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PROCESS SIGNED BY A FIRM OF LEGAL PRACTITIONERS IS NOT VALID IN LAW

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The said section 573(1) of Companies and Allied Matters Act Provides as follows:- ‘Every individual firm or corporation having a place of business in Nigeria and carrying on business under a business name shall be registered in the manner provided in this part of this Act The above is not an authority that can be relied upon to uphold the view that a process signed and filed by a firm of legal practitioners which has no live is valid in law. The general provision of the law as in section 573(1) of Companies and Allied Matters Act is subject to the specific provisions of section 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act. See: FMBN v. Olloh (2002) 4 SC (Pt. 11) 177 at 122-123; Kraps Thompson Org.v. NIPSS (2004) 5 SC (Pt.1) 16 at 20-21.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. FBN v. Maiwada (2012) – SC.269/2005

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WHERE COUNSEL ABSENT, BRIEF WILL BE DEEMED ADOPTED

The Respondent’s Brief of Argument dated and filed on 3rd November, 2020, which was settled by Adedotun Ishola Osobu Esq, was deemed adopted pursuant to Order 19 Rule 9(4) of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2016.

— A.B. Mohammed, JCA. ITDRLI v NIMC (2021) – CA/IB/291/2020

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DRAWING UNINTENDED CONCLUSIONS FROM JUDGES STATEMENTS

Sir James Bacon, V.C., said in Green’s Case (1874) L.R. 18 Eq C.A. 428:- “In the judgments which Judges pronounce, this is inevitable, that having their minds full, not only of the cases before them, but of all the principles involved in the cases which have been referred to, it very often happens that a Judge, in stating as much as is necessary to decide the case before him, does not express all that may be said upon the subject. That leaves the judgment open sometimes to misconstruction, and enables ingenious advocates by taking out certain passages, to draw conclusions which the Judge never meant to be drawn from the words he used.”

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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

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COUNSEL AGREEMENT WITH OPPOSING PARTY IS BINDING

In Swinfen v. Swinfen 26 LJ Co P 97, Blackburn, J, stated the position as follows:- “Counsel therefore being ordinarily retained to conduct a cause without any limitation, the apparent authority with which he is clothed when he appears to conduct the cause is to do everything which in the exercise of his discretion, he may think best for the interest of his client in the conduct of the cause.and if within the limits of this apparent authority he enters into agreement with the opposite Counsel as to the cause, on every principle this agreement should be binding.”

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THE RATIONALE FOR LAWYER-CLIENT PRIVILEGE

The general principle on which the above statutory provision is grounded is as stated by Holden J in the case of Iris Winifred Horn v. Robert Rickard (1963) NLR 67 at 68 or (1963) 2 All NLR 40 at 41 as follows: “Every client is entitled to feel safe when making disclosures to his solicitor or counsel, and there are cases establishing firmly that counsel cannot be called to give any evidence which would infringe the client’s privilege of secrecy.”

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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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