Those who inspired me – Wole Olanipekun

Chief Wole Olanipekun

Chief Wole Olanipekun, CFR, SAN, who has put in almost 50 years at the Bar,  sits in the front row of legal practice in Nigeria.  The former Attorney-General of the old Ondo State in the military era, as well as President of the Nigerian Bar Association (2002-2004), successfully concluded his tenure as the 50th Chairman of the Body of Benchers on March 30, 2023. In this interview, he narrates how he started and those things that make him great as a lawyer and other issues


Having spent almost five decades at the Bar, what, from your perspective, are the highlights of your practice of law? Do you have any regrets? What would you have done differently?


I was lucky to be one of about three hundred of us that were called to the Bar in July, 1976. To all of us, it was a new dawn; a new beginning; a ‘birthday’ of sorts; and if you like, a day of open heavens. The Chairman of the Body of Benchers, who chaired the ceremony, was Honourable Justice G. S. Sowemimo, GCON. As a young lad, I particularly looked at the array of eggheads in the profession who lined out to call us to the Bar, they included Honourable Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, GCFR, former CJN, Sir Danley Alexander, former CJN, Honourable Justice Augustine Nnamani, SAN, former JSC, who was then the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Honourable Justice Mohammed Bello, GCON, Chief Toye Coker, SAN, Chief Dr. G. C. M. Onyuike, SAN, Chief T. O. S. Benson, CFR, SAN, Hon. Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams, GCON, Chief R.O.A. Akinjide, CON, SAN and Hon. Justice A.G. Irikefe, GCON. The likes of Alhaji A. G. F. Abdul-Razaq OFR, SAN, Hon. Justice Kayode Eso, CON, Chief F. R. A. Williams, CFR, QC, SAN and Hon. Justice Mamman Nasir, GCON, were also in attendance. Right there, I gazed at the array of the potentates of the legal profession therein assembled, and inside me, I fervently prayed to God that come one day, I would be like them.

After we were called to the Bar, I proceeded therefrom to enlist for NYSC, and was subsequently posted to Ilorin, Kwara State. I did my primary assignment at the then Kwara State College of Technology (now Kwara State Polytechnic), where I lectured Accounting and Business Law Students in Company Law, Business Law and Legal Methods. It was after this service year, in July, 1977, that I forayed into legal practice, as a junior counsel in the Chambers of Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi & Co. at No. 107, Emir Road, Ilorin. I was the first junior counsel to be employed at the Chambers, and my Principal, the late Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi, treated me like his nephew, while I took him like a big uncle. I enjoyed my stay with him, as he gave me a free hand to explore the practice of law. The very first day he led me in court, we appeared before the Honourable Justice Gilbert Obayan in a divorce matter, Okin v Okin. By 9.00am, the court sat and there was a call over of the cases for the day, in the process of which Obayan J. stood down our case till 12 noon for definite hearing. My Principal, Alhaji Oniyangi, asked me to wait in court, while he drove back to the office, with a promise that he would be back by 11.30am so that he could lead me in the hearing of the matter at 12.00 noon. By 12.00 noon, when the case was called for hearing, my Principal was unable to make it back, as he had to leave Ilorin for Benin shortly after he left the court in the morning on an impromptu,  very urgent assignment. He sent a message to me that I should plead with the court to adjourn the matter, and so I did; but, the Judge would not take such a plea from us, as he insisted that the matter must go on. As you can imagine, I was nervous and had the shakes. I informed the Judge of my being a green horn, having just been called to the Bar, but he insisted that the case must go on that day as it had been on the cause list for too long. In those days, oral advocacy was in its primacy, unlike now when written addresses are prepared and merely adopted at the address stage. I had no choice, but to conduct the trial. Before adjourning the matter for judgement, the Judge applauded my performance and encouraged me to keep it up. That was the tonic I needed to dive into active legal practice, without any further trepidation.

By the time I was three years at the Bar, I started appearing at the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Judicial Division, then sitting at the Lugard Hall, with Uwais, JCA (as he was then) presiding. At my first appearance, Chief J. B. Majiyagbe led my Principal and myself in an appeal involving Ijesha United Company Limited. Chief Olisa Chukwura, SAN, was counsel on the other side. I remember driving to Kaduna from Lokoja, where I had appeared in a Magistrate Court, and I had a ghastly motor accident at a village on my way to Kaduna, and almost lost my life. The villagers noticed the accident, rushed to the scene, extricated me from the vehicle that had somersaulted.

