CASE CITATION: FOLARIN ROTIMI ABIOLA WILLIAMS & ANOR. v. ADOLD/STAMM INTERNATIONAL (NIG.) LTD. & ANOR. (2017) 1 S.C. (PT. I) 1
DATE OF JUDGMENT: ON FRIDAY, THE 13TH DAY OF JANUARY, 2017
COURT: SUPREME COURT
SUIT: SC. 404/2013
- WALTER S. N. ONNOGHEN (Presided)
- OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA
- KUMAI BAYANGAKA’AHS
- KUDIRAT M.O. KEKERE-EKUN (Delivered the Leading Judgment)
ISSUE(S): Endorsement of multiple names of legal practitioners on a court process – without making a tick beside the name of the legal practitioner that signed the court process- whether vitiates the court process or renders it incompetent.
It is contended on behalf of the Respondents that the written address in support of the application is incompetent for failure to disclose the identity of learned counsel who signed it by marking and/or making a tick beside his name. Reliance was placed on Section 24 (2) (1) of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) Cap. 207 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, Bala v. Dikko (2012) 12 S.C. (Pt. II) 1; Oketade v. Adewunmi (2010) 2-3 S.C. (Pt. I) 5; P.M.B. Ltd. v. N.S.I.C. (2011) 12 NWLR (Pt.1261) 253 at 262 F – G (CA); Okafor v. Nweke (2007) 3 S.C. (Pt. II) 5. Learned counsel urge the court to strike out the written address. There is no response to this submission on behalf of the Applicant.
There is no doubt that it has been held in a plethora of decisions of this court and it is now firmly settled that a court process that is not signed by a legal practitioner whose name appears on the roll of legal practitioners and who is entitled to practice as a barrister and solicitor as provided for in Sections 2 and 24 (2) (1) of the LPA Cap. L11 LFN 2004 is incompetent and liable to be struck out. See: Oketade v.Adewunmi (supra); Okafor v. Nweke (supra); F.B.N. Plc. v. Maiwada (2012) 5 S.C. (Pt. III) 1. In S.L.B. Consortium Ltd. v. N.N.P.C. (2011) 4 S.C. (Pt. I) 6, this court affirmed its earlier decision in Registered Trustees of Apostolic Church Lagos Area v. Rahman Akinde (1967) NMLR 263 and held that a process prepared and filed in court by a legal practitioner must be signed by the legal practitioner, and it is sufficient signature if the legal practitioner simply writes his own name over and above the name of his/or firm in which he carries out his practice.
On Page 14 of the Applicant’s written address, at the bottom of the page, the handwritten name, Ladi Williams, appears above two names, Chief Ladi Rotimi Williams, SAN and Chris I. Eneje. The grouse of the Respondents appears to be that there is no mark beside either of the two names to identify which of them signed the process. In the instant case, the name Ladi Williams, though handwritten, is very clear and legible. The Respondents are not contending that Chief Ladi Rotimi Williams, SAN is not the same person as Ladi Williams who signed the process or that the person who signed the process is not a legal practitioner whose name is on the roll of legal practitioners entitled to practice law in Nigeria. I am satisfied that there is no doubt as to who signed the process and that he is a legal practitioner whose name is on the roll. The omission to place a tick beside the name Chief Ladi Rotimi Williams, SAN has not misled the Respondents nor this court as to who signed the process and such omission cannot invalidate it. I therefore hold that the Applicant’s written address filed on 16/11/2015 is competent.