Enugu CJ violating rights of lawyers with tax clearance certificate, Group petitions CJN

A rights group, under the auspices of the Civil Rights Realization & Advancement Network (CRRAN), has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria and chairman National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, to call the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Raymond Ozoemena to order over his attempt to limit access to justice in the state.

The group made the call in a petition, titled: 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 filed in the court; is illegal and a violation of the legal practitioners act and limiting access to justice.

In the petition signed by the president of the group, Olu Omotayo, CRRAN noted that 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. 

The letter, which was made available to our correspondent in Enugu, accused the CJ of assaulting the right of legal practitioners to practice law in Nigeria by that circular.

Omotayo added that since the Chief Judge is not an agent of Enugu State Internal Revenue Services, he therefore lacks the power to regulate law practice and right of audience of lawyers in Nigeria and limit access to justice of citizens of the country. 

The letter read 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. 

“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. 

“The Chief Judge’s action and directive is ultra vires of the powers conferred on him by the 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.

“Whatever directive given by the Chief Judge cannot take away the right of Audience of Lawyers under the Legal Practitioners Act”.

The letter further stated 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.   

He therefore urged the CJN 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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