A. J. Owonikoko (SAN) has given a fresh perspective to what everyone may have known about the facts surrounding the travails of Ms. Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun.
He titled the piece “Re Press Release On LPPC Decision on One Out of Two Petitions Re-Investigated Against Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun. Esq.”
I am going to advise caution in commenting on colleague’s fate on public forum without the benefit of cold relevant facts. A lawyer in delinquent arrears of rent for 9 years has no business applying for the rank of SAN. It’s an expensive status regardless of the glamour and envy it generates from colleagues still aspiring to or despairing of making the milestone. It may not be a professional misconduct, but certainly it lowers the esteem of the rank as a marker of professional excellence and upstanding standard of the best that the profession has to offer. That said, I happen to be fully seised of the complaint against the candidate’s suitability for the rank – having been part of the volunteer team of SANs that led her defense at the hearing before the LPPC sub-committee. Indeed I signed off on her supporting written address that accompanied her sworn defense on oath and oral testimony before the panel .The allegation against her was (NOT THAT SHE OWED 9years Rent) but rather that she used her position as a lawyer to frustrate the disposal of the landlord and tenancy suit instituted by her landlord at the magistrates court for nine years. The matter lasted under two years at the magistrates court upon her preliminary objection that she was not served with requisite quit notice and notice of intention to apply to court to recover possession. She was overruled by the magistrate and so appealed the decision. In the meantime stay of proceedings pending appeal was granted by the magistrate on terms that rents accruing up till 2010 be paid over to the landlords solicitors over their own objection. They apparently thought that accepting the rent would prejudice their case and revive the tenancy that was subjudice. She issued her Cheque in payment which was cleared for the accrual. Landlord’s counsel received value but refused to give receipt in discharge or acknowledge it. This was reported on record to the court; and the magistrate at that time noted that the refusal to formally acknowledge and give discharge for the sum received had become a stumbling block to possible amicable settlement without prejudice to the pending interlocutory appeal. At about the time the landlord passed on but after Counsel met and agreed on settlement terms. The landlord solicitors unilaterally changed the terns of settlement agreed and Ms Bashorun insisted that the correction to reflect the agreement which would have seen her yield possession in 2012 be made to enable her sign off and compromise her appeal. Landlord counsel would not agree. Hence the stalemate until his demise. So the case by operation of law stood in abeyance fork then until substitution of the deceased could be formally granted. In the meantime case file was misplaced and a number of judges assigned to take the matter weee transferred from land division and ceased to have the file in their docket. It was after ceaseless and documented representations to the CJ of High of Lagos State by Appellant and registry follow up that the file was eventually located to pave way for reassignment. Suffice it to say that the appeal was heard by Harrison J in late 2016 after the landlord counsel failed to file respondent brief for over a year and had to apply for extension of time that was granted unopposed . The appeal was allowed in a reserved judgment delivered on February 2017. The court struck out the suit and held that the objected notices were bad. The landlord’s counsel curiously took no step to reinstitute the suit till date. He opted instead to issue a fresh six (6) month quit notice in June 2017 to expire on the anniversary of the tenancy in FEBRYARY 2018 !!!. Was it necessary to issue a quit notice to a tenant in arrears of 9years rent ??? !!!
It was in furtherance of this quit notice that the petition was filed against Ms Bashorun two weeks after she was announced to have scaled the elevation exercise in early July 2017.
This should however not be confused with a long standing petition that was lodged against her severally by an erstwhile client since 2007. That was also reopened after she had been cleared by three different national executives of NBA; and by the LPPC during the last interview exercise at which she was cleared. At the hearing of the subcommittee in October , the petitioner in the latter petition refused to adopt her deposition and written address as counsel representing her drew attention of the LPPC to a case she filed at the FCT high court on the Matter in which she joined CJN , LPPC, NBA along with Ms Bashorun. I was at FCT High to argue objection to the justificiability and competence of the suit on 9th January, 2018. It could not go on and is now adjourned to 15th Inst.
Those who know me well enough , can attest to fact that when I decide to professionally defend against injustice I will be dogged and unwavering unperturbed by opinion of others so long as I am clear in my conscience that the cause is just . In Toyin’s I am glad to note that far senior counsel of repute are leading the pack in her behalf – and that I am but a paper weight in the team.
In view of the recent directive of my lord the Hon the Chief Justice of Nigeria warning of severe sanction against counsel or other persons who expose or comment on sub judice proceedings in the media space, I can say no more on the pending suit for now.
There are lessons for us as lawyers to learn from Ms Oluwa TOYIN Ajoke Bashorun’s travails. The bell tolls. But God is the ultimate decider of our fate.
I applied for the rank for eight years until God’s time came. I never lobbied for it but through His grace people played their part – so I owe no allegiance of muteness or subservience to anybody in defending the privilege and responsibilities that come with it. Toyin made it at first attempt but after scaling many stumbling blocks including strange disqualification at different filter stages which she successfully got overturned on merit/ if she did not make it in 2017 , she would not have given up , and people like us who not have discouraged her from continuing to trust in God’s time . It’s after all in the final analysis a privilege.”
It would be recalled that Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun was among the 30 persons announced by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) as having qualified for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on July 6, 2017. However her joy was short lived when the same LPPC by a press statement issued on September 15, 2017 deferred indefinitely, Mrs. Bashorun’s conferment indicating that more facts about her eligibility emerged after she had been announced among the 30 successful candidates which require further investigation. Upon the said further investigation, the LPPC announced her withdrawal and subsequent ban for three years from applying for the rank.