Lagos lawyer, Otolorin Faleti has joined the furore over who is the first Nigerian lawyer.
Accoring to him, the late Sapara Williams and not the late Asuquo Etim Inyang was the first Nigerian lawyer.
Calabar branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, William Anwan at an event to honour Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen of the Supreme Court was reported to have said: “The first lawyer in Nigeria was from the Eastern Region, though we are yet to confirm details. We were told that Sapara Williams was not truly a Nigerian, but was a Nigerian by naturalisation. He was a Sierra Leonean returnee, who came to Nigeria and settled here.”
Chief Judge of Cross River State Okoi Ikpi Itam also told the gathering that Asuquo Etim Inyang, was the first Nigerian to be called to the bar.
But, Faleti in a statement, titled: “First Nigerian lawyer – settled issue” however queried how “Inyang who enrolled on August 1, 1924 as No. 76 became the first Nigerian to be called to the bar when there were 75 others before him.”
“Bench and Bar in Nigeria” published by the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi in Chapter 11 page 314 listed Christopher Sapara Williams as “the First Indigenous Male Lawyer in the federation,” adding that he was enrolled to practise in Nigeria on January 30, 1888.
Asuquo Etim Inyang was listed as the first Indigenous Male Lawyer in Cross River State, he was enrolled to practise in Nigeria on August 1, 1924.
Faleti regretted that no one challenged William Anwan on this claim which he said has no basis in fact or in law.
“For over 100 years, history tells us that the first Nigerian called to the English bar in February 20, 1886 was Sapara Williams from Ilesa in Western Nigeria (now Osun State). He was enrolled as No.1 as WILLIAM N.H). This has not been questioned or challenged until I came across the above claim.
“Of course there is nothing wrong with revisiting history and over the years, there has been new light thrown upon interpretation of history and not of history itself.
The motive of this revisionism is unclear to me but, it is completely wrong to turn history on its head to fit into our preconceived prejudices. It is a greater disservice to those who propagate it as they diminish themselves by such false claim”, he added.