Crisis is brewing between leaders of two top lawyer groups, the Nigerian Bar Association and the Body of Benchers over the call to bar ceremony presided over by Chairman of the BoB, Woke Olanipekun (SAN).
Olanipekun was said to have ignored the warning of the NBA led by Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, by presiding over the call to bar ceremony which began on Tuesday.
The call to bar is a graduation for new lawyers.
Maikyau had in a letter dated December 4 asked Olanipekun to withdraw from the BoB leadership following the action of Ms Ogunde, a partner in his law firm, who sought a client’s engagement of her principal (in a $130m case) over his alleged influence on judges.
Maikyau requested that Olanipekun should salvage the reputation and integrity of the BoB and the legal profession, by allowing the call to bar ceremony scheduled for 6 and 7 December 2022 to be presided by Justice Mary Peter Odili (Rtd), the vice chairman of the body.
But at the event on Tuesday, Olanipekun presided over the ceremony in defiance of the protest of the NBA president.
The NBA president boycotted the event implying that the legal profession is in for another round of rift.
He said, “The NBA under my leadership cannot be part of the ceremony superintended by the current chairman of the BoB for all the reasons stated in my letter under reference.
“To do so will be to endorse, celebrate or condone a practice that I consider unwholesome and unprofessional, by virtue of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007,” the NBA said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee under the BoB had exonerated Olanipekun of the allegation.
Responding to that in his letter on December 4, Maikyau stated that while he did not contend the correctness or otherwise of the committee’s decision, “Suffice however to say that the public reactions that trailed the emergence of that email and the decision exonerating the law firm would give a bit of insight into how this Body is presently being viewed by some members of the profession and the Nigerian public.”
Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Chiroma, announced at the event that 4,711 applicants qualified to be enlisted into the legal profession.
Olanipekun admitted all the applicants and ordered them to put on their wigs.
“By the powers conferred on me as Chairman of the Body of Benchers, I hereby admit each and every one of you into the bar as barristers,” he said.
Olanipekun, apparently replying to his critics, said at the ceremony that every life bencher has an idea of when to assume office as chairman of the BoB
He said the term of the BoB chairman is one year.
“At the end of the tenure of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman automatically transits into the position of Chairman. By the grace of God, come March 21, 2023, Justice Mary Odili will assume the position as Chairman of the body while we transit into the committee of elders as past chairmen,” he said.