Body of Benchers Chairmanship: Court throws out suit against Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN


An Abuja high court sitting in Bwari has terminated a lawsuit by an Abuja-based lawyer, Lady (Barr) Chidinma Udebuani, a.k.a, Lady Agams, seeking to oust a former Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, from office.

Striking out the suit, the trial high court judge, Justice A. O. Ebong held that the issue in question was already overtaken by events, Olanipekun, SAN, having served out his term and the claimant and her client having abandoned the suit.

A one-time Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Again, SAN was Chief Olanipekun’s counsel in the case.

The court threw out the case following Agabi’s request on a day the claimant and her counsel were also absent in court.

The court agreed with Chief Agabi, SAN that the absence of the claimant further strengthened the argument that the matter had become moot.

Lady Agams had filed the case at the FCT High Court registry on August 2, 2022 asking the court to order Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN to vacate the office of the Chairman of BoB immediately and to issue an order declaring the Call to Bar ceremony he presided over on 27th day of July 2022 as null and void.

Other parties joined in the suit were Body of Benchers (BoB), Ms Adekunbi Ogunde, Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC), Inspector General of Police (IGP), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), and Mr Olumide Akpata as the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th defendants respectively.

Lady Agams in an affidavit supporting the case cited an email written by Ms Adekunbi Ogunde to SAIPEM Construction Nigeria Limited, an expatriate company, promising that her principal Partner and Body of Benchers Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN uses the influence of his office as BoB Chairman to influence Judges on behalf of clients.

The email which has since gone viral has attracted condemnation from lawyers and NBA has charged Ms Ogunde for professional misconduct before the LPDC.

The NBA also requested the LPDC to determine whether other partners in the Law Firm of the BoB Chairman, including the BoB Chairman himself should be charged with professional misconduct since the official acts of a partner binds other partners.

The NBA further requested the BoB Chairman to recuse himself from office pending the determination of the Charge and question before the LPDC to ensure independent investigation by the LPDC as the LPDC is a Committee of the BoB.

However, Chief Olanipekun SAN ignored the NBA request and continued to act as the BoB chairman.

Lady Agams asked the Court to determine the following questions:

  • Whether the contents of the 3rd defendant’s e-mail sent to SAIPEN Construction Nigeria Limited on behalf of the 2nd defendant’s law firm promising the company that their principal will use his position as body of benchers chairman to influence judges to give the company a favourable outcome in its case with Rivers State Government is not a confessional statement under Section 27 of Evidence Act 2011
  • Whether the email of the 3rd defendant to SAIPEN Construction Nigeria Limited made on behalf of the 2nd Defendant’s law firm wherein she is a partner is not an indictment on the 2nd defendant to warrant him vacate his seat as the chairman of body of benchers?
  • Whether in the light of the circumstances of the case, the 2nd defendant’s email to the SAIPEN Construction Nigeria Limited is not a subversion of justice?
  • Whether the action of the 2nd defendant in presiding over the Call to Bar Ceremony of the 1st Defendant and issuance of certificate of call to bar of the new wigs signed by the 2nd defendant on the 27th day of July, 2022 as the chairman of body of benchers wherein the 4th defendant had written to him requesting him to recuse himself as chairman of the 1st defendant is not null and void and of no effect?
  • Whether the 3rd defendant’s e-mail to SAIPEM Construction Nigeria Limited that the firm had successfully influenced judges in other cases and listed the beneficiary companies as MTN Nigeria, Equinox and Shell Petroleum and not rebutted by the companies mentioned, the 7th defendant should not call for review of the cases won by the law firm of the 2nd defendant in the greatest interest of justice?
  • Whether the 6th defendant should not forthwith conduct full investigation of the testimony of the 2nd defendant while the 5th defendant is already handling the disciplinary aspect of the alleged professional misconduct?

Lady Agams further asked the Court to make the following other against the defendants;

A DECLARATION OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT that the Body of Benchers meeting held on the 26th day of July 2022, and all the resolutions reached wherein the 2nd defendant presided be declared null and void and of no effect.

A DECLARATION OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT that the call to Nigerian Bar of candidates presided over by the 2nd defendant be declared null and void and of no effect.

A DECLARATION OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT that the action of 2nd defendant refusing to step aside after being served with letter from the 4th defendant amounts to total disrespect and disdain to the office of the president of Nigerian Bar Association and the entire members of the Nigerian Bar Associaton

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT ordering the 2nd defendant to vacate forth with his seat as the chairman of the 1st defendant.

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT directing the vice chairman of the 1st defendant to sign the certificate of call to Bar of the new lawyers and declaring all the actions of the 2nd defendant void and of no effect from 20th day of July, 2022.

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT mandating the 6th defendant to conduct a thorough investigation with media coverage over the alleged subversion of justice and procurements of judgment by the law firm of the 2nd defendant.

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT mandating the 7th defendant to review all the cases won by the law firm of the 2nd defendant in the last Ten (10) years using the ones mentioned in the 3rd defendants e-mail as a guide.

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT compelling the 4th defendant to give exemplary honorary award in her annual conference on Mr. Odein Ajumogbobia, SAN for being a true bar Man

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT commending the 30th president of the 4th defendant for his dynamic leadership and standing firm in defence of the Noble profession.

AN ORDER OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT restraining the 1st, 5th and 8th Defendants from interfering with the statutory duties of the 6th defendant in investigating the criminal aspect of the matter.

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