Justice Babs O. Kuewunmi of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos state has declared that consent of the Nigerian Bar Association is not a constitutional condition precedent to the formation of an association of specialist lawyers in Nigeria.
In Suit No. FHL/L/CS/1379/2017 between Olumide Babalola and Corporate Affairs Commission, the Plaintiff approached the court for several reliefs when the Commission refused to register his proposed “Consumer Rights Lawyers Association” on the inter alia ground that he had not sought and obtained the consent of the NBA. The Applicant prayed for the following reliefs:
1. A DECLARATION that the Respondent’s Notice of denial dated 2017-09-08 particularly as it pertains to the consent of the Nigerian Bar Association is illegal, unconstitutional as it violates the Applicant’s fundamental right to peaceful assembly and association guaranteed by section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)
2. A DECLARATION that the Respondent cannot validly deny to approve and/or register the Applicant’s proposed association on the condition that the Nigerian Bar Association’s consent must be first sought and obtained.
3. A DECLARATION that consent of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is not a constitutional condition precedent to the formation of an association of specialist lawyers in Nigeria.
4. PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Respondent, its agents, officers, partners, employees and/or representatives from further requiring the Applicant to seek and obtain the consent of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) before its association can be registered by the Respondent.
5. AND SUCH OTHER ORDER (S) as this honourable Court may deem fit to grant in the circumstance.
In a judgement delivered on the 26th day of June 2016, Justice Kuewunmi held that:
“I have carefully perused Exhibit 3 – the notice of denial issued by the Respondent and the comments or reason for the denial.
The first is the name may have to be registered under LTD/GTE.
2. NBA consent and third, provide the main aims and objectives.
I do not see how the request for NBA consent can be justified in law in the exercise of its discretion…The Respondent had exhibited a copy of similar consent issued by the NBA to an applicant.
I cannot be swayed by the argument that because someone had complied with that requirement set by it without more has now constituted a condition precedent or legal requirement. Consequently, for the reasons above….the Applicant’s reliefs 2, 3 and 4 are hereby granted.