By the time I was eight years at the Bar, my presence was visibly known at the Court of Appeal, particularly in Kaduna, Ibadan, Lagos and Benin Judicial Divisions, while at 10 years at the Bar, I started appearing on my own at the Supreme Court. I can still recall the drama in the celebrated case of J. K. Randle v Kwara Breweries Limited (1986) 6 S.C 1, where I appeared before a full panel of the Supreme Court for the respondent, although the Law Reports wrongly record me as appearing for the appellant, leading Saka Isau, then a counsel in Chambers, and now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Due to one reason or the other, our Brief of Argument was not filed on time, and the Supreme Court was minded to take the appeal on the appellant’s brief alone. Prince J. O. Ijaodola, counsel for the appellant, leading R. A. Lawal-Rabana, Esq. (now a Senior Advocate of Nigeria), adopted his brief and urged the court to allow the appeal as, according to him, it was not resisted, since we did not file any brief. The court was almost convinced, until I rose on my feet pleading that I should be allowed to address the court orally, hinging my application on a particular rule of the court. I can remember that it was Oputa, JSC, who asked me what recondite point of law I wanted to address the court orally on, and I instantly responded that it was on the absence of the certificate of incorporation of the defendant/respondent before the court, as it was never tendered in evidence. I further addressed the court that right from the High Court, through to the Court of Appeal and up to the Supreme Court, the plaintiff/appellant did not sue a juristic person. Ex tempore, I addressed the court for about fifteen minutes on this issue, after which the court got persuaded. All of a sudden, the tide changed, the mood of the court also switched, and the court beckoned on Prince Ijaodola to address it on the issue which was considered jurisdictional and very fundamental. His strongest response was that the court could and should take judicial notice of an incorporated company, to which the court unanimously rejected. The court retired to chambers for about an hour, came back later to deliver its judgement, dismissing the appeal based on that oral submission of mine. That case stands as a leading authority today on the subject. Since then, I got myself endeared to the Justices of the Supreme Court, and most of them, at that time, addressed me by my first name, Wole.

You asked me of the highlights of my practice life. Most humbly, the highlights are numerous and almost ad infinitum. Let me reiterate that right from my Call to the Bar, I have taken law as a way of life; a ministry in its own realm; and a call given to me by God. You may wish to ask the hundreds of counsel who have passed through our chambers, how I work. I have no other focus except law; everything else is peripheral and ancillary to law. I give it my whole concentration and attention; my dedication to the practice of law does not allow for diversions or distractions; it is either law or nothing. Even while I am now on the seventh floor, I have neither derailed nor got discounted in terms of my commitment to the law. On Easter Saturday, I and some junior colleagues in chambers, were holed up in the office, working from midday to the wee hours of the following morning, which was the Easter Sunday. The highlights can be summarised in one sentence, that through grace, I feel fulfilled and content. Without being immodest, when you look at our law reports in the past 37 years, and also comb our law literature and jurisprudence within the same period, you see my imprimatur in diverse areas of law and legal practice, winning some of the cases, and also losing some. No good Lawyer wins all his cases. It is impossible. Part of the highlights of my practice is also the grace of God for the wisdom, knowledge and maturity to lead multiple of counsel, both from the Inner and Utter Bar, in a plethora of cases, a feat only executed by very few senior counsel in the country, dead or alive. I have had the fortune, or let me call it the grace, of leading over 90 counsel in a single matter, and in some other cases, being at the head of a legal team or consortium of legal practitioners of over 60 senior counsel. In all these situations, we have always worked seamlessly, without any friction or bickering howsoever, and on occasions where we have won, victory has always been dedicated to all of us.

