The rank and file members of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) was last week depleted following the withdrawal of the coveted title from two members of the Body over allegation of professional misconduct. FOLUSO OGUNMODEDE reports
For about 43 years, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC), empowered by the Legal Practitioners Act 207 Section 5 (1) had not stopped conferring the title of Senior Advocates of Nigeria on lawyers, who had distinguished themselves in the practice of law.
And to be considered for the coveted title of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a lawyer must have been in legal practice or academics for not less than ten years. Its composition includes the Chief Justice (as Chairman), the Attorney-General, a Justice of the Supreme Court, President of the Court of Appeal, five of the Chief Judges of the states, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and five legal practitioners who must be Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
Besides, Legal Practitioners Act 207 Section 5 (1) requires applicants for the rank of SAN to be of good character with no complaint relating to professional misconduct must be against them.
It also requires candidates to demonstrate professional and personal integrity, be honest and straightforward in professional dealings, be of good character and reputation as well as be candid with clients and professional colleagues.
It says: “A candidate shall be considered ineligible if, in the opinion of the LPPC, the candidate is adjudged to be of the following disposition: “Bad behaviour, whether in or out of court; poor temperament or propensity to insult or assault people or cause bodily harm or put them in a state of fear of bodily harm and evidence of moral depravity or other socially unacceptable behaviour.”
However, LPPC in its 43 years had churned out no fewer than 479 distinguished lawyers, adorning them with silk wig with other revered privileges.
It had its first Senior Advocates on April 3, 1973 when it bestowed the prestigious title on two lawyers—the late Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams and Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas, who had distinguished themselves in the profession of law.
Two years after Williams and Graham-Douglas bagged the coveted title, 13 other distinguished lawyers joined the privileged BOSAN.
They are the late Premier of the defunct western region, Chiefs Obafemi Awolowo and R.A. Fani-Kayode. Others were the late Baba Oba of Lagos, T.A. Bankole Oki, E. A. Molajo, Kehinde Sofola, Chief Richard Akinjide, Chief G.O.K. Ajayi, Chief Olisa Chukura, Dr. Nwakanma Okoro, Dr. Mudiaga Odje, P.O. Balonwu, Professor Ben Nwabueze and Dr. Augustine Nnamani.
All were conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on December 1, 1978.
43 years on, no fewer than 464 distinguished lawyers had bagged the title.
Although majority of the first generation SAN title holders have passed on, LPPC as at October 2017 had conferred the title on 479 other lawyers, who had distinguished themselves in the practice of law.
But between 2010 and 2018, the Body of Senior Advocates suffered a dent following misdemeanor of some of its members which had prompted the LPPC to strip them of the coveted title.
No fewer than five Senior Advocates had been sanctioned by the privileges committee in the last eight years.
BOSAN members, who had received LPPC’s big stick, were a former Justice Minister and Attorney-General, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, Chief Ajibola Aribisala, Otunba Kunle Kalejaiye, Adekunle Babatunde Ogunba and Mrs. Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun.
While Aondoakaa, Aribisala’s titles were suspended by the LPPC, Kalejaiye and Ogunba were stripped of their titles just as Bashorun’s nomination for the coveted title was not only withdrawn but barred from applying for three years on the grounds of misconduct.
Adekunle Babatunde Ogunba was elevated into the Inner Bar as Senior Advocate of Nigeria alongside foremost activist lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome and 17 others on December 4, 2009.
Nine years after, Ogunba was stripped of the coveted title by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) over allegation of professional misconduct.
The decision of the committee which was with immediate effect was contained in a statement dated January 11 and issued at the end of its 129th plenary meeting.
The statement signed by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and Secretary of the LPPC, Mrs. Hadizatu Mustapha, stated that the decision to strip Ogunba of his rank was based on a petition filed against him by a firm, Honeywell Group.
Honeywell Group had accused Ogunba of professional misconduct following “institution of multiplicity of proceedings before different judges of the Federal High Court on the same subject with the deliberate aim of abusing the process of court and derailing the course of justice.”
This, the statement said the committee had found merit in the allegation.
Like Ogunba, Mrs Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun also lost the privi
lege of being admitted into the privileged rank.
Reason: The LPPC found a petition of misconduct against her meritorious.
It, however, announced the withdrawal of her nomination for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate.
According to a statement, the committee found that the petition against her was meritorious “having found that the respondent stayed and continued to stay in a rented property for nine years without paying rent and that Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun Esq. being an officer in the temple of justice and an aspirant to the exalted position of Senior Advocate of Nigeria has conducted herself in a manner which is clearly in contravention of the provisions of paragraphs 18(2) (a) & (c) and 19 (a) (b) (c) & (d) of the Guidelines for the Conferment of the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria 2016.”
At the last emergency meeting of September 15, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) by virtue of Section 5 (1) of the Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 as amended, decided to suspend the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun Esq. pending the investigation of all petitions filed against her.
However, after a thorough investigation, the body came to a conclusion that the nomination for conferment of the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun Esq. on July 6, 2017 should be withdrawn.
The committee also barred Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun from applying for the award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria for the next three years or three applications beginning from 2018, after which she would only apply for the rank subject to good behaviour as assessed by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee.
He was in 2010 suspended by the Legal Privileges Committee (LPPC) from using the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria for two years following a petition by the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and a ruling by a Calabar Federal High Court on June 1, 2010, which declared him unfit to hold the office of the Attorney General or any public office in Nigeria.
