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Lawyer challenges front row seat for SANs

A Lagos lawyer, Mr Udoka Ejilibe, has dragged the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before to a Federal High Court, Lagos, challenging  the privileges enjoyed by lawyers bestowed with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.

Ejilibe in the suit, is praying the court to determine, among others, “wWhether in view of sections 17 (1), (2) (a) and 42 of the 1999 constitution, the defendants can promulgate laws or make rules as contained in sections 6 and 8(4) of the Legal Practitioners Act 1962 as amended and the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Privileges and Functions) rules prohibiting him and other lawyers who are not SANs from sitting on the front row of seats in courtrooms in Nigeria in the practice of law profession as a lawyer and thereby  abridge his right to personal liberty and abrogate his right to equal protection of the law and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the constitution.

* Whether the laws as promulgated in sections 5 (1)(2), 6, 8 (4) and the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Privileges and Functions) rules regarding separate sittings in the Bar of the courtrooms in Nigeria for members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to which he belongs is not a state sanctioned policy on segregatio n and discriminatory in view of sections 42, 17 (1) (2) of the 1999 constitution.

* Whether the laws as promulgated in sections 6, 8 (4) and the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Privileges and Functions) rules permitting what he termed a class of members of the NBA to call their cases out of turn, is not to his detriment and disadvantage in the law practice, and a violation of his right to equal protection of law in view of sections 42, 17 (1) (2) of the 1999 constitution.

* Whether the defendants in the suit have power to enact laws as contained in section 5 of the Legal Practitioners Act 1962 as amended and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Privileges and Functions) rules conferring honors and other dignities on members of a private professional body such as the NBA when such powers is not derived from any item listed in either the exclusive legislative or concurrent legislative lists of the 1999 constitution.

He want the court to declare among others, that the laws prohibiting him from sitting on the front row of seats in the Bar in all court rooms in Nigeria in the exercise of his professional calling as a lawyer on the ground that he is not a SAN is a violation of his right to equal protection of the law guaranteed by sections 17 (1) (2) and 42 of the 1999 constitution and Article 3 of the African Charter on human and people’s rights and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.

* A declaration that it is a violation of his right to personal liberty guaranteed by section 35 (1) of the 1999 constitution and Article 6 and 13 (3) of the African Charter on human and people’s rights and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.

* A declaration that it is a violation of equal protection of law and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by sections 17 (1) (2) and 42 of the 1999 constitution and Article 19 of the African Charter on human and people’s rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 1983.

* A declaration that section 5, 6 and 8 (4) of the Legal Practitioners Act 1962 as amended and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Privileges and Functions) rules is ultra vires the powers of the defendants to promulgate and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”

He is also praying for an order of court directing that all courtrooms in the country being public facilities be immediately desegregated. Meanwhile, hearing in the matter has been adjourned till February 24, 2011.

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