By Bright Nwosu
News have it that the President of the Nigerian Bar Association has withdrawn from the Call to Bar ceremonies of the new entrants into the Nigerian Bar. The reason he gave is as contained in the email he circulated on the morning of the call to Bar, which he also advertised in several news dailies of 6th December, 2022. This decision of his, is obviously a brainchild of the refusal of the Chief Wole Olanipekun to yield to his call of recusing himself from presiding over the call to bar ceremonies built to hold on 6th and 7th December, 2022. Mr. Maikyau himself had admitted that he wrote the said letter on 4th December, 2022, for a meeting that was scheduled to hold on 5th December, 2022. A lot of issues are whipped up by this position, particularly, drawing from the benefit of hindsight of the pattern that the same subject had drawn under Maikyau’s predecessor, whom he conspicuously referenced in his letter of 4th December, 2022.
For a context, Maikyau’s immediate predecessor in office, Olumide Akpata, had on the eve of a Call to Bar ceremony called on Chief Olanipekun to ‘recuse’ himself from presiding over the affairs of the Body of Benchers. Although he refused to raise the issue at the meeting of the Body of Benchers, the Call to Bar eventually proceeded, with Mr. Akpata absenting himself from the ceremonies.
Towards the twilight of his administration, the LPDC would eventually publish a finding that the partners of Wole Olanipekun & Co., are not liable to any disciplinary action, “since there is no evidence to show that the Respondent indeed acted with the knowledge and consent of the Principal partners, especially with the partner’s express and constant denial of Exhibit 1 (the email)”. LPDC eventually held that there is “no merit in recommending further investigation against the partners of the firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co.” Interestingly, NBA was the applicant in that petition and should ordinarily have a right of appeal against the said finding.
However, since this finding found its way to the media space, a lot of us who are interested in the affairs of the legal profession had patiently awaited the reaction of the NBA to no avail. The only seeming reaction to this was contained in Mr. Maikyau’s inaugural speech, where he acknowledged the fact that the LPDC had exonerated the partners of the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co. from any complicity and the fact that it is improper for him to make any comment on the matter owing to its pendency before the LPDC and the FCT High Court.
Is it now not contradictory that the same Maikyau would proceed about 5 months later to ask that an action be taken on the same subject in respect of which he acknowledged that a decision had earlier been taken and that an action was pending in court. Could the President of the NBA be suggesting that he is dissatisfied with the decision of the LPDC or that he no longer has confidence in the proceedings before the FCT High Court which he, himself referenced?
Beyond this, since his emergence as the President of the NBA, the media has reported several functions and proceedings attended by Mr. Maikyau, presided over by Olanipekun in his capacity as the Chairman of the Body of Benchers. He neither raised the issue (which had effectively been settled) nor did he withdraw from any of the proceedings and functions. However, the uniformity of pattern in the modus of Akpata and Mikyau by targeting their wolf cries towards the eve of calls to bar points to the fact that there is more to it than meets the eyes. For instance, though the vexed email had hit the media space as at 26th June, 2022, Akpata remained silent until 22nd July, 2022 when call to bar was few days away. True to form, while Maikyau had assumed office since 26th August, 2022, he did not deem it fit to raise the issue again (assuming he was not caught by the legal doctrine of res judicata in view of the LPDC’s finding and sub judice in view of the pending matter at the FCT High Court) until a few days to the call to bar ceremonies. Similarly, Akpata’s letter was thrown into the media space over a weekend, the same way Maikyau’s letter was introduced over the weekend, with both letters being given more concentrated PR than is normally the case. In fact, unconfirmed sources have it that both letters were celebrated in the media space even before they were delivered to the addressee himself.
With these, one is minded to conclude that the uniformity in time and style is not a question of mere coincidence but of very voluminous import, targeted at an unpronounced end. Could Maikyau be under an obligation of concluding Akpata’s personal battles? Could they be in some contest against Olanipekun?
Now that Akpata and Mikyau have both chosen to stay away from the two successive calls to the bar, which said calls proceeded anyway, it is tempting to conclude that the NBA through its successive Presidents have succeeded in demystifying the NBA after all. This conclusion becomes more compelling considering the on-going struggle for the soul of the NBA and its relevance amidst the teeming legal populace. Having then chosen a pattern to continually abscond from calls, it is obvious that the NBA no longer has any moral justification to take part in the practicing fees of new entrants.
More critical is the fact that the attitude of the successive NBA Presidents further lends credence to the fact that the proposition that every legal practitioner is a compulsory member of the NBA is a mirage at the end of the day. Such position would have been more compelling and real, if the presence or absence of the NBA in the affairs of lawyers portends any relevance or implication. Here, the contrary has been proven, thereby, supposing that whether it is called Law Society, Association of Nigeria Lawyers or suchother name at all, every lawyer, just like all other professions, deserves the constitutional right to freedom of association and the latitude of choosing where to pitch their tents. Facing it strictly, since the NBA could now choose to abscond from the inauguration of these new lawyers, it certainly lacks the moral justification to insist on their membership and to receive remittances in form of practicing fees from these persons, having jettisoned their inauguration into the profession which form the foundation for their earnings. It is with mixed feelings that I say “thank you Mr. Mikyau for liberalizing the membership of the NBA.”
Bright Nwosu writes from Lagos.
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