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Olanipekun swears in new lawyers, amid NBA protest

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
07 December 2022   |   6:13 am
Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BoB), Chief Wole Olanipekun, in Abuja, yesterday, called 4,711 law graduates to the Nigerian Bar, amid protest by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), led by Mr. Yakubu Maikyau.

Chief Olanipekun

Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BoB), Chief Wole Olanipekun, in Abuja, yesterday, called 4,711 law graduates to the Nigerian Bar, amid protest by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), led by Mr. Yakubu Maikyau.

The NBA had, in a statement dated December 4, asked Olanipekun to step aside as chairman and not preside over the call to bar of the new lawyers.

The statement, signed by Maikyau, reads: “I requested the chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from presiding over the call to bar ceremony scheduled for December 6 and 7, 2022, for reasons clearly articulated therein.

“I sent the letter to the chairman and all benchers by email on December 4, 2022. I also submitted a hard copy of the letter on December 5, 2022 to the secretary of the BoB, along with 150 copies of the letter for circulation to all benchers.

“It would be recalled that my predecessor-in-office had, on July 22, 2022, written to the chairman of the BoB to recuse himself from office on the same grounds set out in my letter. But the chairman refused to acknowledge the said letter or bring it up for consideration, more than five months since its delivery to the BoB.

“My present letter is to bring to attention the earlier call made by my predecessor and emphasise the damage being done to the legal profession by reason of our collective silence over such devastating issue, with the expectation that the chairman will see reason to show remorse, and for the BoB to ask the chairman to recuse himself knowing that no one is bigger than the legal profession.”

However, during yesterday’s ceremony, which was presided over by Olanipekun, the NBA President was said to be “absent”. Olanipekun, in his speech, said it was necessary to clear some “misconception” about the BoB, which, according to him, is a creation of statute, responsible for the formal call to bar of persons seeking to become legal practitioners.

He said the BoB, as a body corporate with perpetual succession, has its own seal and is also imbued with power and jurisdiction to make regulations for itself and the legal profession.

He said: “The term of office of the chairman is only one year, from March of the preceding year to March of the following year, and the chairmanship of the body is rotated between the bar and bench, that is if a member of the bar is the chairman, the vice chairmanship automatically devolves on the Bench.”

While observing that it is a tradition met and sustained for years, Olanipekun said: “Our transition is always seamless and has never been rancorous.

“The Body of Benchers is not an appendage of the federal government or any government, institution or agency. It is an independent and autonomous body, and its meetings, affairs and decisions are not influenced by any power or authority whatsoever.”

Olanipekun also explained that though the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), responsible for the discipline of lawyers, is a committee of the BoB, the LPDC is a juristic personality on its own, independent of the body, not controlled in any way or manner by either the body or chairman.

The senior lawyer seized the opportunity to caution: “Proceedings before the LPDC should not be politicised, sensationalised, publicised and advertised in advance or while the proceedings are ongoing by complainants for whatever reason howsoever, as so doing, negates the principle of fair hearing, which all lawyers subscribe to.”