It appears the rising opposition to the continued stay of senior lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, as chairman of Body of Benchers has no end in sight.
Over the weekend, a group of Senior Advocates of Nigeria under the umbrella of the Justice Reform Project (JRP) added its voice to calls for Olanipekun to relinquish his position as Chairman, Body of Benchers (BOB), over an allegation of professional misconduct involving his law firm.
The release by the JRP came in the wake of a similar call by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Mr Olanipekun to step down from his position in the BOB, a body responsible for calling new lawyers to the Nigerian bar.
Recall that the revered senior lawyer has lately found himself at the centre of the storm following allegations of influence peddling levelled against a co-partner in his law firm, Adekunbi Ogunde.
Ms Ogunde was charged with soliciting briefs from Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, a company already being defended in a suit by Odein Ajumogobia, another SAN.
In a leaked letter, Ms Ogunde allegedly wrote on behalf of Mr Olanipekun’s law firm in June; she had said Mr Olanipekun’s presence in the Saipem group case “will significantly switch things in favour of Sapiem.”
Ms Ogunde’s conduct of soliciting a brief from a client is said to violate the rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners.
She subsequently apologised for her action, saying she wrote the letter without the knowledge of the law firm or knowledge of Mr Olanipekun.
The law firm had also issued a statement saying Ms Ogunde acted on her own.
But concerned about the damage the act could do to the image of the legal profession, the NBA petitioned the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) seeking the sanction of Ms Ogunde, over the alleged infraction.
In the petition signed by the 1st Vice President of the NBA, John Aikpokpo-Martins, the association also called on the LPDC to determine the culpability of Mr Olanipekun and other partners of the law firm.
The NBA also wrote Mr Olanipekun, calling on him to step down as the Body of Benchers chair on the grounds of her association with Ms Ogunde.
But in a veiled reference to the steps taken by the NBA on the matter, Mr Olanipekun, a onetime president of the NBA, said in Abuja last Wednesday that the LPDC is not meant for settling personal scores.
Contracting Nigeria Limited, Sapiem had engaged him.
In a letter critical of Wole Olanipekun and Co, Mr Ajumogobia demanded an apology from the law firm for soliciting a case for which the client had already retained him.
“I must also express my extreme disappointment and utter disillusionment,” Mr Ajumogobia said of Mr Olanipekun’s law firm’s letter soliciting to represent Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited in the $130million case between the firm and the Rivers State government.
Mr Ajumogobia added, “The attached letter is in my opinion tantamount to the gross misconduct of the worst kind,” citing the rules of professional conduct, which prohibits “self-advertising and solicitation by Nigerian legal practitioners.”
Mr Ajumogobia added, “The attached letter is in my opinion tantamount to the gross misconduct of the worst kind,” citing the rules of professional conduct, which prohibits “self-advertising and solicitation by Nigerian legal practitioners