.

The establishment of the LSN-led by a distinguished lawyer, Kunle Ogunba (SAN), as the president, was announced through a letter to the Body of Benchers dated 24th of October, 2022, with reference Number LDN/BOB/C/2022/Vol.1/001, which also informed of the existence of the national executive committee of the new association.

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Although a majority of Nigerian lawyers do not approve of the new body, this development is seen as an attempt to rival and break the monopoly of the existing umbrella professional of lawyers, the NBA. 

According to Douglas Ogbankwa Esq, LSN publicity secretary, the LSN was founded and registered as a national organization of lawyers admitted to practice law in Nigeria and with membership spread all over Nigeria.

The certificate of registration of the LSN with the Corporate Affairs Commission points out that the association aims to empower the legal profession with quality member services (high standards of learning, competence, and professional conduct); facilitate access to justice; maintain and advance the cause of justice; and promote the rule of law, through advocacy and good governance. 

The legal profession in Nigeria has had a chequered history with several challenges to the solidarity and quality of products and services as envisaged by the founding fathers.

The Northern chapters of the NBA had in 2010 threatened to form a separate association over a move by the Rotimi Akeredolu-led association’s decision to relocate the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the association which was scheduled for Yola, Adamawa State.

Similarly, at the height of the controversy over the withdrawal of Governor Nasir El Rufai from the list of speakers at the NEC conference of the association in August 2020 over alleged human rights violations, some lawyers, mostly from the North, under the aegis Concerned Lawyers, flirted with the idea of the New Nigerian Bar Association (NNBA).

Although the move to set up other legal associations is in line with Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, some lawyers have dismissed the new association as a distraction to the main body of lawyers, the NBA, others see it as a welcome development.

Speaking on the development, Dr Sam Kargbo said having been called to a central bar, it was wrong to set up a parallel body of professional lawyers to rival the umbrella body.

“We have a national bar and the Legal Practitioners’ Act recognises only one body, and that is the NBA,” Kargbo said.

“Why would anybody want to establish another association in competition with the NBA? To me, it is a distraction.”

E.M.D. Umukoro Esq, in his reaction, said the new association might not see the light of day due to the structure of Nigeria, maintaining that the promoters are not ready for what it takes.

“For a drastic change to take place, most of the affected people must be carried along, and those spearheading the move must be rugged and dogged.

“The agenda must be people (more lawyers welfare and progressive) oriented, and they must be willing to weather the storm.”For his part, Sylvester Udemezu Esq, the new association may be a ploy to destroy the NBA due to the failure of its electoral process.

“If they succeed, God forbid, what will be the implications on the NBA and its members? Anyway, the balkanization or destruction might not come as easily or as quickly as its promoters want it. But there’s yet another angle to it.

“If the NBA is destroyed or balkanized, we all would be the worse for it; we all will regret it,” he said.

“Then, none (not even the now disenchanted seniors, silks, and benchers who have made themselves willing parties for this shameful desecration and disorganization of the NBA) would feel so proud any longer to be called a lawyer, not to talk of a SAN, a bencher, etc.,” he added.

However, a former NBA Ikorodu branch chairman, Bayo Akinlade Esq said that it is a good start. 

“I welcome the development and await the LSN constitution. Heaven will not fall,” he said.

Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq said freedom of association, enshrined under the Nigerian Constitution permits the establishment of any other private association for lawyers, adding that the LSN should resolve any grievances with the NBA before commencing its operation.

“So, it does not require any licence of either NBA or others to function.

“There are many other professional organisations by lawyers already in operation.”

A major credibility crisis may have already enveloped the new association as one of its main founders, Prince (Dr.) Richard Oma Ahonaruogho (SAN), has disclaimed the protem national executive of LSN.

 He said the new executive committee members announced by the LSN were not known to the body, adding that the intention for incorporating the association in 1994 was due to some issues in the association.  

He further said, “The LSN was incorporated on 28th December 1994, by my good self, Richard Oma Ahonaruogho, as convener and as a secretary with Mr. Charles I. Idehen as chairman.

“The idea was to save the NBA from self-destruction after the 1992 Port Harcourt crises and we have over the years reviewed the need to keep the Nigerian Lawyers under the main umbrella of the NBA.

“Recent events in the NBA have led to an increasing agitation for the full commencement of activities of the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) for which some representatives of the persons now claiming to be executives of the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) held a meeting with me and one of the promoters of the Law Society of Nigeria on 6th October 2022, in Lagos, where their appeal for the commencement of full activities was tabled, considered and deferred for further consultations with some of the other key promoters and the sole surviving Trustees.”

An official of the Yakubu Maikyau-led NBA, who pleaded anonymity, said there is no cause for alarm as the national president “is firmly on it.”

 

 

From Adelanwa Bamgboye, Lagos & John C. Azu

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