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NBA under fire, Ogunde quits JRP over call for Olanipekun’s recusal from BoB

For calling for the resignation of Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN as Chairman, Body of Benchers (BoB) a member of the Justice Reform Project(JRP), Oluwemimo Ogunde at the weekend resigned his membership of the 20 members group.

In the same vein, another lawyer, Mr Olasupo Ojo, former President, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) rapped both NBA and JRP, accusing both of being sponsored by a clique to tarnish and bring Olanipekun down. ‘It is obvious that this whole issue is being sponsored by a clique. They are opportunists stoking the matter beyond its scope and trying to use the NBA to drag the BoB Chair down with it at all cost”, he said.

Mr Ogunde, is the father of the embattled Adekunmbi Ogunde, a partner in Wole Olanipekun law firm who allegedly wrote a letter to SAIPEM soliciting for a brief that was being handled by another lawyer, Mr Odein Ajumogobia SAN. Ms Ogunde had written an apology wherein she claimed that neither the founding partner, Chief Olanipekun, nor any other member of the firm knew about the letter she wrote to SAIPEM. The Managing Partner of the law firm, Mr Bode Olanipekun SAN also in a letter to Mr Ajumogobia also disclaimed the letter with an apology. 

Despite all these, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), filed a petition before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, seeking to investigate the matter. NBA president, Olumide Akpata also followed with a letter to Chief Olanipekun, asking him to recuse himself as Chairman, BoB pending the outcome of the petition before the LPDC.

JRP, of which Mr Ogunde is a member also followed with a letter to Chief Olanipekun asking him to resign. Ogunde, a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ogun State however denied knowledge of the JRP letter. “I want to state categorically that I do not wish to be associated with that statement. At no time did I participate in any meeting or discussion where the content of the statement was tabled or my consent sought or obtained”, he said.

Oluwemimo Ogunde SAN, and daughter, Adekunbi

And for including his name in a petition he is not aware of, Ogunde by his statement tendered his resignation from JRP. “In the circumstances, my membership of JRP has now become untenable.

Ogunde’s letter reads:

THE CALL FOR THE RESIGNATION OF CHIEF WOLE OLANIPEKUN SAN AS CHAIRMAN OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS: 

MY POSITION AS A MEMBER OF THE JUSTICE REFORM PROJECT.

 Today, 29th July, 2022, my attention was drawn to a publication by BarristerNG, an online law newspaper that 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria( including me) who  are members of the JRP have called for the resignation of Chief Olanipekun SAN on account of the email written by my daughter. 

I want to state categorically that I do not wish to be associated with that statement. At no time did I participate in any meeting or discussion where the content of the statement was tabled or my consent sought or obtained. 

 The NBA has filed a complaint against my daughter before the LPDC and I think as lawyers, the sanctity and independence of that body should be respected. It must be noted that no complaint was filed against any other partner and Mr Odein Ajumogobia SAN has neither filed any complaint nor deposed to any statement in support of the NBA’s complaint. My focus as a father at this time is to assist my daughter prepare her defence. However, one thing that is clear is that the innocence of the other partners has been clearly expressed. Whether they are vicariously liable for the acts of Ms Adekunbi Ogunde is one of the questions already submitted before the LPDC. Until then, the presumption of innocence of everyone involved, a constitutional right, ought to be respected.

In the circumstances, my membership of JRP has now become untenable. I believe and support my daughter’s solemn declaration expressed privately and publicly, that the email was written unilaterally, without the knowledge of any other partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co. Those who have a contrary view are also entitled to their opinion, but in the interest of justice, we all have to await the verdict of the LPDC.

Many members of the JRP already know my difficult situation in this matter. For that reason I  expected that I should have been consulted so that I would have had the opportunity to have dissociated myself from it internally, and the statement could then have been framed in a way to make my stance very clear, rather than putting me in this clearly embarrassing and awkward situation.

I am grateful to all those who have contacted me privately, particularly those who also know Adekunbi very well. May the Almighty God bless you and yours always.

OLUWEMIMO OGUNDE SAN

Ojo in his own statement said: 

“I read a statement credited to a group called Justice Reform Project, (JRP), an NGO like the NBA, formed by some senior lawyers. I also had the benefit of reading the statement issued by Oluwemimo Ogunde SAN, a member of the JRP and father of the  lawyer who wrote the letter in issue;

Mr Olasupo Ojo, former President, CDHR

Based on the two statements, it is now obvious that this whole issue is being sponsored by a clique. They are opportunists stoking the matter beyond its scope and trying to use the NBA to drag the BOB Chair down with it at all cost. 

I find it difficult that I should be choked  because of a letter written by a lawyer in my firm without my authorization and who has claimed responsibility for the same;

Those gunning for chairmanship of the BOB should come out openly and tell the truth about what transpired at a recent meeting of the BoB where the NBA President read out his memo on the proposed amendment to the LPA during which he spoke rudely to the BoB and he was roundly lambasted by members of the BoB. The next shot to be fired was to exploit the issue of the letter written by a lawyer in the office of the Chairman of the BoB to get at him in retaliation;

I am just looking and laughing at those screaming their heads off in support of the recusal letter. You are all victims of social media trials. They are using you all as mobs to shout-out their cause in the marketplace. I advise you to be circumspect and not continue to fall prey to the antics of an exploitative clique. 

Why are they using the NBA to cry more than the bereaved who has already filed his process with the LPDC on the same matter? Why are they throwing stones as if they are saints? Is the Chairmanship of the BoB an issue in the substantive matter? 

Why is the NBA now being used as their platform to launch a propaganda war against the person of the BOB chair who is a former NBA President? What is the hidden personal axe they have to grind with him as the BoB chair? Why did they wait until now to seize on the issue of a letter wrongly written by a lawyer in his law firm without his knowledge or authorisation as admitted by the same lawyer who wrote the letter? 

How many of us have been crucified just because a lawyer in our firm wrote an unauthorized letter and is this the first or last time such will happen in our law firms?

Can you hold the principal partner of a law firm vicariously liable for an unauthorized  letter written by a lawyer in the firm under the Rules of Professional Conduct? Why are they unable to cite just a rule of the RPC that has been breached by the BoB chair? 

I URGE ALL MATURE AND DISCERNING LAWYERS NOT TO JOIN A FACADE WAGON WHOSE TRUE DESTINATION  IS HIDDEN. 

WHY CAN’T THEY WAIT FOR THE ALREADY  IGNITED LPDC DUE PROCESS TO BE FOLLOWED TO LOGICAL CONCLUSION AT THE SUPREME COURT?

SINCE THERE IS NOW A DIVISION, WHO IS THEIR CANDIDATE FOR THE POSITION OF THE BOB CHAIR AND WHY CANT THEIR CANDIDATE AWAIT HIS OWN TIME?

AT OUR LEVEL OF KNOWLEDGE, WE SHOULD NOT BE AMONG THE MOBS.

The NBA is not the only Association of Lawyers registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria hence the false impression should not be given that the NBA letter for recusal has the backing of all Association of Lawyers in Nigeria.

THANKS.

OLASUPO OJO ESQ.

July 30, 2022.

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