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NBA again calls for Olanipekun’s recusal over ‘influence peddling’

NBA again calls for Olanipekun’s recusal over ‘influence peddling’
December 05
16:02 2022

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has again asked Wole Olanipekun, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to recuse himself from office as chairman of the Body of Benchers (BOB).

This is the second time the NBA is calling for Olanipekun’s recusal, following a leaked email by his law firm, soliciting a brief which contravenes the ethics of the profession.

BACKGROUND

Adekunbi Ogunde, a partner in the law firm of Wole Olanipekun, in June, admitted to having sent an email to SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd, soliciting a brief.

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Despite being aware that the law firm of Henry Ajumogobia, a senior advocate of Nigeria, is handling the matter, Ogunde asked SAIPEM to consider hiring Olanipekun & Co, adding that the founder has more “influence” with judges across all courts.

Olanipekun has since apologised to Ajumogobia, stating that he never approved the email sent by Ogunde.

The lawyer also apologised to Ajumogobia for the embarrassment, blaming her action on exuberance. She also said she is taking a break from legal practice.

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PREVIOUS CALL TO RESIGN AND OLANIPEKU’S REFUSAL

The NBA, in a petition sent on July 20, asked the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to prosecute Ogunde over “professional misconduct”.

In another letter dated July 22 and addressed to Olanipekun, Olumide Akpata, former NBA chairman, said Olanipekun could influence the processes of the LPDC, since the committee is under the supervision of the Body of Benchers chairman.

Consequently, he asked the senior advocate to recuse himself from office.

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However, Olanipekun insisted that the body does not interfere with the activities of the LPDC.

HAND OVER TO VICE-CHAIRMAN

In a recent letter dated December 4, addressed to the BOB chairman, Yakubu Maikyau, the NBA chairman, asked Olanipekun not to preside over the call-to-bar ceremony scheduled for Tuesday and to hand over to Mary Peter-Odili, the vice chairman of the BOB.

“Mr chairman, I have, since assuming office as President of the NBA, expressed concerns over the negative impact of the email by Adekunbi Ogunde (as with so many other actions of our colleagues), on the legal profession in Nigeria,” he said.

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Recalling his inaugural address on August 26, the association president said the email has had a devastating effect on the “noble profession.”

“Needless to say, the confidence of Nigerians in the legal profession is at an all-time low… and the unfortunate situation is not unconnected with the conduct of members of the profession, both on the bench and at the bar,” he noted.

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“The email 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.”

He said the email “made a caricature of the Nigerian Court system and brought the entire legal profession to abject disrepute”.

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“It is disgusting! That this lie was told and allowed to be fed to Nigerians is the greatest assault on our collective psyche. 

“Of course, this is not who we are, but we would appear to celebrate the content of the email by our silence and the insistence by the chairman to continue to preside over the affairs of this body without any remorse whatsoever over the embarrassment which the entire legal profession is subjected to on account of the content of that email.”

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Maikyau went on to say that “what is even more worrisome is the fact that, this body did not in any way react to the email to demonstrate to Nigerians, that what was said of the body and the entire profession was false”.

“A collective action of this Body is absolutely necessary and imperative in letting Nigerians know that the members of this Body are not who the email says they are, and no one can do to this Body what the email suggested the Chairman does and can do. 

“At the very minimum, Mr Chairman, you ought to recuse yourself if only to show some respect for what this body stands for.

“In the circumstances, therefore, and given the need for urgent remedial action, I adopt the letter by my immediate predecessor-in-office dated 22 July 2022 and call for its immediate consideration. 

“I also humbly call on the chairman to immediately yield to the vice chairman of this Body – Hon. Justice Mary Peter Odili, JSC, Rtd., to preside over the call to bar ceremony scheduled for 6 and 7 December 2022.”

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