In my almost five decades in active legal practice, I have never disrespected or been discourteous to any Judge, and no Judge has been disrespectful or discourteous to me, although I must confess that, I and other senior counsel encountered a most unfair and embarrassing treatment from the Apex court on a particular occasion, when we were damnified for doing nothing wrong. That was the case of Degi Eremienyo v PDP (2021) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1800) 387. It was a case where two separate applications were filed by two sets of senior counsel on behalf of their clients, praying the Supreme Court to set aside/vary its earlier decision based and founded on the facts of the case and precedents of the Apex Court itself in similar circumstances, including but not limited to Jev v Iyortyom (2015) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1483) 484 which was/is on all fours with our respective applications. These applications were not brought in vacuum, as they were supported by relevant precedents. Yet, we were called to question for asking the Supreme Court to set aside its previous decision. Good enough, the same Supreme Court was not as strict or not strict at all on counsel who brought similar applications like ours the following week, particularly in APC v Marafa (2020) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1721) 383 and Uzodinma v Ihedioha (2020) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1718) 579. Interestingly, the same Supreme Court has now held in its recent decision in David Edebvie v Oborevwori Sheriff, Francis Orohwedor & Ors (2022) LPELR-58931(SC) that its decision in Degi Eremienyo v PDP (Supra) is no longer the law, but that was the decision the court damnified counsel on. Coincidentally, the Supreme Court of England, almost at the same time counsel was being damnified in Degi Eremienyo v PDP (Supra), held in R v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2022) UK SC 7that “finality of a court cannot extinguish a clear legal right, as the desiderata of finality and certainty cannot impeach on that inevitable result”. In fairness and with deference to our own Supreme Court, it has always not minded setting aside its own decisions in appropriate cases, and, acknowledging in writing on appropriate occasions, that it erred in its earlier decisions, as it did in Egboghonome v State (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 306) 383 at 418, where the Court, per Bello CJN held that: “Having regard to the plethora of the authorities on the matter, I am now convinced that the decision of the court in Oladejo’s case was made per incuriam and the court erred in law in adopting it in Asanya’s case”. The Supreme Court also towed the same line in the case of Adisa v Olayiwola (2000) 10 NWLR (Pt. 674) 116 at 172 where it held that: “In this case, there are compelling reasons why the decision in Oyeniran v Egbetola should be overruled and departed from.” Even after its decision in Degi Eremienyo v PDP (Supra), our Supreme Court acceded to similar applications as ours, particularly in U.B.N. Plc v Petro Union Oil & Gas Co. Ltd (2022) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1829) 199 and GTB v Innoson (Nig) Ltd (2022) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1825) 35. To me, it may appear as if this particular jurisprudence was strange to a lot of people at the time of our reliance on it. Apart from this isolated experience, I have never been ruffled in all my practice years, and I want to repeat or reemphasise that even in that instance, counsel did no wrong in the case, neither did they provoke the court, and the court did not hold that their presentations on the substantive applications were wrong or not in line with the authorities cited. The court did not also fault the facts, as presented in the applications.

Looking back, and in relation to your question as to whether I have any regrets, and situating it against the background of the embarrassment and strictures on counsel in Degi Eremienyo v PDP (Supra), particularly when that decision has always been singled out by my adversaries and traducers to taunt, harass and embarrass me (recall there were ten counsel for the two sets of applicants in the matter, eight senior counsel and two from the Utter Bar; the court awarded cost ‘against counsel’, without singling out any of the ten counsel; it has been only me that has been mischievously sued by a non-party to the action, for not paying the cost awarded; and it has always been only me that is being regularly referred to as the one ‘found guilty’ by the Supreme Court in the matter, even recently, by a certain figure in the legal profession).

My unequivocal response will still remain that I have no regrets filling the type of application, and I venture to add that before the Apex Court itself, I had done it successfully on two previous occasions. One of them is Dingyadi v INEC (No. 10 (2010) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1224) 1 at 54. Thus, if the occasion permits in the future, I will do it again. Law is about scholarship; law speaks to industry; law knocks at the door of diligence; law beckons to research; law does not permit or encourage timidity or cowardice on the part of any counsel; and my plea is that both the Bar and the Bench should not do anything that would amount to discouraging any of these beatitudes of our profession. For the first time, may I, on behalf of all counsel for the two sets of applicants in the matter, publicly appreciate the fatherly role and intervention of the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, GCON in the matter. I do not want to say more on that for now. As far as the practice of law is concerned, I thank God for the grace of a successful career, self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction.



