Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is a title, that may be conferred on legal practitioners in Nigeria who have attained the peak of their profession, and have distinguished themselves. The rank is annually conferred on Nigerian Lawyers who have been in practice for not less than ten years.
Senior advocates of Nigeria are referred to as silk lawyers as they wear silk gowns and the process of becoming a silk lawyer is also referred to as ‘taking silk.’ Junior barristers, on the other hand, wear wool gowns in court, showing how silk gowns are used to distinguish different rankings of barristers in a courtroom. SANs also have the honor of sitting within the bar during a court proceeding.
This title is a dream for many lawyers and is a huge privilege to be recognized as the Senior Advocate of Nigeria as it comes with huge recognition and a sense of satisfaction.
As a SAN you enjoy the privilege of sitting in the “Inner Bar” – the front row of seats in court which is reserved for them – as distinguished from the “Outer Bar” where junior advocates sit. SANs also have their cases called first whenever they step into court.
However, there have been so many controversies over the award system. Some layers have the opinion that only those who are connected are conferred with SAN.
As of 28th December 2021, a total of 670 Advocates had become Senior Advocates in Nigeria with about 190,000 Lawyers as of 2019.
This shows how prestigious this award is that the criteria for meriting it are very strict for a vast majority of lawyers to meet. You either merit it or not.
The conferment of the title follows the Legal Practitioners Act 207 Section 5 by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, headed by the Chief Justice (as Chairman), and consists of the Attorney-General, one Justice of the Supreme Court, the President of the Appeal, five of the Chief Judges of the states, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and five legal practitioners who are Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
According to Section 5(2) of the Legal Practitioners Act, for a lawyer to get the award, he must have achieved distinction in the legal profession in such a manner as the Committee may from time to time determine.
The SAN title was first conferred on April 3, 1975, on the late Chief Frederick Rotimi A. Williams and the late Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas. Six years in 1981, Chief (Mrs.) Folake Solanke became the first female recipient of the rank.
Chief Frederick Rotimi A. Williams
Since 1975, a varying number of advocates in Nigeria have consecutively been conferred with the rank, with the exception of the years- 1976, 1977, and 1994. The conferment is however restricted to fewer than 30 advocates per annum and is made by the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendations of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee.
Here are some notable SANs:
Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN)
Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria was born in Onitsha Anambra state on 15th April 1950. He was trained in the United States of America and attended Evasron college lake forest college and Oklahoma City university where he obtained a degree at doctor of juridical science in 1982 and 1984. He was called to the Nigerian bar as a barrister and solicitor court of Nigeria.
Dr. Onyechi (SAN) has been in legal practice to date and has served as chairman of the Onitsha branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and a NEC (national executive council) member of the national body, OBA. In recognition of his advocacy skills in 2002, he was confirmed with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and in 2007, he was honored by the Federal Republic of Nigeria under president Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua with the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger, (OON).
He is now widely known for deepening the Nigerian corpus juris with landmark and celebrated cases. Indeed, he is a lawyer per excellence. Some of the landmark cases handled by Dr. Ikpeazu include MOJEKWU V. MOJEKWU; MOJEKWU V. IWUCHUKWU preserving the inheritance right of a woman; NGIGE V OBI reported in (2006) 14 NWLR (Part 999) 1, a decision that brought Mr. Peter Obi to office as the duly elected Governor of Anambra State.
His adroit display of rare forensic advocacy skills led to the trail-blazing decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of OBI v INEC (2007)11NWLR (Part 1046)565, which case effectively re-calibrated the election metric rule in the hitherto uniform quadrennial elections into the office of Governors of States in Nigeria.
Afe Babalola (SAN)
Afe Babalola , CON, OFR, SAN, is a Nigerian Lawyer, Founder, and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti. He was born in Ekiti State, South Western Nigeria. He had his basic education in Ado-Ekiti, e later obtained the A’Level certificate from London University before he proceeded to London School of Economics where he received a bachelor’s degree in Economics.
He worked briefly at the Central Bank of Nigeria before he left for the University of London where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law. In 1963, he was called to the England bar, the same year he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn, London.
Afe Babalola began his career in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, western Nigeria as a litigation lawyer at Olu Ayoola and Co, a law firm. In 1965, after two years of legal practice, he established his own law firm, Afe Babalola, and Co. (Emmanuel Chambers).
In 1987, he became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the highest rank in the Legal profession in Nigeria. In 2001, he was appointed, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria. He held the position till 2008 during which he emerged as the best Pro-Chancellor of Nigerian Universities consecutively in 2005 and 2006.
In 2009, he established Afe Babalola University to promote education in Nigeria. In 2013, the university was ranked the second-best private university in Nigeria and 17 of 136 universities in Nigeria.
