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NBA-SPIDEL Officials Cannot Sue In Official Capacity Without NBA Permission – Court

The Federal High Court in Abuja on March 21, 2024, dismissed a lawsuit filed by officials of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) against the Minister of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa and two others. The case, registered as FHC/ABJ/CS/90/2024, met an abrupt end due to the plaintiffs’ lack of legal standing, commonly referred to as locus standi.

The plaintiffs, John Aikpokpo Martins, the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL, and Funmi Adeogun, the Secretary, had initiated the legal action in their official capacities. However, the court ruled that even if the suit were brought in their personal capacities, they would still lack the competence to pursue the case before the court.

As the proceedings unfolded, the plaintiffs’ counsel conceded to not having filed additional authority but assured the court of possessing it. Consequently, the Court directed the counsel to produce and serve copies of the additional authority to all relevant parties, leading to a brief adjournment of the case.

Upon reconvening for the ruling, the presiding judge made notable pronouncements regarding the plaintiffs’ capacity to sue. The court emphasized that while the plaintiffs initiated the action in their official capacities as NBA-SPIDEL officials, even if the suit were instituted in their personal capacities, they would still lack the standing or competence to bring the case.

Clarifying the distinction between actions in personal and official capacities, the judge drew an analogy with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The court stressed that for the plaintiffs to be deemed competent, NBA-SPIDEL must be shown to have the legal capacity to sue. However, NBA-SPIDEL, as a creation of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) constitution, is an artificial entity not recognized by law.

The court noted that NBA-SPIDEL owes its existence to the NBA or the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA, as per Section 17(1) of the NBA Constitution. The sixth schedule of the constitution mentions NBA-SPIDEL as one of the sections under the NBA. The court held that NBA-SPIDEL, being a mere section under the NBA and an unincorporated body, cannot independently file an action without the involvement of the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA, as per Section 17(4) of the NBA Constitution.

Consequently, the Court dismissed the suit, stating that the plaintiffs acted contrary to Section 17(4) of the NBA Constitution by holding themselves out as representatives of the NBA without the involvement of the Incorporated Trustees.

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