Having served as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ondo State, in the past, do you believe that the office of the Attorney-General and Commissioner or Minister for Justice should be split into two as some are advocating? What are the reasons for your position? Is there any conflict between the two roles, that prevents the occupier of the position from performing both roles optimally?



Whether at the State or Federal level, the position of the Attorney-General is the only cabinet position created by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), vide Sections 150 and 195, respectively. It is an ancient and powerful cadre of office, saddled with some sacred responsibilities. To my mind, the occupier might be the appointee of a politician, but upon ascendancy to that office, ought to assume some measure of an apolitical stance. At the micro level, I served as the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of the old Ondo State for two years. I had already taken the Silk before my appointment. Perhaps, that might have explained the respect which the Governor and colleagues in cabinet accorded me. An Attorney-General must not plunge himself/herself into the murky waters of politics, he should not put on the garb and toga of a politician. He should be very learned, sober, humble, retrospective and introspective. Whilst he has a duty to his employer, that does not mean he should discount his complete and utter fidelity to law and justice. It is a delicate situation, which he must manage to balance (no offence to the women, as the AG could be female). As Attorney-General of old Ondo State, God gave me the grace to manage it. If we have a round peg in a round hole as Attorney-General, people will repose confidence in that exalted position.

My take is that there is no need for separation of the office of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Assuming there is a separation, will the Attorney-General not remain the Chief Law Officer of the Federation or of the State? Will he still not be the one who has the power of nolle prosequi? During the Obasanjo regime, he appointed a Minister of State in the Ministry of Justice, but it did not work; rather, it created much confusion. We need an Attorney-General who is sure footed, who is sound in law, logic and general knowledge. An Attorney-General who knows his onions, must always be prepared to personally go to court to appear for the Government that he represents, or serve in topical and constitutional matters. We claim to have borrowed the present constitution from the USA. Over there, the Ministry of Justice is christened the Department of Justice under the leadership of the Attorney-General. Institutions like the FBI and CIA etc., report to the Department of Justice. The point being made is that, the office of Attorney-General be depoliticised for effectiveness.

Congratulations on the commissioning of the Body of Benchers’ Complex in Abuja last September during your tenure as Chairman. We understand that construction had gone on for a number of years. How were you able to achieve the completion during your tenure? Did you achieve any other notable milestones while in office? You successfully ended your tenure as Chairman of the Body of Benchers on 31st March, 2023; what challenges did you encounter and how did you surmount them?


One of the high points of my tenure as the 50th Chairman of the Body of Benchers was the commissioning of the Body of Benchers complex by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on 29th September, 2022. It was a project which commenced thirty years before then, and I must confess that every Chairman and member made infinite contributions to its achievement. I have learnt one prime lesson in life, and that is giving credit to, appreciating and honouring my predecessors in office. In my speech on that august occasion, I paid tribute to all my predecessors in office, particularly right from 1992 when the idea of having a Benchers’ complex was mooted. It is a complex that consists of a 3000 capacity auditorium, a 240 capacity meeting room, a 1000 capacity banquet hall, a 1000 capacity multi-purpose hall, a committee meeting room, offices for Secretariat staff, a fully equipped library, amongst others. For the first time in the history of the Body of Benchers, we started using the complex for our Call to Bar ceremonies, first, in July, 2022, and later, in December, 2022. In all, 6,215 new Lawyers have been called to Bar in the complex. It was a collective achievement, and it pleased God that the commissioning should come to pass during my tenure as the 50th Chairman. 