LPPC said it decided to suspend him from the use of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and all other privileges attached to the rank pending the outcome of an investigation by the sub-committee set up by the LPPC.
Although Aribisala’s title was restored on October 27, 2014, the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee (LPPC) put the title and privileges attached on hold for 20 months.
While restoring Aribisala’s SAN title, the then LPPC’s Secretary and Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mr. Sunday Olorundahunsi in a statement said Aribisala’s SAN rank was restored at a meeting of the committee held on Monday October 27, 2014.
According to the statement, the decision to restore the lawyer’s SAN rank followed withdrawal of petitions against him and consideration of the terms of settlement between parties concerned in the petitions.
Aribisala’s SAN rank was suspended by the LPPC on February 26, 2013 after it received two petitions of “allegations of flagrant breach of professional ethics and professional misconduct” made against him.
In the allegations, Aribisala charged for certain legal services he allegedly rendered to Fidelity Bank which were in excess and breach of Rules of Professional Conduct in the legal profession.
The statement reads: “You may all recall that on the 26th day February, 2013 the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee at its General meeting suspended Chief A. A. Aribisala (SAN) from further use of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria based on two petitions received by the LPPC on allegations of flagrant breach of professional ethics and professional misconduct.
“On the 27th day of October, 2014 the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee at its General Meeting has decided to lift Chief A.A Aribisala’s suspension, after consideration of all material facts (Notices of withdrawal/discontinuance and subsequent letter of withdrawal of petition and terms of settlement).
“Pursuant to the committee’s decision, Chief Aribisala is hereby restored to the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria with effect from the 27th day of October, 2014.
“Furthermore, the committee hereby declares that any future act by Chief Aribisala that runs foul of paragraph 22 of the LPPC rules shall attract a stiffer sanction.”
Kalejaiye lost his coveted rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on May 21, 2015 following allegation of misconduct initiated against him.
Having found guilty of the allegation, LPPC stripped him of the title.
Kaleijaye allegedly exchanged text messages with an election tribunal judge, Justice Thomas Naron during election litigation between former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State and his successor in office, Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
Kalejaye, who represented Oyinlola at the tribunal, had faced an inquiry into his unethical conduct since 2008 when a series of text messages between him and the judge were made public.
He was not only stripped of the SAN title but the LPPC also directed the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court to immediately remove his name from the official list of legal practitioners in the country.
The committee also directed that its decision should be served on the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Chief Judges of all the states of the federation, the Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and all states’ Commissioners of Police. It also directed that the decision be published in the media for public consumption.
The verdict passed on Kalejaiye followed the conclusion of work by a five-man investigative panel led by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
The panel had swung into action following a complaint against Kalejaiye by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), represented by Jibrin Okutepa (SAN).
Unveiling the directive of the Committee, the then Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ekiti Division, Justice Paul Galinje held that the prosecution h
ad proved a three-count complaint beyond reasonable doubt as Kalejaiye violated provisions of Sections 1, 15, 30, 31, 34 and 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners (2007).
However, Kalejaiye’s counsel, Niyi Owolade, a former Attorney General of Osun State, faulted the decision of the Committee, saying his client was about filing his appeal at the Supreme Court.
According to the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA), Kalejaiye had up to 28 days to appeal the decision, failing which it would become effective.
Section 11(8) of the LPA states that “a directive of the disciplinary committee under subsection (1) or subsection (2) of this section shall take effect: (a) where no appeal under this section is brought against the directive within the time limited for the appeal on the expiration of that time; (b) where such an appeal is brought and is withdrawn or struck out for want of prosecution on the withdrawal or striking out of the appeal; and (c) where such an appeal is brought and is not withdrawn or struck out as aforesaid, if and when the appeal is dismissed, and shall not take effect except in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this subsection.
Kalejaiye had between March and June 2008, while representing the Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal, engaged in “confidential, private and confidential telephone conversation with the tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Thomas Naron, without the knowledge of the other party.
It was at the tribunal which heard the petition by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its candidate at the 2007 governorship election.
Justice Naron had since been compulsorily retired having been found guilty of professional misconduct by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Kalejaiye’s defence was rejected by the LPPC on the grounds that his telephone number was cloned while he was able to show, by expert evidence, that spoofing, as a general phenomenon was possible, he failed to show that spoofing was possible on the MTN network which owned the lines with which Kalejaiye and Naron communicated rather than demonstrating such possibility with Etisalat and Glo networks.
Kalejaiye’s documentary evidence, mostly newspaper publications including advertorial sponsored by Kalejaiye, faulting the authenticity of the call log from MTN, was also punctured by the Committee.
According to the Committee, it would have been more helpful had Kalejaiye applied and got his call log from MTN to prove that the one tendered by the prosecution was not the actual one.
B. I. Nwofor
The decision to withdraw Nwofor’s SAN tittle was taken at the LPPC’s 126th general meeting held on June 22, 2017. The decision was contained in a letter from the privileges committee signed by the then Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ahmed Salleh.
Nwofor was a lawyer to the sacked National Chairman of PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
The Committee had noted then that it considered extensively a complaint filed by the Court of Appeal against B. E. I. Nwofor with his response to same and all material facts and had decided that B. E. I. Nwofor conducted himself in a manner unbefitting of a holder of the esteemed rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
It was based on this reason that the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, including all its privileges was withdrawn from B.E.I Nwofor.
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