INVESTIGATION: HOW NBA’S RECUSAL LETTER TO OLANIPEKUN WAS ‘LEAKED’
The letter by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Mr. Olumide Akpata to the Chairman of Body of Benchers (BoB), Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN asking him to recuse himself from the seat was not leaked to the public, CITY LAWYER can authoritatively report.
Meanwhile, an impeccable source at the NBA HOUSE told CITY LAWYER that the recusal letter was today emailed to all BoB members by the NBA.
It is recalled that Olanipekun had in an interview with a national daily protested that he was not officially issued with a copy of the letter even though it had been trending on social media.
But an unimpeachable source at NBA HOUSE told CITY LAWYER that an attempt was made last Friday to deliver a copy of the letter to Olanipekun through the Body of Benchers office in Abuja but the office had closed before the courier got there.
According to the source, on the presumption that the recusal letter had been delivered to the BoB Office, the letter was posted on the National Officers’ WhatsApp platform, adding that in line with the clamour by NBA Branch Chairmen to be carried along in the association’s affairs, the letter was also posted on the branch chairmen’s WhatsApp forum. CITY LAWYER gathered that it was from one of these platforms that the letter got into the social media.
The source said it was “regrettable” that the letter went viral before a copy was delivered to the BoB chieftain, but added: “Let it be clear that there was no intention to keep the letter private in the long run.”
The source also dismissed the charge of the alleged leakage being propelled by ulterior motive, saying: “There is nothing ulterior about what the President did. The only motive is that everyone should be above board, do the right thing. It is all about perception. You will recall that two members of the Body of Benchers are due for replacement, given that two members resigned alongside the Chairman who has been replaced. Apparently, the BoB Chairman will be highly influential in the replacement process. If we want to maintain standards, stepping aside remains the desirable standard.”
CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report noted the petition by NBA to the LPDC where it not only demanded sanctions against Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde, a Partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co, for alleged solicitation of briefs from Saipem SPA, but invited the Committee to “consider whether the Partners of the Firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co. are not liable to be disciplined by this august body seeing that the Respondent has the ostensible authority to act as a Partner and indeed acted for and on behalf of the said Firm.” Olanipekun is the Founding Partner of the law firm. The LPDC is a committee of the Body of Benchers.
In a letter personally signed by Akpata following the filing of the petition, NBA had urged Olanipekun “to recuse yourself from chairmanship of the BOB henceforth and to allow for the emplacement of an interim leadership of the BOB, in order to enable the LPDC carry out this particular assignment, amongst others, without coming under an undue suspicion of impartiality.”
But Olanipekun, a former NBA President, had expressed anger against the association for allegedly making its demand public without communicating the recusal letter to him, saying it appeared there was an ulterior motive behind the action. His words: “As we talk, I am yet to get a copy of the letter. People have been calling me but I can’t react to a document that I have not seen.”
In the letter to Olanipekun dated July 22, 2022 and titled “RE: PETITION AGAINST MS. ADEKUNBI OGUNDE BY THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION FOR ALLEGED PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT,” the NBA stated that it had petitioned the LPDC to penalize Ogunde “for engaging in conduct incompatible with her status as a legal practitioner and in flagrant disregard of our Rules of Professional Conduct which both the NBA and the Body of Benchers (BOB) are by their respective mandates bound to enforce as part of the disciplinary objectives of the legal profession. (Please find enclosed the Petition dated 19 July 2022).
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