Former Minister for Energy and Petroleum ministries, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia has accused the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co of professional misconduct in the $130 Million Rivers State Government vs Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and Ors case.
In an email dated June 23, 2022 and obtained by CITY LAWYER, the senior lawyer stated that he was “shocked and appalled” at the contents of a letter written by one Adekumbi Ogunde, a Partner in the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co to his firm’s clients, Saipem SA and Saipem Nigeria Limited.
In the email addressed to the Body of Benchers Chairman, Ajumogobia wrote: “I must also express my extreme disappointment and utter disillusionment, that a letter of this nature should emanate from your chambers, given your stature at the bar generally and as the current Chairman of the body of benchers, in particular.
“My sentiments about the unfortunate but unmistakable allusion to ‘influence’ with “Justices of the Supreme Court, Presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges” with whom you happen to serve on certain bodies in the legal profession, with regard to a matter before a Court, is better left unsaid.
“Suffice it to say that the attached letter is in my opinion tantamount to gross misconduct of the worst kind.
“For the record, our mandatory Rules of Professional Conduct expressly prohibit self-advertising and solicitation by Nigerian legal practitioners!
“Rule 39 expressly provides that “A lawyer shall not engage or be involved in any advertising or promotion of his practice of the law which …..makes comparison with or criticizes other lawyers …..or includes any statement about the quality of the lawyer’s work, the size or success of his practice or his success rate.
“The email from your firm could not be more egregious in its breach of this essential mandatory rule, especially in its acknowledgment that the defendant companies had already retained counsel. That I and my firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke were retained in the matter, was a matter of public record and was personally known to you and your firm, since you had asked me about the matter during our Unilag Law Faculty Alumni dinner at Harbour point in February.
“The attached email from your firm also contains false and misleading statements with several defamatory imputations of and concerning myself and my firm.
“In the circumstances we demand within 7 days of the date of this letter, a written apology to the firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke from Wole Olanipekun & Co, for this most deplorable conduct of Adekumbi Ogunde and your firm.
“In addition we demand that Wole Olanipekun & Co sends a letter to Saipem the top management to retract your said letter….”
He warned that the retraction and a copy of the apology to his firm “must be copied to the top management of Saipem SA and the same recipients as the original email,” adding that “I trust that your firm will comply with our demand forthwith.”
However, Olanipekun’s law firm has washed its hands off the controversial letter, vowing that it was written without its consent and authority.
In a prompt reply dated June 24, 2022 and titled “DISCLAIMER,” the leading law firm stated that “the writer of the letter under reference was on her own, and we do wholly dissociate ourselves from the letter and its contents.”
The law firm vowed that “internal measures would immediately be taken to address and redress this very unfortunate situation,” adding that “Our Principal, without being immodest, has never been known to indulge himself in the type of practice portrayed in the letter under reference. He is a very sober and humble person, and we believe learned Silk, H. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, OFR can attest to this. He stands for the best in the profession, in terms of ethics, honour, integrity, discipline, character and carriage.”
The disclaimer was signed by Messrs James Adesulu and Quam Owolabi Bisiriyu, both Associate Counsel at Wole Olanipekun & Co and copied to Ajumogobia.
In the additional note to the former Petroleum Minister, the law firm said that “we apologize for this very unfortunate incident , which was unauthorized,” adding that the letter was “neither initiated, prompted, encouraged nor approved by our chambers.”
The disclaimer noted that Olanipekun “values and covets the very cordial professional and friendly relationship between both of you, a relationship that has stood the test of time for over three decades, where both of you have mutually and reciprocally shared and exchanged thoughts on some highly confidential issues and subjects.”
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