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Order Of Precedence Applies Only To Proper Court Sitting – NBA 1st VP, John Aikpokpo Martins, Replies Okutepa, SAN

The 1st Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. John Aikpokpo Martins, has faulted Jibrin Okutepa SAN who said that SANs come before NBA President in order of precedence.

According to Okutepa, “I was there and I didn’t see what was altered. Assuming it was altered they had the right. Did you ask them why they altered it and who pressured them to revert the age long protocol to accommodate the protocol as desired by NBA president. Can an invitee dictate the order of protocol. Does it not amount to interference. In any case I ask how does who speaks first improved the lots of Nigerian lawyers. We majored in mundane and frivolities to satisfy our insatiable appetite for ego when real things are left undone. What has NBA done for us in disobedience to court orders. Salaries of judicial officers has remained stagnant from 1987 till date, what did NBA do to change it. Am running late to court. Let us talk things that help us not ego journey in public address.”

In reaction, Aikpokpo-Martins said is Okutepa, SAN that speaks in ignorance. He said the order of Precedence referred to in the Legal Practitioners Act applies to proper court sittings, not special court sessions.

Secondly, Aikpokpo-Martins said calling out of turn for SANs apply to Motions only, not suits.

He said, “With due respect to my very good friend J. S. Okutepa, SAN, he is the one who spoke out of ignorance. He referred to age long precedence, and the LPA and derisively referred to proper bar activities as “social gatherings”….what a heck.

“Any special courts session is an occasion where the 2 divides of the profession interact ie the Bar and the Bench. It is not a proper court constituted to adjudicate on matters brought by litigants.

“He referred to provisions of the LPA in his submissions; the pertinent question is; is the office of the President of the NBA mentioned in the said provision of the law? Was special court session mentioned in the law? So why import what was not provided for or in contemplation of the LPA?, so why should he think that an office not mentioned in the order of precedence can be subsumed anywhere at the whims of those relying on that provision in an occasion that is not backed by that law, but by traditions and convention of the legal profession. Is it not there proper to have recourse to the traditions and conventions? Let’s not forget that the rank of senior Advocates was created recently or that the office of the President of the NBA predates the rank of Senior Advocates….so when we talk of age long precedence what do we mean? Before the rank of Senior Advocate was created, the President of the NBA had been attending special court sessions and speaking on behalf of the Bar. It is the Body of Senior Advocates that is usurping traditions and disrespectful of the entire Bar!

“Furthermore, he goofed so badly when he referred to the LPA. He conveniently forgot or it did not occur to him that the order of precedence of SANs over other lawyers in the mentioning of cases in court is strictly limited to motions and not in all other instances. If lawyers want to stand their ground, no SAN will mention his case out of turn in court except it is a motion. So much respect has been given to the Senior Advocates and they must be careful to respect that, else they stand to lose much. A very salient point BOSAN must realize is that the order of precedence is applicable only in a court properly sitting and not in any other matter, time or occasion. I have said so and I will say again that BOSAN comes after the body of serving officers, past chairmen, past vice chairmen and past secretaries of branches at activities of the NBA at branch level and ultimately at the National level….if in doubt this, check the NBA constitution. However, we defer to them a lot contrary to the NBA constitution, but the Senior Advocates want to pay the Bar back with disrespecting the office of the President of the NBA. We will not accept that.

“A special court session is not a court for moving motions, so upon what legal ground is the learned silk submission based that BOSAN takes precedence over the NBA. Can a part be bigger than the whole?”

Furthermore, Aikpokpo-Martins emphasized that NBA comes first before SANs in order of precedence and according to him, fathers of the profession like T. J. O. Okpoko, SAN have long recognized the position.

He pointed out that if he represents the NBA President In any occasion, no SAN will speak before him.

“I am also very surprised that the learned silk will call the President of the Bar an ignorant man! How and upon which standard?

I blame the NBA that has condoned all these disrespectful acts over the years; this was not the established protocol from time. This is the reason that Folanke Solanke, SAN did not allow such aberration to take place in her presence. Many seniors are teaching the younger one unprofessional attitudes and protocols and it is so sad.

“I am from the Warri Branch of T. J. O. Okpoko, SAN, past chairman of Warri branch and past President of the Bar. He gives the branch chairman due respect and recognizes the proper precedence of the chairman over every other lawyer including SAN in bar activities at the branch level.

“He taught and mentored us and he never told us that Senior Advocates are above the chairman of the branch or that the President of the NBA takes subject to the Senior Advocates.

“I was the chairman of Warri Branch and I never agreed for BOSAN to speak before me as Chairman of the branch. It was not about me, it was about the office.

“I have no doubt in my mind that if I represent the President in an occasion, I won’t allow a Senior Advocate to speak before me in a special court session. When we get to court, I wait my turn to call my case.

“I told the Chief Registrar of Delta State High Court that if he puts me after BOSAN in a special court session where I am representing the NBA President that I will walk out. It is about what it is.

“J. S Okutepa, my very good friend goofed and he owes the President of the NBA an apology for practically insulting the office. It is totally unacceptable. If BOSAN will not respect the NBA, the NBA is not expected to reckon with BOSAN.” Aikpokpo-Martins said

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