The complex defines the architectural beauty of the entire area, and President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR could not hide his feeling of ecstasy on sighting the complex. In his speech on that day, he particularly commended me for my passion and commitment in championing the cause of the welfare of judicial officers in Nigeria. This was in relation to the setting up of the Judiciary Advisory Committee under my leadership, with the objective, amongst others, of constantly interfacing with members of the Bench, in order to take up their concerns and frustrations with appropriate authorities, and also to put in place an acceptable package, salary and welfare-wise, for Judges of our superior courts of record. Through the Committee, we were able to persuade the President to direct the release of the Report of the Committee on the Review of Judicial Salaries and Conditions of Service, set up by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as far back as August, 2018, for implementation as an interim measure. The Committee also commissioned the Financial and Accounting firm of Ernest and Young (E&Y) to carry out, amongst others, a comprehensive review of the conditions of service and emoluments of judicial officers across all cadres of superior courts of record in Nigeria and peer review of the conditions of service of the said judicial officers in Nigeria with other African jurisdictions such as Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, and Rwanda, as well as common law jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and Australia. The firm submitted its report to the Body of Benchers, the Body also carried out an elaborate review of the Report. I forwarded the final report/recommendation to Mr. President on 15th February, 2023. In Mr. President’s address on 29th September, 2022, he emphatically stated that he was earnestly looking forward to the completion of the peer review being undertaken by Messrs. Ernst and Young, as it would assist his government to review the welfare packages of judicial officers. The professional fee of Messrs. Ernst and Young was settled by my humble self and another distinguished life Bencher, Price Lateef Fagbemi, SAN. 

To me, leadership is about sacrifice in all ramifications, including dipping your hand into your pocket for the execution of lofty ideas and goals for ideals greater than one’s self. A Body of Benchers Complex Management Committee was also put in place. In May, 2022, we organised two professional lectures and dinners for 1,883 law graduates of National Open University of Nigeria, who came for their remedial courses at the Nigerian Law School. Through interface with the Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, we got all the access roads leading to the Body of Benchers Complex tarred. For the first time in the history of the Body, we interfaced with all Justices of the Supreme Court, when it appeared that there were some complaints from the Justices about their welfare and conditions of service. I led the team to the meeting, after writing each Justice of the Apex Court, pleading for forbearance. All the major components, roads and crescents within the complex have been named after some leading members of the Body of Benchers, notably past Chairmen, and the pioneer Secretary of the Body. We also inaugurated a Regulations Committee under the Chairmanship of Yusuf Ali, SAN. The Committee is charged with the responsibility, amongst others, of preparing regulations under the jurisdiction vested in the Body by the Legal Practitioners Act, for the profession. The initial Draft Regulations meant to checkmate the notorious forum shopping practice among Lawyers were elaborately debated, and the Body advised itself that same should be passed to the General Council of the Bar.

I must place it on record, that I enjoyed the unalloyed and unflinching support of the members of the Body during my one year tenure. Most of them displayed love, affection, loyalty, fidelity and utmost respect for my person and the office I occupied. The final send forth on the evening of 30th March, 2023 was unprecedented; very elaborate, colourful and humbling. The applause and commendations were emotion laden.

You have further asked me what challenges I encountered, and how I surmounted them. Truth be told, I did not encounter any challenge, problem, opposition or disagreement from within the esteemed Body of Benchers and/or its highly distinguished members. May it be noted that, the Body is statutorily composed of practitioners of the highest distinction in the legal profession in Nigeria. On the Body, you have all past Chief Justices of Nigeria who are living, Justices of the Supreme Court, President of the Court of Appeal and all Presiding Justices of the different divisions, all Chief Judges in Nigeria as well as all the Attorneys-General in the country, Life Benchers etc. Therefore, one expects nothing short of decency, maturity, discipline, orderliness, decorum and deep introspection in the Body. I can say it for free that since its inception, the Body has been run and managed seamlessly, without any rancour amongst members. The Body has its own regulations titled “Body of Benchers Regulation” which came into effect on 7th March, 1983. It is a Bye Law by itself, and it makes provisions for membership, meetings, standing committees, discipline of members, etc. The positions of Chairman and Vice Chairman are rotated between the Bar and the Bench, that is, if a member of the Bar is the Chairman in a particular year, a member of the Bench will be the Vice Chairman, as it was between myself and Hon. Justice Peter-Odili; and once a Chairman vacates office, the Vice Chairman automatically steps in as Chairman, while a new Vice Chairman will emerge from the Bar, as it is now between Hon. Justice Peter-Odili and Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN. 


