Body of Benchers Meet, Silent on NBA’s Letter

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The Body of Benchers (BoB) held its scheduled meeting on Tuesday without discussing the letter written by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to its Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun asking him to step aside.

The body had adjourned from its last emergency meeting of June 21, 2022, to today to discuss matters arising from the reports of some of its committees and arrangements for the call-to bar ceremony scheduled to hold tomorrow,  Wednesday.

It was gathered that the meeting held in Abuja was attended by about 30 members physically with about 50 other members joining virtually.

The Chairman of the BoB, Chief Olanipekun attended physically and presided over the meeting. The President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata who is also a member attended the meeting virtually from his holiday spot.

Some members of the meeting who spoke off camera said the meeting started at about 11.30 am and ended around 2.30 pm.

Discussions at the meeting were centered primarily on tomorrow’s call to bar ceremony.

Owing to security concerns, the meeting agreed to shift the call ceremony from the Nigerian Law School Bwari, Abuja to the BoB Secretariat along the Airport Road in Jabi also in Abuja.

The next meeting of the body is expected to hold in September in line with its tradition of meeting quarterly.

The BoB under the chairmanship of Chief Wole Olanipekun is the legal body of practitioners of the highest distinction in the legal profession.

The body is responsible for the formal call to the bar of persons seeking to become legal practitioners as well as disciplining erring lawyers.

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By a letter dated July 22, 2022, and signed by the NBA President, the Bar had called on the Chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from his position in order to allow the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC to investigate an alleged act of professional misconduct by one of his partners, Adekunbi Ogunde.

The letter which was addressed to Olanipekun was titled, RE: PETITION AGAINST MS ADEKUNBI OGUNDE BY THE NIG. BAR ASSOCIATION FOR ALLEGED MISCONDUCT.

About a month ago, Ogunde, a partner in the law firm of Wole Olanipekun and Co., admitted that she sent an email to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd to solicit a brief that was being handled by Ajumogobia and Okeke, the law firm of another SAN, Odein Ajumogobia.

The brief was related to the ongoing $130 million case at the Rivers State High Court brought by the Rivers State government.

In soliciting for the brief, Ogunde wrote to one Mr. Caio Francesco of Saipem, claiming that her law firm, Wole Olanipekeun & Co., would be more influential in helping Saipem avert a potentially huge payout to the Rivers State government.

She would later blame this on exuberance. Her firm also sent out a disclaimer that Ogunde’s letter was sent out without their authority.

In a letter dated July 19, the NBA wrote a petition against Ogunde recommending that she be required to answer for the allegations of professional misconduct.

The NBA President swiftly followed up last week Friday with a call for Olanipekun to step aside to allow for due process and for the LPDC to carry out its duties without the BoB chairman coming under undue suspicion of impartiality.

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When Channels TV contacted Olanipekun for his reaction to the letter, the Chairman of the BoB said at the time that he was on holiday outside the country and had not seen the letter or received it.

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