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NBA Commences Disciplinary Proceedings Against Olanipekun’s Partner For Brief Solicitation

The Nigerian Bar Association has originated disciplinary proceedings against one Adekunbi Ogunde Esq, a Partner at the Law Firm of Body of Benchers Chairman, Wole Olanipekun & Co.

The Lawyer recalls that few weeks ago, the legal profession was rocked with controversy over an email written by Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde to an international oil company, Saipem Oil Ltd, soliciting for the company’s brief in a matter against the Rivers State Government. A brief already settled by the law firm of Okeke & Ajumogobia.

In a letter made available to the public, Ajumogobia SAN berated Wole Olanipekun SAN for the unbecoming and professional misconduct of his firm’s Partner.

In a petition sighted by The Lawyer and dated 19th of July, 2022, the NBA prayed the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee to immediately commence the disciplinary process and prosecute Adekunbi for violation of the sacred rules of professional conduct particularly Rule 1 thereof.

They also sought LPDC’s opinion 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.”

According to a source, the National Executive Committee of the NBA were split on whether to charge the Partners alongside Ms. Ogunde.

In the petition sighted by The Lawyer, and numbered as BB/LPDC/901/2022, NBA 1ST Vice President, Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martins stated that he was applying “on behalf of the Applicant that ADEKUNBI OGUNDE of WOLE OLANIPEKUN & CO of God’s Grace House, 5, Maple Close, Osborne Foreshore Estate Phase 11, Ikoyi, Lagos be required to answer to the allegations contained in the Statement/Affidavit which accompanies this Application and that such Order be made as the Committee shall think right.”

In the Statement of Facts accompanying the application, NBA noted that Ogunde is expected to exhibit and maintain a very high standard of conduct, professionalism, respect for the integrity of court and the judicial process when discharging her professional duties and responsibilities to clients, the legal profession and members of the general public.

The Applicant stated that contrary to the rules guiding the profession, members of the Association were taken aback sometime in June by the contents of a letter which emanated from the Respondent.

The petition reads in part: “that Sometime in the month of June 2022, members of the legal profession and indeed the general public were rudely confronted with unbelievable reports in the social media of a letter alleged to have originated from the very esteemed and revered office of Wole Olanipekun & Co and authored by the Respondent.”

Continuing, the Applicant stated that “In the said letter, the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co unprofessionally and surreptitiously solicited for a brief from Saipem SPA, an international conglomerate known (knowing that another firm of lawyers was handling the said brief in the court) and further shamelessly touted the supposed overriding influence of the principal partner of her firm, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, the current chairman of the very revered and distinguished Body of Benchers, and a very respected past President of the Applicant herein.”

Citing the letter from Ogunde to Mr. Francesco Ciao of Saipem SPA, NBA stated that “Members of the legal profession particularly members of the Applicant were very disturbed by this infamous letter alleged to have originated from arguably one of the most successful, biggest, respected and most distinguished law firms in Nigeria,” adding that its hope that the allegations contained in the letter were “false, misleading and outright mischief orchestrated by some rabble-rousers” was dashed by letters from the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co apologizing for the action of the Respondent and disclaiming her.

According to NBA, “While the members of the legal profession in particular and the national and international public were attempting to come to terms with what has now obviously become the most infamous letter ever written by a lawyer and/or a law firm in the history of the legal profession in Nigeria, the respondent published a letter on the social media admitting the allegations, but sought only to exculpate her law firm from the now most infamous conduct allegations within the legal profession ever in Nigeria.”

The LPDC is the body statutorily empowered to consider and determine any case where it is alleged that a lawyer has misbehaved in his/her capacity as a legal practitioner.

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