It is necessary to clarify that the word “Bar” is not the same as in the Nigerian Bar Association, the “Bar” represents the institution to which all Nigerian Lawyers are called, and within that “Bar”, you have the Inner and Utter Bar within that “Bar”. In any court in Nigeria, that “Bar” is always there, properly designated. It is also in the context of that institution, that the Chairman of the Body of Benchers is conferred with the powers under Section 4 of the Legal Practitioners Act read together by the Regulation 16 of the Body of Benchers Regulation to admit newly qualified Lawyers into the Bar. We have Call to Bar ceremonies, and every Lawyer in Nigeria today has passed through the ceremonies or rites. Between 1992 and 1999, the NBA was comatose, and it almost went into extinction, but the Body of Benchers was alive to its responsibilities, and always rotated the position of the Chairman and Vice Chairman as between the Bar and the Bench. But, for the efforts of the Body and some leading members of the profession, the NBA would not have resurrected in 1999. Whenever it is time to make nomination for the appointment of a Vice Chairman from the Bar, a member of the Bar makes such a nomination, and he is seconded by a member of the Bench. Since 1999, when the NBA resurrected, more often than not, if the NBA President was present at a meeting where such nomination was to be made, preference would be given to him to make such a nomination, but in doing so, he must keep to the tradition of the Body by merely nominating the most senior Bencher amongst the members of the Bar. I am not unaware that Chief F. R. A. Williams was the one who made the nomination of Mrs H. A. Balogun as the Vice Chairman in 1998, while Chief T. O. S. Benson, SAN, was the one who made the nomination of Alhaji Ibrahim, SAN, in 2000. In making such a nomination, the nominator would have been properly advised by the Secretariat of the Body of Benchers as to who the most senior person is. This is usually done about two weeks to the time of change of baton. This tradition is very sacrosanct, and like I stated emphatically, both in my Call to Bar speech of 6th and 7th December, 2022 and Valedictory speech of 30th March, 2023, we do not canvass for votes at the Body of Benchers, we do not jump the queue and we do not do anything or take any step to disrupt our cherished precedents or the equilibrium. Every Life Bencher waits for his or her turn, praying to God to spare his or her life.


There was the attempt by the NBA to foist a nominee on the Body for the position of Vice Chairman, when I was about leaving office. The NBA President sent a letter to the Body, attaching the resolution of NBA-NEC meeting held at Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State on 23rd March, 2023, resolving that Mrs Funke Adekoya, SAN should be presented as NBA nominee for the position of Vice Chairman. I have been on the Body of Benchers since 1992 when I joined as a statutory member, being the then Attorney-General of Ondo State, and I cannot recall any instance when the NBA has sent such a resolution to the Body. I was very conscious and cautious of the fact that it was not just enough for me to perform well in office and be applauded, but that my succession or handing over should be free from any rancour, disputation, acrimony and the like. The media space was already awash of the NBA resolution, even before it was formally sent to the Body. When we got to the item on election of Vice Chairman on 30th March, 2023, and I informed the meeting that there was a letter from the NBA President, the consensus of opinion, particularly among leaders at the high table with me (and by leaders I mean Chief Justice of Nigeria, former Chief Justices of Nigeria, former Chairmen of the Body of Benchers and the Vice Chairman) was that there was no need for me to call on him (NBA President) to present the letter as it was unprecedented, and that I should just call on anybody from the floor to nominate the most senior Bencher from the Bar as the Vice Chairman. I pleaded with them that we should allow the NBA President make his presentation, and I then called on him to so do. After making the presentation and his nomination, he was taken up by several members as to what the NBA was up to, and why Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN who was/is the most senior member from the Bar, and who has undoubtedly contributed so much to the profession should be jettisoned. It was after all this that I called on a member from the Bar to formally make the nomination as per the tradition of the Body and Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN was duly nominated and seconded, with thunderous and overwhelming applause. There was no objection and there could not have been any. On this note, I thank God that I handed over in a peaceful manner, in line with the traditions of the Body.

