On Friday, 15th December 2023, the Federal High Court, sitting at Abuja coram Hon. Justice G. K. Olotu, delivered its judgment in favour of the Plaintiffs in Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN & 5 ORS V. Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) (FHC/ABJ/CS/482/2023). 

The Plaintiffs viz Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, SAN, Audu Mela Nunghe, Ambassador Garba Gajam, and Ors. represented by Mr. Clement Onwewunor, SAN, and Mr. Kingdom Okere, a human rights lawyer, argued in their Originating Summons that the Plaintiffs submitted two separate applications to the Defendant for registration as an incorporated trustee but the Defendant, under the leadership of the former Registrar General, Mr. Garba Abubakar, refused to approve any of the names proposed, claiming that the names are similar to that of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and would be misleading. 

The Defendant also claimed lack of spread and national character. 

The Plaintiffs on their part contended that the actions of the Defendant have violated their right under section 40 of the CFRN 1999, article 10 of the African Charter, article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Court, in its judgment rejecting the argument CAC in both the Preliminary Objection and the substantive Suit, held that the right to peaceful assembly and association guaranteed under Section 40 of the CFRN 1999 covers the kind of association the Plaintiffs intend to register, likewise Article 10 of the African Charter and article 20 of the UDHR. The Court also stated that it cannot find anywhere under sections 823, 824, and 825 of CAMA where the spread and national character were stated as pre-conditions for registration of an incorporated trustee by the Defendant.

On the issue of similarity with the NBA, the Court stated that the name "Society of Nigerian Lawyers" does not share any similarity with the Nigerian Bar Association and that "Nigerian Law Society" (NLS) only shares one word with the NBA which is "Nigerian". 

The Court further stated that the "Association of Legal Practitioners" only shares one word with the NBA, which is "Association", but does not mean that the names stated above are identical to that of the NBA and capable of misleading the public. Hence, there is no iota of justification for the Defendant’s rejection of any one of the proposed names on the grounds that the names are identical to the NBA and are capable of misleading the public and so should not be registered.

The Court further held, on the issue of the Plaintiffs seeking approval from the NBA, that the NBA is not a government department or body but just an incorporated trustee and cannot change its status from an incorporated trustee to a government department/body. Therefore the contention of the Defendant in this regard cannot hold water. Accordingly, the Court found in favour of the Plaintiffs.

NLS has since notified the CAC which is expected to register the name, under the leadership of the new Registrar General, Hussaini Ishaq Magaji, SAN, to formally register same.

The year 2024 promises to be a wonderful one for the legal profession and the Judiciary as many radical, dynamic, and impactful changes appear to be on the front burner.

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 members 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.

Bayo Akinlade Esq.
Publicity Secretary,
Nigerian Law Society (NLS).

Attached below is the enrolled order of the court.

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