Some prominent members of the inner bar including Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, Chief Bennbella Anachebe, SAN and Chief Samuel Okutepa, SAN have faulted the NBA President Mr. Olumide Akpata over his method of handling the probe of the involvement of Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde’s alleged professional misconduct as it relates to Chief Olanipekun.
Recall that three days after filing reporting Ms. Adekunbi to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for allged misconduct, the NBA wrote the Chairman of Body of Benchers, BOB, Chief Wole Olanipekun asking him to recuse himself from his position to pave the way for the investigation of Ms. Ogunde who is a partner in his law firm.
The Senior Advocates who spoke separately with Vanguard said that without looking at the merit of the case before the disciplinary committee of the NBA, the President should have first sought audience with Chief Olanipekun, a former President of the NBA, and perhaps other elders or past Presidents of the NBA before writing such letter if still necessary.
According to them, the fact that he wrote the sensitive letter and leaked it to the press showed that his intention was less than noble.
According to Chief Mike Ahamba, the entire letter by the NBA chief was, and remains a mere opinion. ”You don’t ask anybody to take steps on an issue about which he is ignorant of. I believe that the President of the Bar ought to have contacted Chief Olanipekun even though the subject-matter of the crisis is worrisome to some of us.
“All the same, it is always good to follow procedure. He should have asked him what his comment on the issues is. He should have listened to him before asking him to step down. That the letter was written at all was worrisome because of speculations behind the move by some lawyers to the bench. It is worrisome when you see this kind of accusation.
Everybody must have a fair hearing, ”he said.
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria who pleaded anonymity said the NBA President didn’t give Olanipekun the benefit of the doubt that he could be independent in the handling of the case, adding: “In any event, it is only in Oyinbo land that somebody will quit his job because of a mere call by somebody who appears to have ulterior motive in writing such letter.”
Also contributing, Chief Okutepa said: “The letter was not in the best tradition of how things are done irrespective of what anybody feels about it. Chief Wole Olanipekun was a past President of the Nigerian Bar Association and whether we like it or not, he is a superior member of the bar and if I were to be in the position of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, I won’t write such letter. I would go to meet with Chief Wole Olanipekun or involve senior members of the Bar, elders, past Presidents, and then meet with him and have discussion because whether anybody likes it or not, he is the leader of the bar.
“To do a letter to him and before he gets it, it is on social media, it is a very terrible thing that he ought not to do. You may not like Wole Olanipekun as a person but the institution that we all belong to must be preserved by the decorum we accord to ourselves.
“I’m not saying Wole Olanipekun is above disciplinary process and I am not going to go to any argument as to whether or not what happened is correct or not correct, but there are better and respectful way of dealing with issues that affect the profession.
Another Abuja-based silk, Chief Ben Anachebe, SAN, said the letter was written with underlined mischief. “It was not supposed to have been written being mindful of his status without hearing from him first. I will think as a former President of the Bar, he ought to have made a personal contact with him alongside other senior members of the Bar.
“I have it on good authority that Chief Olanipekun who in fact, I spoke with today, that up till now, he has not sighted a copy of the letter and same has been released to the press.
“The fact that a junior in the Chamber of Chief Olanipekun wrote a letter and the content was considered to have violated the rules of practice does not justify asking Chief Olanipekun to resign.
As a matter of fact, Chief Olanipekun has many friends,r elatives and colleagues serving in his chambers or other chambers at the Bar. So does it mean that tomorrow, if anybody whom he knows is brought before the Committee, he has to step aside in order not to interfere with the proceedings? Truth be told, some people are blowing this matter out of proportion.
“Chief Olanipekun was conferred with the rank of SAN in 1991 when the President of the NBA must either be in law school or in the university. He should have shown better respect or a better approach,” he added.
Notwithstanding the ‘politicisation’ of the approach adopted by the NBA President to demand that Chief Olanipekun must step down as BOB Chairman on the one hand and Ms. Ogunde clinging to the straw of limited knowledge of litigation practice as defence on the other hand, it is important that the popular principle of law—Ignorantia juris non excusat, meaning “ignorance of the law excuses not” must be seen to apply in this case. The NBA must pursue this case to its logical conclusion to serve as deterrent to others who may have been indulging in the worrisome practice. The President of the NBA should be supported by all legal practitioners in his bid to stamp out unwholesome practice in the bar.