A Legal Practitioner, Mr. Ben Oloko as approached the Enugu State High Court, Obollo-Afor Judicial Division on 6th day of August, 2020 in suit no. OB/27/2020 praying the Court to declare as unconstitutional, compulsory membership of Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) by all Lawyers who are being/called to the Bar amongst other issues.
This is contained in his originating summons dated 10th day of July, 2020 which was made available to TheNigeriaLawyer.
While speaking to TheNigeriaLawyer on his reasons for instituting the action, he noted that it is an infraction of the 1999 Constitution to compulsorily make membership of an association a must for anyone.
“I filed the suit because I believe the legal profession is to set the standard in upholding the rule of law in Nigeria and indeed globally. Compulsory associations are antithetical to the spirit and letters of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Every person has a right to choose whom he associates with and automatic membership of NBA upon call to the Nigerian Bar detracts from this trenchant constitutional right.” He said.
Meanwhile, in the originating summons which was made available to TheNigeriaLawyer, he sought 4 reliefs from the Court.
First, he urged the Court to declare the mandatory membership unconstitutional.
The reliefs read as follows:
“1. A Declaration that the Nigerian Bar Association is not a compulsory association to which every legal practitioner becomes a member automatically upon call to the Bar or commencement and/or continuance of the oractice of the legal profession in Nigeria; but completely private and voluntary organization of legal practitioners who are interested in the set objectives of the association per time
“2. A declaration that the Nigerian Bar Association lacks the power to increase the Annual Practicing Fee for legal practitioners in Nigeria, same being a function reserved for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, hence the Annual Practicing Fees remains as stipulated under the Legal Practitioners (Bar Practicing Fees) Notice 2002, viz, Senior Advocates of Nigeria (N20, 000.00); Legal Practitioners of 13 years or more standing post call (N10, 000.00); Legal Practitioners of 10 years’ or more standing but less than 15 years’ post call (N7, 500.00); Legal Practitioners of 5 years’ standing post call (N4, 000.00); Legal Practitioners of 5 years standing post call (N2, 000.00)
“3. A declaration that the Nigerian Bar Association lacks the power to produce and/or issue stamp and seal to be used by all legal practitioners in Nigeria in a professed bid to curb the encroachment of quacks into the practice of the legal profession, same functions having been conferred on the Registrar of the Supreme Court by statute
“4. An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant either by itself or its agent(s) or servant(s) from imposing any form of strictures and/or duties and/or obligations on the plaintiff and indeed all other legal practitioners who may opt not to belong to the defendant’s association (including payment of annual dues; mandatory acquisition and use of Nigerian Bar Association seal and stamp on processes and documents) that tends in a way to constitute the defendant as a general umpire, overseer and/or superintendent of all legal practitioners in their practice of the legal profession in Nigeria, including the plaintiff and other legal practitioners who may choose not to be members of the defendant’s association.”
Aloko said he filed the suit because he feels compulsory membership of NBA is a violation of section 40 of the constitution which gives citizens right to choose who to associate with
“I filed the suit because I believe the legal profession is to set the standard in upholding the rule of law in Nigeria and indeed globally. Compulsory associations are antithetical to the spirit and letters of section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Every person has a right to choose whom he associates with and automatic membership of NBA upon call to the Nigerian Bar detracts from this trenchant constitutional right.” Aloko said
He added that the suit will be heard upon resumption after the annual vacation.