Chief Olufolake Solanke (SAN)
On 5th March 1981, history was made when Mrs. Olufolake Solanke became the first female to ever be conferred with the SAN title.
She is a lady of many firsts too numerous to count. She has marked four decades since the Amazon of the Bar began to dignify the Inner Bar in many remarkable ways. Chief Solanke was appointed commissioner, Western State of Nigeria. Chairman, Western Government broadcasting corporation television and radio network service.
After being conferred with the Title of SAN, On July 21st, 1994 she became the 42nd president of Zonta International. This made her the first non–Caucasian to be elected and to hold the position of Zonta International President since Zonta was founded in 1919.
She attained her basic education in Nigeria before proceeding to England for her post-basic education. In 1951, she entered the King’s College at the University of Durham, now the University of Newcastle in England where she obtained her BA (2nd Division) Latin and mathematics in 1954. Diploma in Education (2nd Division) in 1955 thus setting for herself a teaching career.
Upon returning to Nigeria from England in 1962, Chief Folake Solanke joined the chambers of MA Odesanya now honorable Justice Odesanya, in Lagos from August 1962 – May 1963. She then moved to the chambers of Chief FRA Williams in Ibadan as a Junior council in 1963.
Following her conferment with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 1981, Chief Solanke was installed the Yeyemofin of Ife by the Ooni Oba Okunade Sijuwade Olabuse II. She has held many positions in various institutions and associations covering a wide spectrum of activities. Her papers and publications number over seventy also covering fast areas including law, women’s rights, Zonta, and Christian topics.
Dr. Francis Chuka Agbu is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He is an Alumnus of the Chief Executive Programme of the Lagos Business School (LBS) and holds the certificate for the Pan African AMP/CE Module of the IESE Business School,
Dr. Agbu holds a Doctoral degree from the SBS, Swiss Business School, Zurich, an LLB from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), an LLM in Maritime, and Commercial Law, and another Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy (M.I.L.D) from the University of Lagos. His third master’s degree is in Applied Business Research (M.A.B.R) from the SBS, Swiss Business School Zurich.
He is a Senior Partner at Lexavier Partners, a law firm specializing in Dispute Resolution, Banking, and Corporate Finance, Capital Markets, Corporate and Commercial Practices, Energy and Natural Resources, Tourism, Aviation, Telecommunications, Real Estate, Intellectual Property, and Labour Relations. He has almost 40 years experience in the legal practice
He served for many years as a Council Member, Section on Business Law (SBL) of the Nigerian Bar Association and as a member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the same association and is presently a Member of the Body of Benchers of Nigeria and serves in the screening Committee of this body. Dr. Agbu is a member of the International Bar Association (IBA) and served as a Regional Representative of a Section of the global Association.
Dr. Agbu is also a very active advocate across all the superior courts in Nigeria and has handled many landmark cases. He is a consultant to industry, in particular, the banking and financial services industry on reforms in legal and transactional matters, and has presented papers at several conferences within and outside Nigeria.
Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN)
Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (born 3 April 1957) is a Nigerian Lawyer and politician. The first Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Kebbi State and former minister of Special Duties and intergovernmental affairs, former supervising minister, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity having served from 2013-2015 and 2014-2015.
A practicing lawyer and a politician, he contested for the Kebbi state governor’s seat three times. He is presently a member of the People’s Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees.
Kabiru was born in the town of Nasarawa in Kebbi State to the family of Alhaji Tanimu. Like other children of his age, Tanimu was sent to the Qur’anic school.
Turaki attended Barewa College, Zaria, and was the deputy house captain at Suleiman Barau House and president of the Young Farmers’ Club.
To further his education, Kabiru went to the College of Arts and Science, Sokoto for his I.J.M.B., and then earned admission into the University of Jos, to read law. He graduated with honor and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos where he was called to the Nigerian bar in 1986.
On graduation from the Nigerian Law School, Turaki opted to be a private legal practitioner. Instead of remaining in his hometown, he went to Kano where he became a senior counsel with Alhaji Tijjani Abdullahi and Company (Solicitors and Advocates) in 1987. After two years, he formed K. T. Turaki and Co.
Nnamdi Ibegbu (SAN)
Kpajie Nnamdi Ibegbu SAN is an Onitsha-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He owns a law chamber in Abuja and also in Onitsha which was started in 1955 by his father Chief Magistrate Edward Nduba Ibegbu (Rtd) of the honorable society of the Lincoln inn. He also has two sons who are lawyers.
Nnamdi Ibegbu’s law firm has been exceptional in handling Litigation, Arbitration, Tax related issues, Notary Public, and consultancy.
Asides from being A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he is the chairman of the Tax Appeal Tribunal Abuja Zone, and chairman legal disciplinary committee southeast.
