The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, was on Tuesday conspicuously absent at the meeting of the Body of Benchers (BOB) held in Abuja.
His absence comes a few days after he asked BOB Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to step down over a petition against a lawyer in Olanipekun’s firm.
The meeting, which was held at the Body of Benchers Complex in Jabi, Abuja, was well attended by key stakeholders in the legal profession, including the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Kayode Ariwoola, past Chief Justices of Nigeria – Justice Mahmud Mohammed and Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Also in attendance was Justice Mary Odili (rtd), who doubles as the Vice-Chairman of the Body of Benchers.
Past Presidents of the NBA, including Paul Usoro (SAN), O. C. J. Okocha (SAN), Joseph B. Daudu (SAN), Okey Wali (SAN), and Abubakar Mahmud (SAN), amongst several other leaders of the legal profession, were present, with some participating virtually.
Akpata, who, by virtue of his office, is a member of the BOB. As at the time of filing this report, no reason was given for his absence. Calls to his number were ignored.
The spokesman of the NBA, Rapuluchukwu Nduka also did not respond to calls.
The meeting by the BOB was held in furtherance of its traditional preparations for the Call to Bar ceremonies scheduled for Wednesday, among other important issues bordering on the security of the nation particularly as it affects the legal profession.
It was learnt that the BOB meeting did not discuss Akpata’s attack on Olanipekun and his social media tirade.
It would be recalled that in a letter dated July 22 and signed by the NBA President, Olumide Akpata, the legal body said the call became necessary for the emplacement of interim leadership, in order to allow the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to investigate an alleged act of professional misconduct by one of Olanipekun’s partners.
The letter which was addressed to Olanipekun was titled, Re: Petition Against Ms Adekunbi Ogunde By The Nig Bar Association For Alleged Misconduct.
“Against the backdrop of your partnership relationship with Ms Ogunde, vis-a-vis the prosecution of the petition by the LPDC, it is clear, albeit unfortunate, that you have been put in a situation where your continued occupancy of the office during this period would conflict, or be reasonably interpreted to conflict, with or influence the processes of the LPDC, by fair-minded observers and right-thinking members of the public, both within and outside our profession.
“By reason of your close professional ties and involvement with Ms Ogunde, it would be an infraction of the salutary principles of natural justice for the said petition to be heard by the LPDC while you continue as chairman of the BOB, of which the LPDC is a committee.
“Consequent upon the above, I am constrained to invite you to recuse yourself from the chairmanship of the BOB henceforth, and to allow for the emplacement of an interim leader of the BOB, in order to enable the LPDC to carry out this particular assignment, amongst others, without coming under an undue suspicion of impartiality.
“As a beacon of rule of law and due process, the NBA must continue to demonstrate that it is committed to the vision of its founding fathers, especially in its internal affairs.
“This situation, therefore, puts our foundational ethos as an Association on the line, and I trust that as a former president of the NBA and a very respected senior member of the Bar, you will take the honorable path of stepping aside in the interest of justice, fairness, and posterity.
“I am pained that I have to make this call, but in the circumstance, it is in the best interest of our association and of the legal profession in Nigeria.”