One of the longest serving Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) prosecutors at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN has said that the committee cannot not punish activist-lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo for the manner he dressed before appearing at the Supreme Court today.
In a post he made on a City Lawyer WhatsApp forum, the fiery senior lawyer said that contrary to some comments on Omirhobo’s appearance in court, he also did not disrupt proceedings at the Supreme Court. Some reports had stated that the Supreme Court was discomfited and rose abruptly upon sighting the activist-lawyer.
Said Okutepa: “I was in the Supreme Court. Dapo Akinosun SAN and Chief Philip Ndubuisi Umeh SAN and Attorney General of Enugu State were (also) in Court. While I salute his desire to pass a message that we need to be careful how we introduce religion in our profession it will be wrong to say he disrupted proceedings. He did not.
“He appeared dressed like as shown above but he did not disrupt the proceedings or announce appearance for any party in any of the cases listed on the cause list for today. The Supreme Court Justices did not even notice him. He only came in and sat down.”
The senior lawyer however said that Ormihobo failed to earn his respect by not confronting the Supreme Court justices on the hijab ruling, adding that he is merely a publicity seeker. His words: “He would have earned my respect if he had stood up to announce appearance and appear in any of the cases or if he has a case there and he appeared like that and draw the attention of their lordships to his presence. I think he just came to seek for social media publicity. He did not confront those who delivered the judgment.”
When City Lawyer asked the former LPDC prosecutor whether Ormihobo could face disciplinary proceedings for his action, Okutepa said: “For what? Those who think he has done the wrong thing should complain. He just dressed as he liked. He did not appear in a case to conduct proceedings.”
Pressed on whether the dressing did not breach the lawyers’ code on dressing, he said: “This man did not appear in Court as lawyer. He just dressed like that. He should have been bold enough to stand up and announce himself as lawyer in Court. Until he does that, all he did was just to attract media attention. When Daniel wanted to let Nebuchadnezzar know that he served in living God, he confronted the king personally and was firm in his stand that the king was wrong. Those kings were sitting. He did not confront them. He has not done anything for him to be sent to the den of lion or fiery furnace as Nebuchadnezzar did to Daniel.”
He again noted that the situation may be different if Ormihobo were to appear in the same attire to argue his case in court. His words: “Let him first exercise his right of dressing as he likes in his religious attires in court proceedings. It is then we can think of whether he breached the rules of professional conduct. Mark you the judgment of the Supreme Court on hijab is not a license for lawyers to dress anyhow.”
Ormihobo has vowed to appear in court and argue cases in the same attire.
While several lawyers’ platforms on social media have been buzzing with the dramatic appearance, with lawyers sharply divided on the fate that should befell Ormihobo, the Supreme Court, NBA and Body of Benchers are yet to comment on the issue.