Rights Group Petitions CJN, NJC Over Demand for Tax Clearance Certificate from Lawyers Before Filling Court Processes in Enugu

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A human rights group, Civil Rights Realization & Advancement Network (CRRAN); has petitioned the office of the Chief Justice of the Nigeria (CJN) and National Judicial Council (NJC) over a directive by the Enugu State Government mandating Lawyers to attach their Tax Clearance Certificate before filling their cases in Courts.

The letter signed by CRRAN President, Olu Omotayo Esq, and entitled: “Appeal for urgent intervention: Directive of Enugu State Chief Judge making it mandatory that Tax Clearance Certificate of Lawyers must be attached to all processes filled in the Courts.

In the petition made available to Journalists in Enugu, the rights group .described the directive as ” illegal and a violation of the legal practitioners Act .and limiting access to Justice.”

The petition reads in part: “We write to you in respect of the above mentioned matter which is a grave violation of the Legal Practitioners Act 1975 (As Amended), and assault on the right of legal practitioners to practice law in Nigeria.

“A circular emanating from the office of Chief Registrar of the High Court of Enugu State notified lawyers of the directive of the Enugu State Chief Judge that sequel to a letter from the Executive Chairman, Enugu State Internal Revenue Services dated 1st February 2024, lawyers are expected to attach evidence of payment of tax clearance to all court processes to be filed in Court.

“We submit without equivocation that the directive of the Honorable Chief Judge is illegal and unconstitutional as it constitutes a grave assault on the Legal Practitioners Act which is the law that guaranteed the right of audience of lawyers in courts Nigeria.”

CRRAN said that the Chief judge’s action and directive was ultra vires of the powers conferred on him by Section 274 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(As amended).

“The powers conferred on Chief Judges of the respective states to make Rules of Court cannot be inferred to mean that a Chief Judge of a State can take away the right of audience in court guaranteed lawyers by the Legal Practitioners Act, ” CRRAN said.

Omotayo said further that whatever directive given by the Chief Judge cannot take away the right of Audience of Lawyers under the Legal Practitioners Act.

According to him, the Chief Judge was not an agent of Enugu State Internal Revenue Services, and therefore lacks the power to regulate law practice and right of audience of lawyers in Nigeria and limit access to justice of citizens of this country.

He said that the implication of the directive of the Chief Judge affects not only lawyers in Enugu but also lawyers who come in from various states in Nigeria to file processes and practice law.

“We urge you to direct the Honorable Chief Judge of Enugu State to immediately withdraw this directive which is not only illegal but also unlawful.

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