The Enugu State High Court has declared membership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as compulsory for lawyers called to the bar and practising in Nigeria.
The decision, delivered on 29 July, was reported by The Nigeria Lawyers on 1 November – about two days after a splinter group of lawyers announced the formation of a body to rival NBA.
The formation of the Law Society of Nigeria (LSN) reportedly led by Kunle Ogunba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The formation of the rival association seeking to erode the decades-long domination of the NBA as the only recognised body of Nigerian lawyers is a defiance of the recent judgement delivered by the Enugu State High Court.
The judge, R.O Odugu, who delivered the verdict on a suit filed about two years earlier by an aggrieved lawyer, Ben Oloko, held: “It is compulsory for every lawyer called to the Nigerian Bar to become a member of the NBA.”
The judge cited judicial precedents which he said were binding on him to follow in blocking attempts by lawyers to defect from the NBA, the judge.
He cited the judgements of the Court of Appeal in other related cases such as Kehinde Vs NBA; Fawehinmi Vs NBA; and Chinwo Vs NBA, as precedents, which he upheld, saying “this court is not allowed to swim against the tide.”
“The summary of the current position of the law as decided by superior courts is that membership of Nigerian Bar Association is automatic upon being called to the Bar,” the judge said.
The judge noted that before one is called to the bar, one must have paid the bar practising fees for the year of call and choose a branch of NBA to belong.
The new lawyer is expected to indicate the NBA branch he or she has chosen on the Supreme Court teller for payment of the practising fee.
“Membership of the Nigerian Bar Association is a condition precedent to one being called to the Nigerian bar,” the judge said.