HomeOpinionsThe MMA Judgment And Resurgence Of NBA-Balkanization-Disease In The Legal Profession

The MMA Judgment And Resurgence Of NBA-Balkanization-Disease In The Legal Profession


By Sylvester Udemezue

  1. The status of the NBA as a voluntary organization, has been settled by appellate courts. No one forces anyone to subscribe to its membership. Besides, as of the day of subscription, the application knows the implications of being a member of the bar: that you would join the NBA, and with the NBA you become as an inseparable Siamese twins.
  1. Section 40 CfRN, 1999, has been interpreted regarding the NBA. If one doesn’t like to bear with the consequences of being a member of the Bar in Nigeria, let that one refrain from applying to join. If one joins, ones is bound. Volenti non fit injuria.
  1. The law that regulates the NBA made the NBA what the NBA is today. Only by amendment of those laws may this type of judgement happen in respect of NBA.
  1. The laws regulating the NMA are poles apart with those, regulating the NBA. The judgment being applauded as landmark is far from it, with due respect, because it does nothing more than state the law.  Conclusion: Comparing NBA to NBA to NMA in this regard may therefore be viewed as inapt.
  1. Regarding NLS (Nigerian Law Society), as of today, all members of the NLS are members of the NBA. Ask them, they’d tell you, ma. NLS is mere grandstanding to distract, being promoted mostly by lawyers who are unable to manage election losss. As another round of NBA elections is around the corner, do you still hear about NLS. Everyone and every bloc has fielded its candidate, hoping to win in July.

Immediately after the election, unless the election umpire is careful to manage the election carefully, a round of crisis would spring up, to die off in 2026 while NBA continues like the wall of Gibraltar.

(a) . The NLS case has nothing to do with the fact, already settled by the courts, that all lawyers in Nigeria are members of the NBA.  So, there was no reason for NBA to have opposed a suit that has and would have zero effect on the NBA. NBA’s opposition to registration of NLS was accordingly ill-advided.

(b). The NLS only judgment says any group of lawyers can register any association they like; that’s what the right to freedom of association entails. Existence of NBA can’t stop them from FREELY ASSOCIATING. I agree, in toto

But the question you should be asking after the NLS judgment is, does the fact that one has FORMED or has JOINED NLS remove one from membership of the NBA?

Answer: Block no. Until the extant law is amended, we all are stuck with the NBA like an inseparable Siamese twins.

Recall that an association of lawyers known as LSN (Law Society of Nigeria) was registered in or around 1994 (abplout 30 years ago) and is still in existence.

 Where is it today? what has it done?

 Na post-election discontent na im dey cause all these NLS agitations. NBA dey kanpe


They each are various associations of SOME lawyers in Nigeria. But NBA remains what it’s created to be: the umbrella association of ALL LAWYERS IN NIGERIA.

In N B.A. v. KEHINDE (2017) 11 NWLR (PT 1576) 225 AT 250 -251 paras H- A, His lordship, NIMPAR.JCA, stated as follows:

“The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was established for the purpose of regulating the affairs and conduct of all legal practitioners in Nigeria and upon being called to the Nigerian Bar, there is automatic membership to the NBA on a lawyer …

In CHINWO v OWHONDA (2008) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1074) 341, at 361, the Court of Appeal declared as follows:

“The appellant was not compelled to take up the profession of law and its attendant compulsory membership of the Nigerian Bar Association. However, once he made the choice to study and practice law and thereby placing his name on the roll of honour of belonging to the profession, he stands bound by the internal rules and regulations of the Association. There would therefore be no issue of a breach of the Constitution of the country if the rules demand of him, UNDIVIDED LOYALTY”

Thank you.

Meanwhile, this is why I tire for the style of public interest advocacy of some lawyers in Nigeria. Some are just so lost in pursuit of frivolousness and irrelevancies. Imagine that, instead of thinking of how to emulate NMA members in fighting for the welfare and economic advancement of NBA members just as members of the MMA are known to have been doing, the only thing that thrills some Nigerian lawyers is how to destroy or balkanize NBA.  Their public interest advocacy and human rights activism start and end with fighting to balkanize NBA. Pity!

Today, in the public service, resident Doctors are paid an an average of about ₦500,000 to ₦800, 000 monthly. Professors of medicine and consultants are paid something in the region of ₦1 million- ₦1.5 million per month. In comparison, (a) Some lawyers in public service are paid less than ₦200,000 monthly. (b). Professors of law are hardly paid more than ₦400,000. (c). Lawyers in Ministries of Justice are paid peanuts. (d). Majority of Lawyers in private practice employment are paid between ₦20,000 and ₦70,000 monthly. Sone are not paid at all. Only below 2 percent of those employed get more than ₦200,000 monthly as salary. Compare all these with doctors. (e) Do you know how much doctor NYSC members are paid monthly? Compare to lawyers’. (f). While Medical Ethical Code allows doctors in public service to engage in private practice, and the Federal Government and all State Governments have endorsed it, and no doctors witch hunts his colleague over this, some lawyers (some, I mean) who are “human rights activists” (not all) are filing applications in courts to object to the appearance by colleague-lawyers in public service for clients in any private capacity. (g) While doctors negotiate and easily get whatever they want from government, some lawyers believe that the only way to engage Government is by confrontation a and filing hostile lawsuits in courts. Unfortunately, and ironically, it has taken lawyers no where.

Now, a High Court delivered a judgment in case by doctor against the NMA, and some lawyers are so elated that a they’re thinking is that perhaps very soon, the court may give a similar judgement in respect of the NBA, so that NBA would get balkanized. They don’t care about the welfare of lawyers in Nigeria; nothing but the balkanization of the NBA. In their minds, the only way to achieve result in their “human rights activism”  (we know those who are true activists) is to have the NBA balkanized. Ask any of them what efforts they themselves have ever made towards solving any of the real challenges facing lawyers in Nigeria. And they’d run away. They’re not interested in discussing the challenges of the legal profession; to them, the only challenge facing the legal profession is for for NBA to get balkanized. Once that is done, all our problems are over. But, no be juju be that?


I respectfully think that some lawyers in Nigeria are suffering from a new disease known as NBA-BALKANIZATION-DISEASE. And it appears this ailment is incurable. Or, the carriers just won’t accept any cure, meaning they are also incorrigible — they work, sleep, wake up, eat, walk, sit and talk, think and pray only about NBA-BALKANIZATION. Nothing else! The only other way they’d accept to be cured of their current ailment is to allow them control of the soul of the NBA. So theirs, in truth, is a disease of either-you-let-me-control-the-NBA-or-let’s-work-to-get NBA balkanized. Na waaaooo. An infantile disease.

 My humble suggestion

Please let’s channel all our energy and efforts towards discussing and working to resolve the real challenges facing the legal profession in Nigeria; balkanization of the NBA is out of it, in my opinion, with due respect. Let’s Face Reality, please. See: A  CHECKLIST OF 70 CORE CHALLENGES FACING THE LEGAL PROFESSION IN NIGERIA PLUS TASKS BEFORE STAKEHOLDERS. By Sylvester Udemezue.

(Published on courtroommail.com and on many others).

Sylvester Udemezue (Udems)
Reality Ministry of Justice (RMJ).
(A Public Interest Legal Advocacy Group)

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