Along the line or during the year, a counsel in our office sent out an unauthorised, unsolicited, unapproved, uncharacteristic and unilateral email to a company purportedly soliciting for instruction for a case that had been completed about four months earlier, and also making very funny and laughable presentations. Paradoxically, the email was sent to the client of no other person or colleague than that of a highly respected and long-standing friend, Mr. H. O. Ajumogobia, SAN. Let me state straightaway, and/or repeat what our office has said: the e-mail was unauthorised and could not have been authorised; the contents of the email are untrue and could not have been true; we did not have any knowledge of the email and we could not have had knowledge of it. Let me say with every sense of responsibility that we were completely unaware of what the lady counsel did, and we were also taken aback by the avalanche and rapidity of comments and critiques that attended her action, more particularly against our office and my person. Although we have been criticised without being heard, the fact remains that the case at the heart of the matter is what is described in legal parlance as res extincta, as, by 20th June, 2022, when she sent the email, the case was not in existence, having been already decided and closed. The email made references to some cases for instance Shell Petroleum Development Company cases, as inferentially having been influenced by us; whereas both at the Supreme Court and the High Court of Rivers State, we painfully lost some of the cases, one of them is reported as S.P.D.C.N. Ltd v Agbara (2021) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1775) 356, where the appeal was dismissed at the stage of application for leave to appeal. In this matter, I led a team of eminent Lawyers from four different Chambers to appear for Shell. It would amount to an act of gross professional misconduct and unfathomable for any counsel to influence a court, particularly the Supreme Court, to give judgement against his client! Reference was also made to the MTN tax dispute as having been influenced by us. It is common knowledge, that the case was settled out of court. Before trial commenced in the case after filing of pleadings, on behalf of MTN, we filed Notice of Discontinuance on 14th January, 2020, whilst the case was formally struck out on 28th January, 2020. All of these are matters of public record. I led a team of counsel from about four other leading law firms for MTN in the matter. It would be a weird assumption for anyone to assume, claim or allege that a matter which was settled out of court without any judicial pronouncement except a striking out order consequent upon a motion for discontinuance, was influenced by counsel. The other case alleged to have been influenced was that of Statoil (Nig) Limited v Inducon (Nig) Limited (2021) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1774) 41. I came into the matter at the Supreme Court, Statoil having lost at the trial Court and the Court of Appeal. Again, I led a team of eminent senior counsel from four different Chambers for the appellant at the Supreme Court, and the appeal was won purely on robust legal presentation, rooted and anchored on precedents of the Apex Court. The law report is there, for anyone to read. By the way, different/other counsel and chambers had represented Statoil at both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. All the cases the email referred to were conducted and completed by our firm, before the counsel that wrote the email joined our firm. They were also completed before I assumed office as Chairman of the Body of Benchers. So, she did not participate in the cases, and it cannot be correct that the office of Chairman of BOB had any impact on the outcomes of those cases.

When the email was brought to our attention, the firm’s internal disciplinary measures were immediately activated. Perhaps, some people were expecting us to shout at rooftop that we had crucified her. That is not our style. As for me, I am also a father, apart from being a mentor, shepherd and counsellor. Even in the face of the storm, we made no public comments on this aspect, as it is our belief, for good reason, that media trials are antithetical to the traditions, ethos and pathos of the legal profession. Our profession is one that requires the highest level of circumspection and reasoning. It was incumbent on us, despite the weight of the moment, to keep within the best practices of the profession. We also kept on reminding ourselves that we should not lose our humanity, despite the barrage of attacks mounted against us. More importantly, short of abolishing official e-mails, there really and truly was no way we could forestall or have forestalled the unfortunate and unexpected occurrence. That is why I found, and still find the comments from certain quarters quite strange. How many employers, if any, can vouch or state on oath that apart from clearly stating and consistently communicating company values and rules for correspondence, they can control the e-mails emanating from their staff with a 100% certainty, or that those values or rules will not be violated under any circumstance by all employees? If that standard is impossible for everyone, how was it then foisted on our firm? In any event, it was another learning point that even when, at times, you put in your best and do the right things, wrong outcomes still manifest. From my perspective, it was rather curious that even very senior counsel, who could be confronted with the same problem that we were faced with, seemed to be very certain that we should have been omniscient.

Without wanting to mention names, I state in all honesty that I have seen, witnessed and experienced a lot of blunders by some (junior) counsel from other law offices. When the matter was brought to my attention, I virtually sank, and two of my Secretaries had to revive me. When I recovered, I decided to treat the issue like a regular case, and with that, we could then see ten to twenty steps ahead. Everything that happened since then, and those yet to happen, have now come within our perspective, and we are ready for them.

-Continue reading from the source: Thisday