He had advocated for the enforcement of the life jail term prescribed by law to any convicted rapist. Describing it as one of the worst crimes anyone could commit, adding that it is complete wickedness, man’s inhumanity to fellow man, sheer madness, unnatural and heinous.
Nnamdi Ibegbu attended the University of Nigeria from 1974 to 1978, after which he went to law school and was called to the Nigerian bar in 1979.
He was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2001, after which he was conferred with (A.C.I Arb) Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Nigeria, in 2007, F.C.I Arb in 2008, and also received an honor, a medal, and the plague in the same year. Nnamdi Ibegbu’s achievements in and outside the legal frame are numerous. He is currently the chancellor diocese on the Niger.
As learned silk, Nnamdi Ibegbu has been active in fighting corruption in Nigeria.
Some spectacular cases he prosecuted were sc/60/91 onyejekwe vs onyejekwe judgment delivered on 12th March 1999.
In that case, the plaintiffs testified in a land case, but the defendant did not testify at all but relied on the evidence of the plaintiff and their witnesses and succeeded.
His client the defendant, succeeded at the High Court, lost the Court of Appeal, and succeeded at the Supreme Court. The case is cited at onyejekwe vs onyejekwe  9 N. W.L.R(pt 569) 482.
Another was CA/B/109/95 Nzelu VS Nzelu-judgement, Delivered at the Court of Appeal Benin division was a rare case the Court of Appeal awarded custody of the children of the marriage to his male client who is the father of the children reported as Nzelu versus Nzelu  3 NWLR [pt 494 ] pg 47.
His hobbies are jogging, reading, television, and traveling.
Christopher Adebayo Ojo (SAN)
Bayo Ojo, is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former attorney General of the federal republic of Nigeria. As such, he is also a past head of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice. He is a legal practitioner and is licensed to practice in Nigeria, England, and Wales.
He was called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1978. He had his first solo court appearance as defense counsel in a rape case before Hon. Justice Anthony Iguh of the High Court of Justice, Enugu, in 1978. The case was a legal aid brief and Ojo lost it because of the overwhelming evidence against his client. He was then a member of the National Youth Service Corps.
He worked at the Ministry of Justice, Kwara State, as a state counsel for four years. During this period, he obtained a certificate in Legal Drafting from the Royal Institute of Public Administration, London in September 1981. Thereafter, he proceeded to the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, to obtain LLM in September 1982. In March 1983, he opted out of government service to join the firm of Oniyangi & Co as head of chambers. In 1986, he founded the law firm Bayo Ojo & Co.
During his term as Attorney-General, he regularly appeared in court personally to argue cases on behalf of the government.
The previous attorneys-general had mostly preferred to engage lawyers in private practice to appear for the government. He was noted for his brilliant efforts in decongesting Nigerian prisons by engaging lawyers in private practice to defend various individuals who were being held by the state without trial. He also had a limited measure of success in advocating for an improvement in the welfare of younger lawyers.
Femi Falana (SAN)
Femi Falana, SAN was born on 20 May 1958, In the town of Ilawe, Ekiti State. He is a Nigerian lawyer and Human right activist. He is also the father to Folarin Falana popularly known as Falz, Femi Falana is a well activist for human right, always trying to show sympathy towards people, Femi Falana is well known for opposing oppression, from successive military authorities.
He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2007 and a recipient of the National Honour of Officer of the Fed Republic (OFR) in 2007. He studied Law at the UNILAG and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1982.
Femi Falana is often referred to as ‘One man that speaks for millions’. scourge of bad leaders, succor to the oppressed, a delight of interviewers, leading light of the civil society community, inspiration to the hopeless and conscience of the nation.
Falana, next in prominence only to his late hero and inspiration, Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, in defending the honor and constitutional rights of the downtrodden and fighting for a just and egalitarian society, has a name and reputation that ring intercontinental.
Chief Timoty Chimezie Ikeazor (SAN)
Chimezie Ikeazor is a Nigerian Lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria who was born in 1930 in Obosi, Anambra State.
He had his basic education at Onitsha, Anambra state, proceeding subsequently to the University of London, where he obtained a Degree in Theology and subsequently read law at King’s College London. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn London in 1960.
He returned to Nigeria and immediately proceeded into Law Practice, setting up the Law practice Ikeazor and Iweka in Onitsha, with his cousin Rob Iweka (who was later to become Attorney-General of Anambra State, Nigeria).
On dissolution of this practice, he set up Practice on his own account in Lagos, building a strong Human Rights and Administrative Law practice, which was characterized by a substantial amount of pro-bono work for indigent clients facing Criminal prosecution.
This was to translate into his agitating for and facilitating the creation of the Nigerian Legal Aid Association, alongside Chief Solomon Lar and Chief Debo Akande, which evolved into a full creature of Statute via the Legal Aid Decree 1977 (later the Legal Aid Act).
Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan (SAN)
Chief Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan (SAN) is the former Edo State Attorney General and
Commissioner for Justice. He has been awarded severally for his noble reputation as a legal practitioner. He is the first SAN of UNIBEN (2000)
Uwensuyi-Edosomwan is also a Benin chief, he advocated for the return of Benin artifacts to the heirs Of Oba Ovonramwen.
Funke Adekoya (SAN)
Olufunke Adekoya, SAN is a founding partner at the firm and heads the dispute resolution, practice group. Appointed notary public in 1986 and elevated to the rank of senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2001, ‘Funke has over 45 years of experience in litigation and arbitration.
As a litigator, she represents clients regularly before the Nigerian courts at all levels. She also provides expert opinions and has appeared as an expert witness on Nigerian law issues before the courts of England, the United States, and Turkey.
Funke obtained a Second Upper Law degree from the then the University of Ife, Ile-Ife in 1974. After being called to the Nigerian bar in 1975, she obtained an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, Boston, Massachusetts USA in 1977. In 2004 she was enrolled as a Solicitor of England and Wales and maintains a current practicing license.
In the field of arbitration, she represents both local and transnational parties as counsel in domestic and international arbitration proceedings within Nigeria and abroad and has acted in numerous disputes as either party-appointed arbitrator, sole arbitrator, or presiding arbitrator.
She was appointed to the Panel of Arbitrators of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) for a period of six years, commencing on 16 September 2017. She lectures regularly on arbitration law and procedure and has been approved by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators as a tutor at the Associate to Fellowship Course level.
EMEKA NGIGE (SAN)
Chief Nnaemeka Ngige, SAN (fondly called Emeka Ngige) was born on the 11th day of July 1961 to the family of late Chief Pius & Mrs. Priscilla Ngige of Urueze-Ide Village, Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. He is the last born in a family of seven children. After secondary school, he studied law at the University of Nigeria Enugu campus.
In the year 2002 Chief Ngige was elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on account of his contributions to the development of legal profession in Nigeria.
Chief Ngige is a consummate Barman and has held various offices in the Nigerian Bar Association. He was a member of the National Executive of the Association between August 1991 and September 2016
He is also a Principal Partner at Emeka Ngige & Co. Council of Legal Education Nigerian Law School Victoria Island Lagos.
He has been able to give back to society immensely. He was one of the private legal practitioners engaged by the Government to prosecute cases at the Failed Banks Tribunal in Enugu and Lagos. He was also among the private legal practitioners engaged by the Federal Government to represent it in various cases filed by the Abacha family to stall the recovery efforts of the Government.
Gani Fawehinmi (SAN)
Chief Abdul-Ganiyu “Gani” Oyesola Fawehinmi, GCON, SAN (22 April 1938 – 5 September 2009) was a Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, and politician.
He held the chieftaincy title of the Lamofin of Ondo. From 1971 to 1973, he was the national publicity secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Chief Fawehinmi moved the amendment of the Legal Practitioners’ Act 1975, the right to a fair hearing. Fawehinmi later ran afoul of an NBA directive. In 1984, when the new Buhari administration enacted the Recovery of Public Property decree, the NBA under the presidency of Bola Ajibola directed its members not to represent any client in a military tribunal. Fawehinmi flouted the directive because he believed the accused should be made to disgorge any money stolen as a result his name was placed on NBA’s dishonor roll.
In 1986, while Chief Gani Fawehinmi was Dele Giwa‘s Lawyer, the latter was killed in a bomb blast under suspicious circumstances.
As a result of his activities chief, Gani Fawehinmi had been arrested, detained, and charged to court several times. His international passport was seized on many occasions and his residence and Chambers were searched several times. He was beaten up time after time and was deported from one part of the country to another to prevent him from being able to effectively reach out to the masses among whom he was popular. His books were confiscated by the Federal Military Government and his library at Surulere, a suburb of Lagos, was set ablaze. His law Chambers at Anthony Village, Lagos State, were invaded by persons suspected to be agents of the government. The guards were shot, two of them seriously wounded.
In the process of his crusades for the rule of law, and the hopes and aspirations of the poor and the oppressed, he fought many battles against military dictatorship as a result of which he had been arrested several times by the military governments and their numerous security agents. He was dumped in many police cells and detained in several prisons between 1969 and 1996.
His supporters have called him “the scourge of sphygmomanometer with which the blood pressure of dictators is gauged, the veritable conscience of the nation and the champion of the interests and causes of the masses”. Many Nigerians also took to calling him the people’s president.
Gani Fawehinmi was later elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest legal title in Nigeria, in September 2001.
The journey of becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria is no child play, which is why they are exhausted when they eventually attain that title.