The 30th President of the largest Bar in Africa, The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, yesterday expressed disappointment over what he described as hypocrisy and double standard prevalent in the legal Profession.
Akpata was reacting generally to the treatment giving to his letter to the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, BoB, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN to recuse himself while a petition for professional misconduct against a Partner in his law firm shall be entertained.
The BoB yesterday at Its meeting in Abuja ignored totally the NBA President’s request and refused to raise nor discuss his letter to the August body.
In an exclusive chat with BarristerNG, Akpata bared his mind detailing step by step on how his administration tried to contribute its quota to saving what is left of the reputation of lawyers and Legal Profession in Nigeria.
Below are excerpts from the Chat:
ON WHETHER PROPER NOTICE WAS GIVEN TO THE MEMBERS OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS ABOUT THE LETTER FOR RECUSAL
Well, people are not honest with themselves and in due course I will speak about it. We dispatched the letter to Chief Olanipekun, the letter was addressed to him. I also sent an email to the Secretary of BoB and informed him to find attached a letter from NBA to Chief Olanipekun. Hard copies of which has been delivered to his secretariat. I also copied every member of BoB. I requested the secretary to bring to the attention of all members, the content of the letter and also ensure that it is listed as one of the matters for discussion at the meeting. I don’t think the secretary needs more notice than that but I wont blame the secretary, obviously he was directed not to do that.
I also got hard copies of the same letter to the meeting and requested that each member be given a copy for the meeting. The secretary again didn’t do that because, obviously, he was directed not to do that. NBA Officers delivered copies of the letter to the BoB Secretary and requested him to avail every BoB member with a copy even though I have spoken to most of them and they confirmed the receipt of my email but the Secretary of BoB didn’t do as requested.”
ON WHETHER ANY MEMBER OF THE BoB RAISED THE ISSUE AND WAS DENIED AUDIENCE
Nobody at the meeting raised the issue, I was present from the beginning of the meeting to the end and I had no intention of raising the issue because as far as I am concerned, I have done my duty. I could have left America yesterday, got on a plane and attend that meeting but it will now be as if it is personal. There is nothing personal between me and Chief Olanipekun. I have no problem with him. I have just done my job but in that meeting, there were at least four past NBA Presidents: Okpoko SAN, Usoro SAN, Mahmood SAN, and Okocha SAN were present physically while JB Daudu SAN, Alegeh SAN and Okey Wali, SAN were virtually present raising the number to seven. The Chief Justices of Nigeria, present and retired were all sitting in that room. At least 95% of them have seen the letter and know of the letter but not one person in the four hours of that meeting brought it up. I could have brought it up but I decided to see to the end so that we understand why our country is where it is. All of those men, leading lights of the legal profession, not one raised it up, including NBA representatives I recommended for appointment, not one said “Mr Chairman, this letter, are we going to discuss it?”, It didn’t even come up. And because I didn’t say anything when I was online, that is why they think i wasn’t there and that is why they have been sending out the information that I didn’t attend. Go and check the records, I was there for the four hours from start to finish.
I think and it should be clear to everybody that not much is going to change in our country if those that are leaders cannot be able to do the right thing. All that is asked is “Chief Olanipekun, recuse yourself, stand aside while this matter is being considered” and if nobody,…….. today, I wasn’t looking at Chief Olanipekun, I was looking at the room and nobody in that room could say a word about it. Meanwhile, some will call me on phone and say ”This is wrong, Wole must step down”. But they came to the meeting, sat down there all through and didn’t say one word.
For me, I really enjoyed it because I have always known that our system is what it is because of the individuals, because of the people. That room had the leading lights in the legal profession. Most of them did not know that I will have even the courage to write the letter and drew the petition, that is why they were caught off-guard. They were calling me before the meeting, and asking, ”what are we going to do?”, “Wole is wrong”, “Wole this…Wole that”, and I agreed with them, I wrote the letter as required by my job, but all of them kept mute at the meeting.
That is our system, hypocrisy and double standard all the way. “If na one lawyer wey no get Papa, wey no get Mama, they will be shouting, preaching like an archbishop that “What has this profession come to”, “standards has fallen”. There cannot be two standards in the land. You cannot be a judge in your own case, end of story. Maybe they want to push it to the next meeting when I will no longer be President. Something as this that is affecting the whole profession and they are playing the ostrich…. We play double standard, we like to pontificate, we are hypocrites.
Somebody called me and said they didn’t mention it and I asked “Who is the “they”? He said he is in shock nobody mentioned it and I said, “why are you in shock, were you not at the meeting? Nobody would have stopped you if you had raised your hand.
I deliberately did not speak, I have done my own part, I have nothing personal against Chief Olanipekun, It is the system that we have to protect.
The cream of the legal profession – Bar and Bench – was sitting in the room, all of them had constructive and legal notice of my letter, not one raised it for the four hours that the meeting was going on. Even at AOB, not one raised it. It is a day of shame for the legal profession.
It is the brazenness that we see in our mainstream politics that is at play.
Some old members called me and said, “Oh, he is not supposed to chair the meeting” and I said to them, “why are you telling me?, go to the meeting and say it.
A partner in your office writes that you influence judges, The Judges in the meeting who did not speak may have confirmed it by their silence. The whole world is looking.
* By BARRISTERNG