11th November, 2010
The effort of the law firm of Olujimi and Akeredolu, to issue a writ on behalf ofÂ their client as legal practitioners proved contrary to their belief as their positionÂ has been challenged at the Apex court of the land.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, made it clear that a law firm is not theÂ same as a legal practitioner.
The case arose from Oyo State High Court, Ibadan Judicial Division, before JusticeÂ Akinteye, before passing through the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court.
The facts of the case: One Amos Oketade was a tenant of Mrs. Olayinka Adewunmi andÂ four others, who sued as administrator and beneficiary of Mrs. Juhana Oyede at anÂ apartment situated at 2, Irawo Lane, Agbowo, in a recovery of premises matter at theÂ Chief Magistrateâ€™s Court where Amos Oketade was the respondent.
Judgement was delivered against the respondent and was ordered to deliver upÂ possession of the premises to his landlord within three weeks. He filed anÂ application for stay of execution which was refused and subsequently made a similarÂ application to the High Court of Ibadan, where he obtained a stay order.
Displeased, the respondent filed another application at the Court of Appeal, to setÂ aside the stay order granted by the High Court. The Court of Appeal then went aheadÂ to grant the application of the respondent as the stay order was rescinded with aÂ cost of N5,000.
However, Oketade decided to appeal to the Supreme Court and the respondentâ€™sÂ counsel, Idowu Alabi, raised a preliminary objection that the appeal was incompetentÂ in that both the notice of appeal and the applicantâ€™s brief of argument were notÂ issued by a legal practitioner known to law, citing Section 74(1) of the EvidenceÂ Act.
Mr. Alabi drew the attention of the court to Olujimi and Akeredolu and submittedÂ that being a name of a firm and not of a legal practitioner, it offends Section 2(1)Â and 24 of the Legal Practitionersâ€™ Act.
In a lead judgement, Justice Niki Tobi, said â€œit does not appear that counsel forÂ the appellant has an answer for the objection.
â€œThere is a big legal difference between the name of a firm of legal practitionersÂ and the name of a legal practitioner and that while the name of Olujimi andÂ Akeredolu is a firm with some corporate existence, the name of a legal practitionerÂ is a name qua solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria which has noÂ corporate connotation as both carry different legal entitites in our jurisprudenceÂ of parties, one cannot be substituted for the other because they are not synonymous.Â It is clear that Olujimi and Akeredolu is not a name of a legal practitioner inÂ Nigeriaâ€ and the appeal was dismissed.
Niki Tobi said further: â€œI go further to take the merit of the appeal. A landlordÂ has an unfettered legal right to terminate a tenancy upon giving adequate notice.Â The appellant has moved to three courts in his dogged effort to remain permanentlyÂ glued to the property.
â€œIn sum, I order that the appellant must vacate possession within three months fromÂ the date of this judgement. I order consequently that he pays all the rent due up toÂ date of his vacating possession to the respondent. I award N50,000 cost in favour ofÂ the respondent.â€