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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

Dictum

‘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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COUNSEL SHOULD NOT MISQUOTE JUDGE

I will pause here to advise that learned counsel when referring to statements made by trial Judges should not impute words not said by them, or misquote their statements and present statements which were not actually uttered or remarked by them (the Judges). A close look at the passage quoted above leaves one in no...

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WHERE COUNSEL HAS LIMITED AUTHORITY TO ACT FOR CLIENT

The general principle of the law is that at the trial of an action the authority of Counsel extends, when it is not expressly limited, to the whole of the court action and all matters incidental to it and to the conduct of the trial. See Sourendra Nath Mitra v. Srimati Tarubala Dasi (1930) 46 T.L.R. 191 PC. This general principle, however, does not and has not fettered the discretion of the court where it deems it fit so to exercise the same. See Adewunmi v. Plastex Ltd (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 32) 767 at 785. In this regard, it cannot be disputed that where Counsel by the authority of his client and with full knowledge of the facts consents to an order, there being no mistake or surprise in the case, the client cannot arbitrarily withdraw such consent, and the court may proceed to perfect the order but without prejudice to any application which the other side might make to the court to be relieved from his consent all the ground of fraud, mistake, misrepresentation or surprise or for other cogent and sufficient reason. See Harvey v. Croydon Union Rural Sanitary Authority (1884) 26 ChD. 249, CA, Holt v. Jesse (1876) 3 Ch. D. 177. But if it is established that Counsel agreed to the consent order being made under some misapprehension, the court will not hold him or his client to the agreement. See Shepherd v. Robinson (1919) 1 K.B. 474, C.A. Where the authority of Counsel has been expressly limited by the client and Counsel has in defiance consented to an order or judgment contrary to his client’s clear instructions, various considerations would appear to arise. If the limitation of authority is known or communicated to the other side, consent of Counsel outside the limits of his authority and in breach of the express instruction of his client will be inconsequential and of no effect. See Strauss v. Francis (1866) L.R. 1 Q.B. 379 at 382. Where, however, the limitation of authority is unknown to the other side who enters into the compromise in the belief that the opponent’s Counsel has the ordinary unlimited authority of his client, the position would appear, to some extent, to be fluid and uncertain. In such situation the learned authors of Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th Edition, Volume 3, paragraph 1182 have formulated the applicable true rule under the circumstance as follows:- “But the true rule seems to be that in such case the court has power to interfere; that it is not prevented by the agreement of Counsel from setting aside or refusing to enforce a compromise; that it is a matter for the discretion of the court; and that when, in the particular circumstances of the case, grave injustice would be done by allowing the compromise to stand, the compromise may be set aside, even although the limitation of Counsel’s authority was unknown to the other side, or where clear and unequivocal instructions of limitations have been given.” I confess that I have given the above passage a most careful consideration and must fully and most respectfully endorse the same as the correct position of the present law. It is my view, therefore, that the court possesses the discretionary jurisdiction to examine the entire circumstances of a particular case, in order to determine whether or not the compromise entered into by Counsel should be sanctioned by the court. The remedy, being discretionary, must be exercised with the utmost care and with regard to the injustice or otherwise of allowing an order to stand. It is this jurisdiction that both courts below invoked and exercised in favour of the respondent as plaintiff in the originating summon.

— Iguh JSC. Vulcan Gases Limited V. Gesellschaft Fur Industries Gasverwertung A.G.(G.I.V.) ( SC.67/1995, 4th May 2001)

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COUNSEL FIRST DUTY IS TO THE COURT

Learned counsel, as officers in the temple of justice have a sacred duty to assist the court to do substantial justice in any matter before it. His first duty is to the court. The second to his client. It is almost five years to the day since the ruling complained of was delivered. Precious judicial...

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LAWYERS VS POLITICIANS: MASTERS OF THE LAW VS MASTERS OF THE GAME

While lawyers pride themselves as masters of the law, the Politicians are master game planners and they would never give up unless and until either they realize their desire to ‘serve their people’ or the Apex Court in an appeal before them tell the Politicians with finality that it is all over, then they would...

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EFFECT OF COUNSEL STATEMENT FROM THE BAR

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...

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WHO IS A LEGAL PRACTITIONER

However, a legal practitioner is a person entitled according to the provision of section 24 of Legal Practitioners Act, 1990 to practice as a barrister or as barrister and solicitor either generally or for the purpose of any particular office or proceedings. – C. M. Chukwuma-eneh, J.S.C. Okafor v. Nweke (2007) – SC.27/2002 Was this...

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