A partner in the law firm of Olanipekun had sent an email to SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd, one of the clients of Henry Ajumogobia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, soliciting a brief.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has sought the advice of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) on whether to prosecute the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) over alleged professional misconduct.
Adekunbi Ogunde, a partner in the law firm of Olanipekun had sent an email to SAIPEM Contracting Nigeria Ltd, one of the clients of Henry Ajumogobia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, soliciting a brief.
The Rivers State Government had preferred charges against the company over allegations of $130 million fraud.
Despite being aware that the law firm of Henry Ajumogobia was handling the matter, Ogunde had asked SAIPEM to consider hiring Olanipekun & Co.
She claimed her firm’s leading partner, Chief Olanipekun (SAN) is close to Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges.
Reacting to the development in a letter addressed to Olanipekun, Ajumogobia, a former Minister of State for Petroleum, said the move was in breach of essential mandatory rules.
The Chairman of the Body of Benchers has since apologised to Ajumogobia, stating that he never approved the email sent by Ogunde.
According to CityLawyer Magazine, Ogunde has also been dragged to the disciplinary committee over the controversial email.
In a petition numbered 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.”
Filed on behalf of the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association and dated July 19, 2022, the petition was titled “Petition Against Adekunbi Ogunde, Esq., a Nigerian lawyer duly called to the Nigerian Bar with her name on the roll of lawyers kept in the Supreme Court for the violation of the extant rules of professional conduct for legal practitioners (Rule 1 of the RPC) by soliciting for briefs and peddling the influence of the principal partner of her law firm Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN as having the ability to extra-legally influence decisions of courts in Nigeria being the chairman of the very distinguished body of benchers thereby putting the entire legal profession to national and international public ridicule and odium.”
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 however stated 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.”
Justifying the filing of the application, the association stated that “The entire members of the Applicant arising from their comments on the social media and calls to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association have been feverishly and fervently demanding and calling on the Applicant to rise up and refer the Respondent and the partners of Wole Olanipekun & Co. to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee for gross and grave professional misconduct that brought unprecedented shame, ridicule, opprobrium and odium on the entire administration of justice system and the legal profession in Nigeria.”
NBA then urged the LPDC “to immediately commence the disciplinary process and prosecute ADEKUNBI OGUNDE Esq. for the violation of the sacred provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct, particularly Rule 1 thereof.”
The NBA Trustees also sensationally 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.”