A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court will on Monday hear the suit filed by a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Nimi Walson-Jack, challenging his purported suspension and withdrawal of his rights by the NBA due to his acting as lawyer to the Law Society of Nigeria(NLS), a new association of lawyers in Nigeria.
Walson-Jack is asking the court to determine whether lawyers are liable to sanctions for lawfully representing clients.
The National Executive Committee(NEC) of NBA had passed a resolution in one of its meetings, to strip Walson-Jack of all his privileges as a former General Secretary, and also suspended him as a member of NEC for asking as lawyer to NLS, a new body of lawyers.
In the suit against the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA, filed by Chief J-K. Gadzama, SAN, the claimant is seeking a declaration that the purported stripping of his privileges as a past General Secretary and suspension from membership of the National Executive Council (NEC) by the NEC of the Nigerian Bar Association is unlawful, illegal and void ab initio, having been passed in express violation of the Nigerian Bar Association Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021).
Hon. Walson-Jack is also seeking, among others reliefs, a declaration that the resolution of the NBA as contained in the communique signed by the NBA President, Mr Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN, is a violation of the constitutional right to counsel of one’s choice, the extant provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act, the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 as it relates to the representation of Client by legal practitioners, and Basic Principles on the Role of lawyers adopted on 07 September 1990 by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba.
The suit seeks a declaration of the FCT High Court that the resolution and the purported suspension violate his right to a fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right Act.
Hon. Walson-Jack contends that he was neither informed of the allegations against him nor allowed to be heard before being tried for a non-existent offence by the persons who constituted themselves into Accusers, Prosecutors and Judges in their cause.
Amongst the declarations sought from the court is that it is not cognisable under the extant laws in Nigeria that a legal practitioner can be sanctioned for lawfully representing his clients and that there is no provision in the extant Nigerian Bar Association Constitution 2015 (as amended in 2021) prohibiting a legal practitioner and member of the Nigerian Bar Association from supporting, advocating, defending, promoting, or representing the promoters of the establishment of another Association of Lawyers in Nigeria.
Hon. Walson-Jack holds the position that in representing the promoters of a new Lawyers Association distinct from the Nigerian Bar Association, he did not commit any offence; instead, he was fulfilling his professional responsibility as a Lawyer.
Legal Analysts, Human Rights practitioners and Observers believe that the decision of the Court has implications for the right of every person to Counsel of their choice, which is a fundamental principle enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, the Legal Practitioners Act, the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 other global conventions, treaties, protocols, and national legislation.
The matter has been assigned to the FCT High Court in Jikwoyi, and will come up today, Monday May 15, 2023.
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