A partner in the law firm of Wole Olanipekun, the chair of the Body of Benchers, has announced her decision to temporarily quit legal practice in the wake of an allegation of professional misconduct levelled against her.
The lawyer, Adekunbi Ogunde, said in a statement on Wednesday that she would take a leave of absence from legal practice.
The announcement came less than two weeks after the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) petitioned the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) to sanction her.
Ms Ogunde, who said she would return to legal practice after some time, noted that she decided to take a leave of absence after consulting “with my family and the firm, and after a deep and thorough examination of all the facets of this hydra-headed problem”.
She highlighted three things she would do including taking a leave of absence:
“I will take a leave of absence from legal practice and get involved in community and social work pro bono, with a few selected NGOs,” she stated.
Ms Ogunde also said she would undergo “necessary courses to equip myself better in dealing with professional and life issues,” adding that she would “return to legal practice after some time.”
She also said she would later “return to legal practice after some time, in consultation with my parents, senior colleagues and well-wishers.”
Ms Ogunde was accused of soliciting briefs on behalf of Mr Olanipekun’s law firm in violation of rules of professional conduct for lawyers.
She was accused of soliciting the brief from Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, a company already being defended in the same suit by Odein Ajumogobia, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
In her leaked letter to Sapiem, Ms Ogunde had assured the firm of legal victory citing Mr Olanipekun’s influence in the judiciary.
She said the presence of Mr Olanipekun, also a SAN, in the case “will significantly switch things in favour” of Sapiem.
But Ms Ogunde subsequently apologised for her action, saying she wrote the letter without the knowledge of her law firm or knowledge of Mr Olanipekun.
NBA subsequently petitioned the LPDC asking the body to sanction Ms Ogunde. The NBA equally wrote Mr Olanipekun, asking him to step down as the chair of BoB by virtue of her association with Ms Ogunde.
In her statement on Wednesday, Ms Ogunde lamented how the matter “has now become rather complicated and has not only affected me psychologically but also Wole Olanipekun & Co. and my family.”
“It has bred bad blood and, to my great pain, thoroughly embarrassed the firm’s Founding Partner, the innocent and dignified Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, OFR and as well as everyone else at the firm,” the lawyer added.
Mr Olanipekun, who is a former NBA president, has expressed displeasure over the action taken by the association concerning the matter.
In a veiled reference to NBA’s action, on 27 July, Mr Olanipekun said the LPDC, as an independent agency of the BOB, is not an avenue for dealing with perceived enemies or ventilation of grievances against fellow lawyers on personal issues.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the NBA in a petition asked the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), to sanction Ms Ogunde while calling on Mr Olanipekun to set aside from the headship of the Body of Benchers to enable unbiased investigations into the issue.
Another group of senior lawyers, Justice Reform Project, sided with the NBA in urging Mr Olanipekun to resign from the BOB.
Ms Ogunde’s father, Wemimo Ogunde, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, resigned his membership in JRP on moral grounds.
He said he needed to quit the group to focus on defending his daughter at the LPDC.
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