President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikyau SAN on Tuesday announced that he would not be attending the call to the bar of new wigs who have just passed through the Nigerian Law School because his letter to the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN asking him to recuse himself from the ceremony was not attended to in the meeting of the BoB on Monday.
Many lawyers have however faulted the NBA president’s stand saying the matter he raised was already decided upon by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee), and calling it a “gross misnomer and confirmation of destructive politicking and perfidious infighting within the NBA” .
According to Maikyau, he wrote a letter to the BoB Chairman on December 4, 2022 wherein he asked him to recuse himself from the call to bar slated for December 6 and 7. Copies of the letter were sent to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Oluwakayode Ariwoola, and all members of the body. In the letter, he mentioned the issue of an email sent by a partner in Olanipekun’s chambers, Ms Kunbi Ogunde, soliciting for a brief from an International Oil Company, SAIPEM, two months after the case solicited had been settled out of court.
The immediate past NBA president, Mr Olumide Akpata had made a similar gesture in a letter where he made a similar request that Olanipekun should recuse himself from acting as chairman of the body. His petition was referred to the LPDC and in its decision, LPDC threw out the petition saying Olanipekun and his partners had no case to answer.
Maikyau acknowledged this fact in his letter when he said: “I am aware that the law firm of Wole Olanipekun and Co, has been excused from any liability regarding the email in issue, and I am not and will not question the correctness or otherwise of that decision”.
Despite his claim however, the NBA president on Tuesday morning made a press statement that he will not be attending the call to bar because his petition was not treated at the BoB meeting.
He said: “On 4 December 2022, I wrote a letter to the Chairman, Body of Benchers (BoB) Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, CFR, SAN, copied to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Life Benchers, and other Benchers. In that letter, I requested the Chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from presiding over the Call to Bar Ceremony scheduled for 6 and 7 December 2022, for reasons clearly articulated therein. I sent the letter to the Chairman and all Benchers by email on 4 December 2022, I also submitted a hard copy of the letter on 5 December 2022 to the Secretary of the BoB along with one hundred and fifty (150) copies of the letter for circulation to all Benchers;
It would be recalled that my predecessor-in-office had, on 22 July 2022, written to the Chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from office on the same grounds set out in my letter, but the Chairman refused to acknowledge the said letter nor bring it up for consideration more than 5 months since its delivery to the BoB. My present letter is to bring to attention the earlier call made by my predecessor and to emphasize the damage being done to the legal profession by reason of our collective silence over such devastating issue, with the expectation that the Chairman will see reason to show remorse and for the BoB to ask the Chairman to recuse himself knowing that no one is bigger than the legal profession;
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”.
In a swift reaction, a former Attorney General of Oyo State, Adebayo Mutalubi Ojo SAN, and a former Publicity Secretary of NBA, Murtala Oladimeji Abdul-Rasheed SAN faulted Maikyau, saying his action is politics carried too far.
A release signed by both lawyers stated: “The NBA’s President’s letter resuscitating this matter and referencing social media comments that fit into his jaundiced opinion asking Chief Olanipekun to recuse himself from presiding at the Call to Bar ceremony of the new wigs slated for December 6th and 7th 2022 in Abuja is a gross misnomer, to say the least, and constitutes a confirmation of destructive politicking and perfidious infighting within the NBA;
The latest development in the saga is a classic example of how a malcontent decision by a few disgruntled elements, disguising under a single potentate, can lead to invidious resuscitation of a settled case. Honestly speaking, no matter the angle with which we view this matter , there could only be the ineluctable conclusion that Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, is being maliciously persecuted for a concocted misdeed”.
As at the time of going to press the first session of the call to bar just ended and Chief Olanipekun is presiding.
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