Senior lawyers chide Akpata over ‘disrespectful letter’ to Olanipekun
Senior lawyers have criticised the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, for the alleged disrespectful letter he wrote to a past president of the Bar and Chairman, Body of Benchers (BOB), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), over the infraction of a partner in his chamber.
Adekunbi Ogunde, a partner in Olanipekun’s firm, had solicited a brief from SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd, which had already engaged the law firm of Henry Ajumogobia (SAN).
The NBA deemed this action a violation of the rule of practice and dragged Ogunde before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC).
It asked the LPDC to sanction her and consider whether Wole Olanipekun & Co. partners were not liable to be disciplined alongside Ogunde.
Not satisfied with this, Akpata, on July 22, 2022, wrote a letter to Olanipekun asking him to step down as BOB chairman to avoid interfering in the case before the LPDC.
However, the LPDC is an independent body, and the BOB does not influence the outcome of matters brought before it.
The decision of the LPDC is known as direction, any appeal against the direction goes directly to the Supreme Court.
Commenting on Akpata’s letter to Olanipekun and the general handling of the matter, some prominent members of the inner Bar, including Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), Chief Bennbella Anichebe (SAN) and Chief Samuel Okutepa (SAN), said Akpata could have exhibited better judgment.
The Senior Advocates explained that Akpata should have first reached out to Olanipekun and other elders of the Bar before turning the matter into a media circus and disrespecting him.
Abamba said: “You don’t ask anybody to take steps on an issue he is ignorant of. I believe that the President of the Bar should have contacted Olanipekun even though the subject matter of the crisis is worrisome to some of us.
“All the same, it is always good to follow procedure. He should have asked him what his comment on the issues was. He should have listened to him before asking him to step down. That the letter was written at all was worrisome because of speculations behind the move by some lawyers to the bench. It is worrisome when you see this kind of accusation. Everybody must have a fair hearing,” he said.
Okutepa stressed that the letter was not in the best tradition of how things were done irrespective of what anybody felt.
He said: “Olanipekun was a past President of the NBA. If I were to be in the position of the President of NBA, I won’t write such letter. I would meet Olanipekun or involve senior members of the Bar, elders, and past Presidents, and then meet him for a discussion.
“To do a letter to him and before he gets it, it is on social media is a terrible thing that ought not to have happened. You may not like Olanipekun as a person, but the institution that we all belong to must be preserved by the decorum we accord to ourselves.”
On his part, Anichebe said the letter was written with underlining mischief.
“It was not supposed to have been written mindfully of his status without hearing from him first. I think as a former President of the Bar, he ought to have made personal contact with him alongside other senior members of the Bar.
“I have it on good authority that Olanipekun has not sighted a copy of the letter before it was released to the press.
“The fact that a junior in the Chamber of Olanipekun wrote a letter and the content was considered to have violated the rules of practice does not justify asking Olanipekun to resign,” he maintained.