By Rhiogbere Sharon
A total of 4,711 New Lawyers called to the Nigerian Bar in Abuja.
The Nigerian ar Association, NBA, contrary to its ethics spurned the Call to Bar ceremony of the 4,711 new lawyers who have met all qualifications including passing the Bar Exams to gain admittance into the Legal Profession, and the Body of Benchers.
NBA, in a statement by its National President, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau(SAN), asserted that its resolution to shun the ceremony stems from the refusal of the Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BoB), Chief Wole Olanipekun(SAN), to cede his office.
The umbrella body of legal practitioners in the Nigeria, NBA, opined that it had in a letter it also mirrored to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, asked Chief Olanipekun to abnegate leadership of the BoB.
The call supervened an assertion by a leading partner in his chamber, Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde, that he holds sway over judges for delivery of favorable judgements for his clients.
The NBA claims it had, in view of the grave nature of Ogunde’s assertion and the far-reaching impact it has on the general depiction and rectitude of the legal profession in the country, urged Olanipekun to concede to his Vice, Justice Mary Odili(retd), to handle the Call to Bar ceremony scheduled for Tuesday 6th, and Wednesday 7th December 2022.
In the divulgence he made, the NBA President, Maikyau, mentioned that he had in the letter dated December, 4, made the stance of the NBA known to the BoB Chairman. Noteworthy;
“In that letter, I requested the Chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from presiding over the Call to Bar Ceremony scheduled for 6 and 7 December 2022, for reasons clearly articulated therein.
Maikyau also disclosed-
“I sent the letter to the Chairman and all Benchers by email on 4 December 2022, I also submitted a hard copy of the letter on 5 December 2022 to the Secretary of the BoB along with one hundred and fifty (150) copies of the letter for circulation to all Benchers.
“It would be recalled that my predecessor-in-office had, on 22 July 2022, written to the Chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from office on the same grounds set out in my letter.
He lamented the Long-term disregard of their conscientious requests and opinions by the chairman;
“But the Chairman refused to acknowledge the said letter nor bring it up for consideration more than 5 months since its delivery to the BoB.
“My present letter is to bring to attention the earlier call made by my predecessor and to emphasise the damage being done to the legal profession by reason of our collective silence over such devastating issue, with the expectation that the Chairman will see reason to show remorse and for the BoB to ask the Chairman to recuse himself knowing that no one is bigger than the legal profession.
“At the meeting of the BoB held on 5 December 2022, I drew the attention of the Chairman to my letter and called for deliberations on same, since it directly impacts on the propriety of the Chairman presiding over the Call to Bar ceremony.
But this was not done nor were the hard copies of the letter distributed to the Benchers.
“The meeting of the BoB was adjourned to January 2023, on a date to be fixed by the Chairman.
The Chairman has expressed that the circumstances in the BoB have forced his hands leaving him with no other option but to take action for the protection of the integrity of the Legal profession.
“In the circumstances therefore, having regard to my firm persuasion that the matters raised in my letter should have led the BoB to ask the Chairman to recuse himself in the interest of safeguarding the integrity of the Legal Profession, I am in good conscience unable to attend and participate in the Call to Bar Ceremony.
“The NBA under my leadership cannot be part of the ceremony superintended by the current Chairman of the BoB for all the reasons stated in my letter under reference.
“To do so will be to endorse, celebrate or condone a practice that I consider unwholesome and unprofessional, by virtue of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007.
“I assure all members of the NBA that the sole motivation for my letter to the BoB is my conviction on the need to salvage the image, reputation, and integrity of the legal profession in Nigeria, which has been negatively impacted by the email by Adekunbi Ogunde, a Partner in the Law Firm of the Chairman of the BoB.
“I congratulate our colleagues – the new wigs, for the great feat they have attained by fulfilling the requirements for joining the noble profession of Law.
“I pray that God Almighty will keep and preserve them as they contribute their quota in building the legal profession and the nation at large.
“The NBA remains committed to the protection of our legal space and shall spare no effort to stop any external incursions or actions amongst members that can destroy our dear profession of law.
Chief Olanipekun, SAN, in his speech at the Call to Bar ceremony, commented that though the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, LPDC, is under his Chairmanship, it operates independently and is “not controlled in any way or manner by either the Body or its Chairman”.
He further voiced : “Howbeit, may I caution that proceedings before the LPDC should not be politicized, sensationalized, publicized and advertised in advance or while the proceedings are ongoing, by complainants for whatever reason howsoever, as so doing negates the principle of fair hearing, which all lawyers subscribe to.
“This is apart from the fact that such steps might pre-empt and prejudice proceedings band decisions of the LPDC”.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma(SAN), said the 4,711 new lawyers that were admitted into the Bar on Tuesday, met all the required conditions that were set by the Council of Legal Education.
Congratulations to the new wigs