The Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative has filed a fundamental rights enforcement action against the Chief Judge of Lagos state challenging the constitutionality of a Practice Direction issued in 1977 by the then Chief Judge of Lagos State – Justice J.A. Adefarasin.
In the originating summons filed by the firm of Olumide Babalola LP, the Applicant sued for and on behalf of its female members who are lawyers for the following reliefs:
- A DECLARATION that Order 10 of the Respondent’s Practice Direction PD/II/C.1/LS No.1 of 2001 is discriminatory and likely to further discriminate against the Applicant’s female members in the legal profession and thereby contravenes the provision of section 42(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
- A DECLARATION that, contrary to the provisions of Order 10 of the Respondent’s Practice Direction PD/II/C.1/LS No.1 of 2001, the manner of addressing a female judge same was as a male judge is unconstitutional by virtue of the provision of section 42(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex.
- A DECLARATION that the custom and/or practice of referring to female lawyers/judges as male and/or brother, is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
- A DECLARATION that the phrase “Learned gentlemen in skirt” is discriminatory against lady lawyers/judges.
- A DECLARATION that a female judge should henceforth be addressed as “My Lady” or “Justice Mrs./Miss”
- AN ORDER setting aside Order 10 of the Respondent’s Practice Direction PD/II/C.1/LS No.1 of 2001.
- Such other consequential Order (s) that this honourable court may deem fit to grant in the circumstance.
The Applicant deposed in its affidavit, through one of its female lawyer members, among other facts that,
- “Since my call to the Nigerian bar, I have consistently appeared before the High Court of Lagos State and other superior courts of record in the country where female lawyers have been referred to as “Gentlemen in skirt” and that there are no females at the bar.
- I am aware by reason of my status as a legal practitioner that, on the 6th day of January 1977, the Respondent introduced a practice direction which provides that:
- “The manner of addressing a Judge, male or female, being now the same”. Pleaded and marked Exhibit 2 is a copy of the said practice direction.
- I know that, pursuant to practice direction quoted above, female judges and female legal practitioners have been referred to as though they are male and thereby discriminating against them on the ground of sex.
- Pursuant to the Respondent’s direction, female judges have not been accorded their recognition as female, rather they continue to be addressed as male.
- I have attended many court sessions in Lagos state where practitioners and judges have made statements that there are no females or women at the bar.
- I and other female lawyers and members of the Applicant as well as female judges have been referred to as “learned Gentlemen in skirt” which statement and action I find discriminatory to our sexual status as women.”
The suit has been given a temporary suit number LD/TEMP/46742/2019 but yet to be assigned to a judge at the time of this report.