Afe Babalola, Olanipekun protest against Supreme Court’s fine, seek NBA’s intervention
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola and Chief Wole Olanipekun, have formally protested against the fine imposed on them as well as the harsh words directed at them by the Supreme Court in relation to Bayelsa State governorship election judgment.
Both lawyers had represented the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidates in the last governorship election in Bayelsa State, David Lyon Pereworinmin and Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo, in their request for the setting aside of its judgment voiding their victory in the election.
The apex court in a ruling by a seven-man panel on February 26, 2020 had dismissed the applications by APC and its candidates.
Beyond that, Justice Amina Augie, who delivered the lead judgment, had rebuked both lawyers and went ahead to award N30 million punitive costs against each of them.
In two protest letters addressed to the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Babalola and Olanipekun are insisting that they did nothing wrong by asking the court to take a second look at its earlier judgment.
While seeking NBA’s intervention, they argued that they did nothing unlawful and unprofessional to warrant the harsh words used on them and the unprecedented costs awarded against them for merely carrying out their professional responsibilities as lawyers.
Babalola and Olanipekun also warned that the decision of the Supreme Court, as it relates to them, was capable of laying wrong precedence that lawyers could be penalised for merely seeking to explore the justice administration process for the benefit of client.
While Olanipekun personally authored his letter dated March 10, 2020, Babalola’s letter, dated March 11, 2020, was written by the Managing Partner of his law firm, Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN).
Both letters were addressed to the President, NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN).
In his letter, to which he attached all processes in respect of the case, Olanipekun said: “I and the team of lawyers that I lead in the matter did nothing wrong, either in terms of our presentation through the filling of the application or during the oral adumbration in court.
“I repeat with every emphasis at my disposal and all sense of responsibility that I/we did no wrong, committed no error and did/do not deserve the harsh comments (to put it mildly) in the leading ruling of Justice Amina Augie.”
Part of Babalola’s letter also read: “I write to bring to the formal attention of the National Executive of Nigerian Bar Association the unfortunate events which occurred that day, but more importantly, to protest and draw the attention of NBA to the danger posed to the due administration of justice by the disparaging remarks made in the ruling of the court concerning our principal, Afe Babalola SAN and the imposition on him of the unprecedented costs of N30 million.
“The action of the court, aside from being unfair and totally unwarranted, is, if not urgently addressed, capable of sending a wrong signal to judges of courts, lower in hierarchy to the Supreme Court, about how they can and should relate with lawyers, who appear before them to plead the case of their clients.”