To write the history of a nation or an institution which spans over a
century is naturally a Herculean task. To chronicle the accounts of a
profession which is older than the nation itself is bound to be a self —
inflicted ordeal. However, due consideration must be given to this by members
of this honorable profession.
legal system and legal profession, which
were introduced into the country in
the second half of the nineteenth century. Therefore, in order to appreciate
some of the characteristics of the behaviors of members of the profession and
to the layman conservative behaviors of members of the profession in this
country (and, indeed, in most common law countries), a historical sketch of the
English legal profession is necessary.
practices geared towards addressing the issue of law and justice in different
communities in Nigeria. Disputes were presided over by elders, family heads,
kings or paramount rulers, chiefs and titled men. The aim was to restore social
order and give severe sentences when necessary. Also was a system which
prevailed in Sierra — Leone in which pleaders wore masks to avoid recognition.
Also there was a system in which parties were allowed to hire claquers who
applaud every point made by the one who hires them and laughs ironically at the
argument of the other side.
started to trade with the indigenous people on the coast of West Africa. The
trading coastal areas included Brass, Calabar, Bonny, Okrika and Opobo.
Attempts were made by the indigenous court in those areas to settle trading
disputes between the foreigners and the indigenous people but the customary
court system was very strange to the British and other foreign traders. It was
hence generally believed that the litigants seldom obtained justice in the
courts. The British government therefore appointed consuls essentially for the
British merchants and the indigenous merchants. The first British consuls and
court was established in 849.
deal with cases which had arisen as a result of the growing commercial
transaction in the colony
1863, which constituted the Supreme Court of Her Majesty’s Settlement of Lagos
with effect from April 9, 1863. The ordinances provided that “the laws be
administered in this settlement as in England and so far as such laws and such
administration therefore can be rendered applicable to the circumstance of this
settlement” Between 1863 and 1874 some nine other courts were constituted. Among
these were the Petty Debt Court, the Court of Civil and Criminal Justice, the
Court of Requests and the West Africa Court of Appeal. However it is pertinent
to note that there was an inevitable shortage of suitable personnel to run the
courts let alone perform the duties of an advocate or a solicitor which must
necessary be a concomitant of such a system.
Magistrates for Lagos between 1861and 1905, only three were qualified
barristers or solicitors, of the remaining four, two were writing clerks one
was a merchant and the fourth was a commander of the West India Garrison at
Lagos. Of the fourteen (14) persons who served as police magistrates, four were
merchants, six were military officers, two were colonial surgeons, one a deputy
collector of customs until August 1880 when Christopher Alexander Sapara
Williams made his first appearance at the Supreme Court, there was not a
qualified practicing lawyer in Lagos.
personnel available for legal work in the court and private legal
practitioner’s to assist litigants in this largely illiterate community in dealing
with matters clearly became urgent. To solve this problems provision was made
in the Supreme Court Ordinance 1876 for the admission of persons to practice as
legal practitioner’s in Nigeria. This court ordinance provided for three
categories of people who would be admitted to practice law. These are follows:
Entitled To Practice Law In Great Britain:
practice as barrister and solicitor in the court such persons as shall have
been admitted as Barristers or Advocates in Great Britain or Ireland and
writers to the signet in any of the courts at London, Dublin or Edinburgh, provided
always that the chief justice may upon due
withstanding that he may have the qualification aforesaid.
Who Have Served Articles And Passed Certain Examination
have power to admit as solicitor of the supreme court any person who shall have
served five years continuously in the office of a practicing barrister or
solicitor residing within the jurisdiction of the court and who shall have
passed such examination touching on the principal and practice of the law
before such person as the chief justice may from time to time appoint.
Local Attorneys, hence, the following words
Solicitors and Proctors within the colony, qualified in the manner herein
before prescribed, it shall be lawful for the Chief Justice to admit
temporally, so many other fit and proper persons to appear in the capacity of
Barristers, Solicitors and Proctors as may be necessary, subject to such
conditions and regulations as may be prescribed by the rules of courts”. The
admission was however regulated. Order 8, rule 1 of the Supreme Court (civil
procedure) rules made under the Supreme Court ordinance, 1876 provided that
their admission shall be by license which shall entitle the party to
enrollment, for six months, as a Solicitor, in virtue of which enrollment, he
may, during its continuance appear and act in the capacity of a Barrister,
and Proctor. The license was renewable before or on the expiration of
six months and so on successively. Order 8, rule 2 provided that the applicant
for the license must state in the application the place of his birth and
education, the nature of the education, and his previous occupations. He must
also attach to the application, a certificate of good character from a Judge or
two District Commissioners. In addition to the above, the applicant was
general knowledge and education as well as his knowledge of the principal and
practice of the law of England and of the colony unless the chief justice under
order 8, rule 4, should fit in any case to dispense with such examination or
part of it.
courts to appear and assist litigants or even to work as an officer of the
court. The attorneys were under the strict control of the Chief Justice.
the Supreme Court ordinance 1943 with regard to practice. Order 16 rule 1 of
this ordinance provided as follows:
practice as a barrister and solicitor in court;
in Ireland or as an advocate in Scotland and who;
chief justice that he is a man of good character’ and has read in the chamber
of a practicing barrister or advocate of more than five years standing for at
least one year or has practiced in the courts of the country in which he has
been called or admitted for at least two years subsequent to his call or
bar or admission as an advocate read in Nigeria. in the chambers of a
practicing barrister of more than ten year standing for at least two years or
solicitor in the courts of a British colony or protectorate for at least two
Included in these deficiencies are:
England being combined in Nigeria.
constitutional government as practiced in Nigeria.
system has no knowledge of Nigeria customary law as an essential part of
Nigerian legal system.
graduate of other disciplines who therefore attended to dinners as required by
law of courts. This is far from the proper conception of a university trained
lawyer which was laid to rest after the 1943 ordinance.
future of the Nigeria legal profession was appointed by the federal government
in April 1957.
recommended inter alia
of legal education
Nigeria law school be established in Lagos to provide vocational course in law.
practice in Nigeria should be a degree in law and the vocational course
prescribed by the council of legal education.
and consultation with the legal profession, two Acts were passed. These were
the Legal Education Act 1962 which provided for legal education for admission,
to practice and the Legal Practitioner’s Act 1962 (last amended 2007) which
provided for the comprehensive regulation of the legal profession.