Was the NBA President “In Attendance” During the September 2020 Call-to-the-Bar Ceremonies in Abuja, Nigeria?

(by Udems)


An explanation offered by Armorel Young on pro.com, a platform that offers opportunities for translation and explanations of terms and short phrases, runs thus:

Someone who is ‘in attendance’ at a meeting is physically present there but is not one of the people actually involved in carrying out the business of the meeting - someone "in attendance" is in effect an observer or visitor; he or she would not normally take part in the discussion that takes place and is not entitled to participate in any voting that takes place.

Examples of situations in which a person may be ‘in attendance’ someone who has come because they need to be present for informational reasons even though they are not entitled to contribute; a guest who has been invited to speak on a particular issue; a trainee who is learning by observing; a minutes secretary who is taking notes but is not entitled to contribute or vote. If a meeting is held of a particular group of people - e.g. the directors of a company - anyone who is not a member of that group but who is nevertheless there for some particular reason will be ‘in attendance.’ One more example: I am a trustee of a charity.

 Last time the group of trustees met we invited along a person who is interested in becoming a trustee in the future. That person was described as being ‘in attendance’ - he was there but not yet participating as a trustee, so not entitled to influence discussions or vote. In the UK ‘present’ and ‘in attendance’ have a particular/specific meaning in the context of meetings and are used as formal terms in the minutes in the way that I have described - minutes first list those ‘present’ the people authorized to conduct the business of the meeting), followed by ‘in attendance’ (people there as visitors or observers), followed by ‘apologies for absence ‘). 

While the terms may be used informally with many other shades of meaning, this is nevertheless common formal practice - at least in my experience of many busines”


“In attendance” may also be used to refer to the status of someone who is invited to a meeting to advise the meeting or to give additional information about topics under discussion, whether or not they attend for the full duration of the meeting. Lawyers invited to come and brief the meeting, etc.


I read a piece of news published under the headline, “Call to the Bar Ceremonies: NBA President In Attendance as NBA Congratulates New Wigs,” and I reasoned that, with due respect, it’s grammatically and legally incorrect to say that NBA President was “in attendance” at any Call to the Bar Ceremony. The correct way to say it is, “NBA President participated at Call to the Bar Ceremonies”, or, “NBA President was present at the Call to the Bar Ceremonies”. The NBA President, being himself a Bencher (i.e., a member of the Body of Benchers), is an active participant (not a guest, nor a visitor or an invitee) at the Call-to-the-Bar Ceremonies. 

The responsibility of formal Call to the Bar of eligible aspirants to the Bar is exclusively that of the Body of Benchers, of which the NBA President is an automatic member by virtue of his office, pursuant to section 3(1)(i) of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L11, LFN, 2004 (Revised Edition). Only outsiders and invited guests (like parents, relatives, friends and well-wishers) of the call-to-the-bar candidates (who are also participants at the ceremonies) are said to be “in attendance” thereat.

Who else is president at the call-to-the-bar Ceremonies? Those said to be present at the ceremonies are limited to:

(a) All members of the Body of Benchers (including the NBA President); and

(b) All aspirants to the Bar who have been certified eligible for the current call to the bar.

What about members of the Nigerian Law School community who come during Call-to-the-Bar Ceremonies; Are they “present” or “in attendance”? A difficult question to answer, indeed. But the truth remains that, in line with corporate organizational governance rules and principles, especially relating to corporate meetings, and pursuant to extant law, members of the Nigerian Law School community fall within the category of those “in attendance,” at the call-to-the-bar ceremonies. However, please note that the current Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Hayatu Chiroma, SAN, is among those said to be “present” at such ceremonies, being a current member of the Body of Benchers, having been nominated by the NBA President, who is empowered by section 3(1)(k) of the Legal Practitioners Act, to nominate into the Body of Benchers, “thirty legal practitioners” who are to serve as members of that Body for a three-year term.


At this juncture, come to think of this, law apart, is it not unjust to categorize NLS (Nigerian Law School) workers and officials among those said to be “in attendance,” instead of “present” at a ceremony marking (and which is) the graduation of their own students, students trained by the NLS. That’s a big question, but the answer lies in rule of law and justice. In the meantime, the expression “Call to the Bar Ceremonies: NBA President in Attendance as NBA Congratulates New Wigs”, in order to be both legally and grammatically correct, ought to have read “Call to the Bar Ceremonies: NBA President Present as NBA Congratulates New Wigs”

To be continued.


Sylvester Udemezue (udems)

(Coordinator, English for Lawyers (EFL), Nigeria)

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