22nd July, 2011
There is no cause to celebrate yet for the lawyers newly selected for the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, as a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, has reserved ruling till Friday, 29 July, 2011 to either reverse the award or not.
This was as a result of an application argued by a human rights lawyer, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite leading six other lawyers that the process of selecting the new Senior Advocates has not been completed.
Dr. Braithwaite, while urging the court to restrain the Chairman, Legal Practitionersâ€™ Privilege Committee from screening the list of lawyers selected for the award of Senior Advocates of Nigeria this year, also urged the court to stop the committee from giving effect to the list of lawyers selected.
He added that the court should also stop the committee from conferring the award of SAN on the awardees pending the determination of the suit.
He contended that the substantive suit is challenging the Legal Practitionersâ€™ Act under which the title is being awarded.
He also said the condition precedent to the award of the title had not been complied with. Braithwaite said that at the annual Bar Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, 2010, the issue of either whether the rank was still relevant was raised and the majority of the lawyers at the conference agreed that it was no longer relevant and therefore it should be scrapped.
The NBA then resolved that stakeholders should convene a meeting where all issues relating to the award of SAN will be reviewed before any further award.
The NBA president wrote a letter to the Legal Practitionersâ€™ Committee informing him of the NBA resolution and the need to give effect to the resolution.
Nevertheless, the chairman and the Legal Practitionersâ€™ Privileges Committee went ahead to select some lawyers for the award.
Consequently, he said until the suit is determined either way, they cannot say they had validly been awarded the title. Therefore, the court can still reverse the award as the new ones have not been sworn-in.
He urged the court to reverse the action that has been taken so far.
What led to the controversy surrounding the award of the SAN started in 2010 when a Lagos lawyer, Tunji Gomez dragged the chairman Legal Practitionersâ€™ Privileges Committee, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Attorney-General of Lagos State, Lagos State Judicial Committee and the Lagos State Chairman of the NBA to court.
He contended that the award of SAN should be abolished because the process of selection had been abused.