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EFFECT OF COUNSEL STATEMENT FROM THE BAR

Dictum

It is settled that a statement by a counsel from the Bar has the character of an oath and the court is bound to take this into consideration. See Tika Tore Press Ltd. v. Umar (1968) 2 ALL NLR 107.

— Opene JCA. United Bank for Africa (UBA) v. Samuel Igelle Ujor (CA/C/134/99, 20 FEB 2001)

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NATURE OF RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CLIENT & COUNSEL

The nature of the legal relationship between Counsel and his client, which exists in this case between plaintiff and PW1, his Counsel, is one of an independent contractor and not one of principal and agent. (See Performing Right Society Ltd v. Mitchell &.Booker Palais de Danse Ltd (1924) 1 KB 702 at page 365 per McCardie J). It is not that of master and servant. Counsel is clearly not a servant of his client. It is accepted that where a client gives specific instruction to Counsel, such instruction must be adhered to. Where the nature of the specific instruction is in conflict with the manner of discharging his professional skills and interferes with his control of how to conduct the case of his client, Counsel is entitled to return the brief to his client. Counsel who is in law, the dominis litis is not bound to obey any such instructions. It is in the exercise of his apparent general authority in the discharge of his professional duties to his client, to have complete control how such instructions are to be carried out, and over the conduct of the case.

– Karibi-Whyte, JSC. Afegbai v. A.G Edo State (2001)

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COUNSEL SHOULD NOT JOIN THE PUBLIC TO RAISE BIAS ON A JUDGE

The above quoted obiter of the learned trial judge did not form part of the ratio decidendi of the judgment and is a good example of the less said, the better by way of obiter in a judgment. In any event, the current penchant of counsel to allege bias against judicial officers under every imagined pretext must be highly deprecated, condemned and discouraged. It does not enhance the confidence of the public in the judicial process and only serves to erode the rule of law. Justice is rooted in confidence. If the parties felt strongly that there was a fiduciary relationship between the Bench and any lawyer or party, it was their duty to draw attention to it BEFORE the case was heard and determined by the judge. It is obviously the antics of a bad loser to cry foul after the case had been lost.

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. Godwin Ukah & Ors. V. Christopher A. Onyia & Ors. (CA/E/295/2008, 21 Jan 2016)

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PENDING DETERMINATION BY THE CCT, THERE IS NO LAW THAT PROHIBITS A LEGAL PRACTITIONER (EVEN IF A PUBLIC SERVANT) FROM RIGHT OF AUDIENCE IN COURT

‘The right of audience in court is governed by the Legal Practitioners Act. It is clear from the provisions of sections 2 and 8 of the Legal Practitioners Act that as long as the name of a legal practitioner remains on the roll, it is wrong to deny him right of audience in court. The procedure for removal of names of legal practitioners from the roll or to deny a legal practitioner right of audience in court is clearly set out under the Legal Practitioners Act. It is only for non-payment of the yearly practising fee that a court can deny a legal practitioner whose name is on the roll the right of audience in Court. The Legal Practitioners Act, does not provide for any other circumstances for denying a Legal Practitioner the right of audience in court apart from the direction of the disciplinary committee or by implication from the constitution, as a result of an Order by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. Support for this view can be found in the decision of Benin High Court Presided by Justice Ogbonine, in the case of OLOYO V ALEGBE (1981) 2 NCLR 680, where his Lordship Ogbobine, J. rejected an objection against the appearance of Mr. Alegbe in court (and while leading other lawyers) for himself as the speaker of the Bendel State House of Assembly. Hear his Lordship. “I do not think it is right for any court to disqualify a Legal Practitioner from practicing his profession, except on very sound grounds set out under the Legal Practitioner’s Act and other enabling law and regulations made to that effect”. It is beyond reproach that the primary legislation that disqualifies any person whose name is on the roll from acting as Barrister and or Solicitor officially or in private is sections 8 (2) of the Legal Practitioner’s Act, which deals with payment of practicing fee.’

— S. Kado J. Akazor Gladys & Ors. V. Council of legal education (NICN/ABJ/346/2017, 20th day of March 2019)

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LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ARE TO KEEP ABREAST WITH THE PRONOUNCEMENTS OF THE SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court had re-emphasized the binding effect of its judgments on the lower courts in the case of ODEDO v PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR-24738(SC), where Kekere-Ekun, JSC stated at page 65, paras. B – E, as follows: “The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. By virtue of Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 its decisions are final. In other words, a decision of the Apex Court settles the position of the law in respect of a particular issue and becomes a binding precedent for all other courts of record in Nigeria. Legal practitioners have a responsibility to keep abreast of the pronouncements of the Court and advise their clients accordingly. It is wrong to ignore decisions of this Court and seek to perpetuate a position that has already been pronounced upon. This is one of the causes of congestion in our courts and must be discouraged.”

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COUNSEL (APPEARING FOR HIMSELF) WILL HAVE HIS MISTAKES VISITED ON HIM

In Kotoye v Saraki 1995 NWLR (Pt.395) 256, in circumstances where the party (who is also a legal practitioner) took a decision not to appeal. Uwais J.S.C (as he then was) at Pages 7 and 8 said: “Any act of gambling involves risk taking and no gambler can claim not to be aware of that. When a counsel makes a mistake, such mistake or its consequence should not, in general, be visited on his client who, in most cases is a layman. Can the defendant/applicant who has been or is a legal practitioner be such a client? I certainly think not. There is therefore, no good reason given for the delay bringing this application.”

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