A pressure group within NBA, Lawyers Of Conscience has called on Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, Chairman Body of Benchers to emulate the Chief Justice Of Nigeria and resign his post.
This call was made against the news that the embattled CJN was forced to resign on health ground weeks after his brother justices had accused him of corruption, not taking care of welfare of justices and the courts under him, despite huge budgetary allocations given to his office.
On the other hand, Chief Olanipekun SAN was mentioned in an unprofessional manner by a partner in his law office who in a letter to stated that, “A quick research about Wole Olanipekun & Co., will show that the law firm is the leading litigation firm that has helped other multinationals in sensitive, highly political matters. It will also reveal that the presence of our lead partner, Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR, in the matter will significantly switch things in favour of SAIPEM. Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR is currently the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, which is the highest ruling body in the Nigerian legal profession, made up of Supreme Court Judges, Presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges of all State High Courts, including the Rivers State High Court. In order words, Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR, is the head of the entire legal profession in Nigeria.”
Resignation of Chief Olanipekun, SAN will help NBA and any other Committee investigate without interference this exposure by his partner as well as the allegations levied against him by Lucius E. Nwosu SAN
Lucius E. Nwosu SAN wrote NBA President, on 17th February, 2022 stating;
“I find it very compelling to bring to my President’s attention the substance of the subject suit which was commenced by originating summons at the Rivers State High Court.
The lawsuit seek the interpretation of Section 3 of the Legal Practitioners Act Cap L 11 which set out the criteria for admission of Legal Practitioner into the Prestigious Body of Benchers to wit -that the person should be of the Highest Distinction in the Legal Profession. It is submitted that such Highest Distinction shall enure prior to and throughout the period such person shall be a member of that body.
It has come to my knowledge that Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN was one such member representing the Bar Association at the Body
of Benchers. He has unfortunately over the years progressively carried on a practice which has finally culminated in his condemnation in unanimous decisions of the Supreme Court and
Final Court of the Land in the strongest of terms, such that he, cannot possibly be said to have acquitted himself of that pre-condition set down by the enabling statute.
I am of the considered view that it will be in his interest and I dare say, the larger interest of the Nigeria Bar Association/Legal Profession that he be advised to refrain from bidding for the
Chairmanship of the Body of Benchers failing which, the Bar should politely withdraw his candidacy.
In making this representation, I call in aid the unanimous decision of a Full Supreme Court in the case of Biobarakuma Degi Eremienyo & Ors Vs. Peoples Democratic Party & Ors (2021) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1800) 387, @ P. 405 Paras B-D.
“As it is, I cannot believe, and I say this with tears in my eyes, I cannot believe that in my lifetime, would see very senior members of the Bar bring Applications of this nature to this court, which are aimed at desecrating the sanctity of this court; violating the well-known principle that the decisions of this court are final; and destroying the esteem, with which this court is held.
The two application filed by the two sets of Applicants are vexatious’ they are frivolous, and they are without doubt, a gross abuse of court process. Costs of 10 Million Naira each are awarded against the first and second Applicants and the third Applicant respectively, and in favour of the first, Second and 3rd Respondents, to be paid personally by their respective counsel.
—Per Amina Adamu Augie SC who read in the lead.
It is important that the full weight of each carefully selected word, adjective and sentences deployed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in condemnation of our learner Senior Lawyer is unprecedented in Nigeria, if not in the entire commonwealth.
It is similarly more significant that there is no parallel in recorded judicial history in this country where a Senior Lawyer is mulcted with humongous costs of N30,000,000.00 (Thirty Million Naira) and ordered to be paid personally by himself. He has defiantly refused to pay the costs awarded by the Supreme Court as at my last inquiry, not that if would have made a difference if he had paid same.
Mr. President, the position is more complicated given the fact that the Honourable Chief Justice of the Federation and all the Learned Law Lords of his condemning Supreme Court are statutory members of the Body of Benchers. Ditto all the heads of strategic courts in Nigeria. It will therefore be irreconcilable with decency that the person put forward by the Bar Association should sit as Chairman of the highest policy Body where ethics and regulation of the Legal Profession will be discussed and formulated, with these eminent jurists seated as plebians, at the Chairman’s foot stool.
As though the un-edifying situation above is not enough, one of the responsibilities of the Chairman of the Body of Benchers is to sign the Call to Bar Certificates of New Wigs and deliver the exhortations as to character, carriage and respect for the courts.
There will certainly arise the ugly and irreconcilliable situation where the bearers of those certificate will be citing the judicial. precedent of the condemnation by the Highest Court of the very member of the Bar who signed those certificates.
Mr. President, I do not have anything to gain or lose personally by Chief Olanipekun SAN remaining in or becoming Chairman of the Body of Benchers, but I would rather not be your goodself as President and alter ego of the Nigeria Bar Association, when this tragic circumstances will be ascribed to your tenure.
Hence this urgent note of caution.
Kindly remain assured of my highest of esteem, in the hope that his Grace will permit you to see beyond the present, in creating precedents. We should be seen to have put our best foot forward from our membership of that august body.
Yours very faithfully,
Lucius E. Nwosu SAN
Responding to Lucius E. Nwosu’s letter, NBA President posted on Lawyers News WhatsApp platform a resolution of NEC where among other things, NEC resolved to set up an intervention committee.
As at the time of filing this report, the name of the Chairman and Secretary of the Intervention Committee is unknown meanwhile Olanipekun SAN had been sworn in as Chairman Body of Benchers.