It was a heated debate yesterday as the elite Body of Benchers threw out a formal nomination by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to appoint foremost lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN as its Vice Chairman.

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report noted that the NBA National Executive Council (NBA-NEC) had at its last quarterly meeting in Birnin-Kebbi shunned Awomolo and resolved to back respected senior lawyer, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN as its choice for the top post.

The position of Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Body of Benchers rotates between members of the Bar and Bench. Awomolo takes over from retired Supreme Court jurist, Justice Mary Odili who replaced foremost lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN after a turbulent one-year reign as the Chairman of the august body.

Multiple sources told CITY LAWYER that though NBA President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau SAN presented his letter stating the position of the NBA on the matter, this was flatly rejected by the benchers.

Aside from reeling out Awomolo’s contributions to the legal profession and especially in resuscitating the NBA after the 1992 Port Harcourt debacle, Olanipekun noted that the body has well settled procedure for appointing its leadership.

CITY LAWYER gathered that aside from a prominent human rights activist and at least two other Bar Leaders who spoke against the nomination, only former NBA Enugu Branch Chairman, Chief L. M. E. Ezeofor backed Maikyau in his spirited battle to push through the NBA-NEC resolution.

It was gathered that the benchers insisted that such positions are filled strictly on the basis of tradition and that only the most senior active member from the Bar would ascend to the post, adding that it was not in the place of the Bar to dictate how the body would choose its leadership.

While some members argued that NBA does not equate to the “Bar,” CITY LAWYER recalls that the immediate past NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata nominated Olanipekun for endorsement during a plenary meeting of the Body of Benchers.

A source argued that aside from the fact that Awomolo is not the most senior Life Bencher from the Bar, Late Chief Idowu Sofola SAN among others allegedly did not follow the seniority precedent prior to appointment to the leadership of the body. He argued that “Awomolo does not represent the Bar,” adding that “His antecedents are clear for all to see.”

CITY LAWYER gathered that as the debate on the issued lingered, and reminiscent of the “off the mic” debacle at the National Assembly hearing, a leading jurist was overhead during the hybrid meeting telling Olanipekun that “You must learn to exhibit dictatorial tendencies.”

Regarded as one of the foremost lawyers in Nigeria, Olanipekun has been engaged in a fierce and bruising face-off with the NBA leadership over a controversial letter by his partner, Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde bordering on alleged solicitation.

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report cited a complaint by former Minister of Energy and Petroleum ministries, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia SAN over an email from Ogunde, a Partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co, allegedly soliciting to take over a brief his law firm was handling for SAIPEM SPA. Following his demand for an apology, Wole Olanipekun & Co apologized for the debacle and disowned the Partner. NBA has since filed a petition against the embattled senior lawyer at the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC).

It was unclear at press time how the NBA will respond to the rejection of its nomination.

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