The Body of Benchers(BoB) at the weekend gave reasons why the petition of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Yakubu Chinoko Maikyau SAN, asking the Chairman of the body, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN to recuse himself from presiding over the just concluded call to bar ceremonies s saying the body could not hear the petition despite Olanipekun waving his rights, because the sole business of the day is the call to bar ceremonies which the body considers more important.
Besides, Maikyau’s letter was received by the body at 9.32 a.m on December 5, the morning of the meeting with majority of the members claiming non recipient of the letter. The body insisted that since the letter was written to the Olanipekun, he must reply before the body decides one way or the other.
In a press statement signed by the Secretary of the body, Daniel M Tela, the body stated: “It is on record that the Media (Print and Social Media) has been agog with reports regarding the call by the Nigerian Bar Association for the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun, CFR, SAN not to preside over the Call to Bar ceremonies. This widely circulated call, has saturated the media space, from Sunday, 4th December, 2022 till now;
At the meeting of the Body of Benchers held on Monday, 5th December, 2022, which notice was given on 14th November, 2022, the sole item for discussion was consideration of the Report of the Screening Committee of the Body, preparatory to the Call to Bar Ceremonies;
The report was duly considered and approved. Under AOB, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association informed members that he had written a letter to the Chairman of the Body to which the Chairman stated that although he had not read the letter as it was not yet brought to his attention, he was aware of the fact that it had already been circulated in the media, particularly the Social Media, and that despite the fact that the letter was personally addressed to him and not to the Body, he was prepared to wave all his rights as he would want it discussed, one way or the other in view of the contents of the letter which centred on his personality and integrity;
The NBA President then stated that he sent the letter to members’ mails in the evening of Sunday, December 4, 2022 and also made copies of the said letter and brought to the meeting, but majority of the members responded that they were yet to receive such mail. Some members were of the view that the letter was definitely not ripe for consideration, assuming it was meant or addressed to the Body. The said letter was received at the Body of Benchers Secretariat at 9.32am on Monday, 5 th December, 2022;
In spite of all the comments and contributions of members, the Chairman still passionately pleaded that the matter be taken and made reference to a previous letter written in July, 2022 on the eve of Call to Bar Ceremonies. Majority of members were of the view that the Chairman drop his insistence that the matter be conclusively decided, bearing in mind several factors including the fact that majority of the members did not receive the email, coupled with the fact the Call to Bar subject was too important and central to the Body and the content of the letter was not such that could be taken under AOB. Furthermore, the letter was addressed to the Chairman, Body of Benchers, therefore, there is need for the Chairman’s response to be received for proper consideration;
It was therefore resolved that the matter be taken at the Emergency Meeting of the Body scheduled to take place in January, 2023, at a date to be communicated to members. Thereafter, the motion for adjournment of the meeting was moved. The Body frowned at the use of the Social Media platform in forwarding sensitive official communication;
I have been directed to issue the above statement following the repeated calls made seeking information on the conduct of the Call to Bar ceremonies and the position of the Body of Benchers on the call by the NBA for the Chairman, Body of Benchers to recuse himself from presiding over the Ceremonies. To the glory of God, the call to bar ceremonies were successful”.
It would be recalled that Mr Maikyau had boycotted the meeting with claims that the body did not consider his letter.
He stated in his letter: “At the meeting of the BoB held on 5 December 2022, I drew the attention of the Chairman to my letter and called for deliberations on same since it directly impacts on the propriety of the Chairman presiding over the Call to Bar ceremony, but this was not done nor were the hard copies of the letter distributed to the Benchers. The meeting of the BoB was adjourned to January 2023, on a date to be fixed by the Chairman;
In the circumstances therefore, having regard to my firm persuasion that the matters raised in my letter should have led the BoB to ask the Chairman to recuse himself in the interest of safeguarding the integrity of the Legal Profession, I am in good conscience unable to attend and participate in the Call to Bar Ceremony. The NBA under my leadership cannot be part of the ceremony superintendent by the current Chairman of the BoB for all the reasons stated in my letter under reference. To do so will be to endorse, celebrate or condone a practice that I consider unwholesome and unprofessional, by virtue of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007. The NBA under my leadership remains committed to the protection of the integrity of the Bench and the Bar and will not shirk that responsibility”.
Over a hundred members of the Body of Benchers attended the meeting and the ceremonies, notable among whom were the Vice Chairman, Hon. Justice Mary U. Peter-Odili, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria(CJN), Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola. Others include past Chief Justices S. M. A. Belgore, Mahmud Mohammed, Walter Onnoghen, Umaru Abdullahi, CON who is a former Chairman of the Body, Life benchers, Presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal Divisions, Chief Judges and Attorneys General, Chairmen of the National Assembly Committees on Judiciary and Representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association.
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