Law & Human Rights

January 20, 2023

NBA renews call on Olanipekun to resign as BoB chair 

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, through its president, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, yesterday, renewed its call for the resignation of Wole Olanipekun, as the Chairman, Body of Benchers, BoB.

BoB is the statutory body saddled with the primary responsibility of calling law graduates to the bar and generally regulating the legal profession in Nigeria.

Recall that Odein Ajumogobia had alleged that a partner in Olanipekun’s law firm, Adekunbi Ogunde, had written, soliciting briefs for the law firm.

Ajumogobia, who was already handling the case of interest on behalf of the client, had alleged that Ms Ogunde’s letter violated the professional code of conduct for lawyers.

Ms Ogunde, it was learned, informed the prospective client, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, that the presence of Olanipekun in a case “will significantly switch things in favour of Sapiem.”

She later apologised through a statement and maintained that neither Wole Olanipekun nor the law firm knew of her letter.

Resignations

Following Ajumogobia’s complaint, the NBA, under Olumide Akpata, had petitioned the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC, seeking the sanction of Ms Ogunde over the allegation of professional misconduct.

It had also sought Wole Olanipekun, also former NBA President, resignation as chairman of BoB.

Maikyau, on assumption of office, also wrote BoB, seeking the resignation of Olanipekun. 

But BoB, in a statement, declined to hear the NBA petition against Olanipekun, though he (Olanipekun), had opted to set aside.

Fresh petition

But in a fresh petition, yesterday, addressed to every member of the BoB, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, life benchers, the NBA President renewed the call for Olanipekun to resign as chairman of BoB.

In the petition, Maikyau said: “I have, since assuming office as President of the NBA, expressed concerns over the negative impact of the e-mail by Adekunbi Ogunde (as with so many other actions of our colleagues), on the legal profession in Nigeria. In my inaugural address on August 26, 2022, I specifically referred to the e-mail and the matters arising therefrom.

“I did not mince words about the devastating effect of that e-mail on our noble profession of law and by virtue of the strategic position of this Body in showcasing the crème-de-lacrème of the legal profession in Nigeria, this Body must acquit itself of any complicity, albeit after the fact, in any act of professional misconduct.

Confidence

“For us as members of the legal profession to discharge this responsibility, we must be in position to earn and command the confidence of the people. Needless to say, the confidence of Nigerians in the legal profession is at an all-time low and, like I observed in my Address during the 2022/2023 Legal Year Ceremony of the Supreme Court on 28 November 2022, the unfortunate situation is not unconnected with the conduct of members of the profession, both on the Bench and at the Bar.

“It is for this reason that I must respectfully call on this Body to take definite steps toward regaining the confidence of Nigerians in the legal profession. The e-mail by Adekunbi Ogunde, which presented this Body and indeed the entire legal profession in Nigeria, as one subject to and/or susceptible to manipulation by the Chairman, is the greatest damage ever inflicted on the legal profession in Nigeria and the psyche of Nigerians. Whatever confidence Nigerians may have had in the legal profession was drastically eroded by the content of that email, which gained wide publicity in the social media. 

No denial

“Interestingly, there was no denial that the said e-mail was indeed written, and whether the content of the email was authorised or not is immaterial to the impression created by its content. The only way this Body can demonstrate that it “consists of men of the highest distinction in the legal profession” is to come out and speak boldly against that negative narrative and refuse to celebrate it in anyway under any guise.

Misuse of e-mail

“I am aware that the law firm of Wole Olanipekun and Co, has been excused from any liability regarding the e-mail in issue, and I am not and will not question the correctness or otherwise of that decision. Suffice it, however, to say that the public reactions that trailed the emergence of that email and the decision exonerating the law firm would give a bit of insight into how this Body is presently being viewed by some members of the profession and the Nigerian public. 

“Nigerians look up to the legal profession and this Body cannot afford to be silent. To do so is to betray the confidence which Nigerians have in the legal profession. 

Integrity

“We must not allow younger members of the profession to have the slightest thought that the content of Adekunbi Ogunde’s email is a template for legal practice in Nigeria. No one should be in any doubt that, the content of the email is condemnable and does not represent this Body and the legal profession. We owe the younger generation of lawyers the duty to speak and not be silent. My administration has committed to protecting the legal space for the benefit of the upcoming generation of lawyers. Not only are we resolved to resist any external incursions into the legal space, we shall equally resist any action that seeks to destroy the fabric of the profession.

“We owe the younger generations of not only lawyers but all Nigerians, honest and sincere mentorship. To allow the status quo in this Body to remain, despite the glaring colossal damage to the conscience of this nation, the legal profession, is to abdicate our responsibility to the nation.”