The importance of lawyers especially in relation to matters of the law cannot be over-emphasized. By definition, a lawyer is a person who has been trained and licensed to practice law, he represents people in legal matters and make legal documents. Generally, lawyers in Nigeria are professionals trained in the universities and the Nigeria Law School to become barristers, advocate or solicitors of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
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The duties of a lawyer are primarily towards his clients, then his colleagues and the court. In Nigeria, lawyers enjoy certain privileges and rights, it should however be noted that these rights are professional, exclusive and not transferable.
The Nigeria Constitution and Legal Practitioners Act lists the rights exclusive to Lawyers in Nigeria, and in this article we would discuss these rights one after the other.
The first right enjoyed solely by lawyers is the right to represent another human in legal litigations. By the provision of section 36 sub 6(c) of the Nigerian constitution 1999 (as amended), a person is allowed to represent himself or through a legal practitioner. The main point is, if there is an appearance, it must be a lawyer. In addition, section 8(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act confers on lawyers the rights of audience in any court in Nigeria and they are permitted to represent other persons in a legal proceeding.
The Names of A Legal Practitioners
The second right is that given persons who have been called to the Nigeria Bar have the right to use or answer the name lawyer, solicitor, advocate and barrister. Section 22 of the Legal Practitioners Act stipulates that anyone who holds himself out to practice as a legal practitioner or takes the title of a legal practitioner falsely is guilty of an offense and is liable to imprisonment.
Preparation of Document and Instrument
It is also the exclusive rights of legal practitioners to make certain legal documents and instruments in Nigeria. These documents can transfer the interest in a property from one person to another.
Right of Appointment as Judges
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In Nigeria, only lawyers can be appointed as judges of superior courts, this requirement may however not apply to customary courts and sharia courts, customary and sharia courts of appeal. All other superior courts that is to say the Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, State High Courts and even Magistrates courts requires that the judges must have been lawyer for a number of years stipulated by the Constitution. For instance, Section 231 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria states that only a person qualified as a legal practitioner will be qualified to hold the office of Chief justice or position of the Justice of a supreme court and has been so qualified for a period of not less than fifteen years.
Right of Appointment as Attorney General
Another right enjoyed, is that only a lawyer can be appointed as the attorney generals in Nigeria. An Attorney General could either be for a state or for the federation. This office is saddled with the responsibility of defending a state or the federation in matters relating to them respectively.
Right of Appointment as Notary Public
Only lawyers are entitled to be appointed as a notary public in Nigeria. According to the provisions of section 2 of the Notaries Public Act, it is the duty of the chief Justice of Nigeria to appoint persons who are fit to be notaries public in Nigeria. Thus act also requires that persons who may be appointed as notaries public must be lawyer. A Notary Public is an official of integrity appointed by state government typically by the secretary of state to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.
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