The Nigerian Bar Association President, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, has described the continuous silence by the Body of Benchers to the ‘indictable letter’ of Mrs. Adekunbi Ogunde, as ‘disgusting, and a betrayal of the confidence Nigerians have in the legal profession’.
Maikyau in a letter, dated December 4, 2022, and partly captioned ‘A Call To Salvage The Image, Reputation And Integrity of the Body of Benchers and the Legal Profession…’ stressed on the need for the apex regulatory body in the profession to step up its game and remedy the bad image created by the letter about the Nigerian Judiciary.
Recall that the immediate past NBA President, Olumide Akpata, had championed calls for the sanction of Mrs. Ogunde, as well as on the priority of the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, to continue as Chairman of the Body after described as ‘being capable of obtaining favourable outcomes from courts using his office’.
Read the full letter below:
The letter dated 4th December, 2022, titled “A CALL TO SALVAGE THE IMAGE, REPUTATION AND INTEGRITY OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION, AND FOR THE CALL TO BAR CEREMONY SCHEDULED FOR 6 AND 7 DECEMBER 2022 TO BE PRESIDED BY, HONOURABLE JUSTICE MARY PETER ODILI, JSC, RTD – THE VICE CHAIRMAN BODY OF BENCHERS”, was copied to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and to all Benchers.
Appealing to BoB, Maikyau stated that, “The Body of Benchers has, since its establishment, seen some of the best legal minds this nation has ever produced.”
The NBA President stated that he has since assuming office “expressed concerns over the negative impact of the email by Adekunbi Ogunde (as with so many other actions of our colleagues), on the Legal profession in Nigeria,” describing the email as “disgusting.”
His words: “Mr. Chairman, I did not mince words about the devastating effect of that email on our noble profession of law and by virtue of the strategic position of this Body in showcasing the crème-de-la-crème of the legal profession in Nigeria, this Body must acquit itself of any complicity, albeit after the fact, in any act of professional misconduct.”
He further prayed BoB, to “take definite steps toward regaining the confidence of Nigerians in the legal profession.
The email by Adekunbi Ogunde, which presented this Body and indeed the entire legal profession in Nigeria, as one subject to and/or susceptible to manipulation by the Chairman, is the greatest damage ever inflicted on the legal profession in Nigeria and the psyche of Nigerians. Whatever confidence Nigerians may have had in the legal profession was drastically eroded by the content of that email, which gained wide publicity in the social media.
“There is no gain-saying that this email has brutally hurt the legal profession; it made a caricature of the Nigerian Court system and brought the entire legal profession to abject disrepute. It is disgusting! That this lie was told and allowed to be fed to Nigerians is the greatest assault on our collective psyche. Why then do we go to Court if this was true? Of course, this is not who we are, but we would appear to celebrate the content of the email by our silence and the insistence by the Chairman to continue to preside over the affairs of this Body without any remorse whatsoever over the embarrassment which the entire legal profession is subjected to on account of the content of that email.
“What is even more worrisome is the fact that, this Body did not in any way react to the email to demonstrate to Nigerians, that what was said of the Body and the entire profession was false and that the legal profession cannot be manipulated by the Chairman, or any other individual or group of persons. Interestingly, there was no denial that the said email was indeed written, and whether the content of the email was authorised or not is immaterial to the impression created by its content. The only way this Body can demonstrate that it “consists of men of the highest distinction in the legal profession” is to come out and speak boldly against that negative narrative and refuse to celebrate it in anyway under any guise.
“Nigerians look up to the legal profession and this Body cannot afford to be silent. To do so is to betray the confidence which Nigerians have in the legal profession. It was Martin Luther King, Jnr who said:
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal”. I believe we are at that time when the silence by the legal profession and this Body can pass for a betrayal of the confidence Nigerians have in the legal profession. This Body cannot afford to betray Nigerians by keeping quiet in the face of this grave assault. No one is bigger than our dear legal profession!
“We must not allow younger members of the profession to have the slightest thought that the content of Adekunbi Ogunde’s email is a template for legal practice in Nigeria. No one should be in any doubt that, the content of the email is condemnable and does not represent this Body and the legal profession. We owe the younger generation of lawyers the duty to speak and not be silent. My administration has committed to protecting the legal space for the benefit of the upcoming generation of lawyers. Not only are we resolved to resist any external incursions into the legal space, but we shall also equally resist any action that seeks to destroy the fabric of the profession.”
Maikyau stated that “recusal by the Chairman should have been the very least of an individual action which the disgusting email ought to have elicited. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But beyond that, even if the Chairman had recused himself from the Chairmanship of the Body of Benchers, that by itself will not address the negative perception already created by the content of the email. A collective action of this Body is absolutely necessary and imperative in letting Nigerians know that the members of this Body are not who the email says they are, and no one can do to this Body what the email suggested the Chairman does and can do. At the very minimum, Mr. Chairman, you ought to recuse yourself if only to show some respect for what this Body stands for. Mr. Chairman, if those who preceded us in this profession had tolerated any form of assault on the legal profession, there would not have been one to which we belong today.”
Maikyau also stated that he was making the call “on behalf of the NBA in furtherance of the Association’s duty to protect the integrity of the legal profession, and to engender public confidence in the Judiciary and other institutions saddled with the administration of Justice in Nigeria. I am fully persuaded, if this approach is approved and adopted by this Body, it will mark the dawn of a new day for the Legal Profession in Nigeria and the eminent and distinguished members of this Body would have individually and collectively vindicated themselves from the negative insinuations and narrative created in the minds of the Nigerian public. It will herald the recovery, reformation, and repositioning of the legal profession and by extension our nation Nigeria.”
“To do otherwise will spell doom for the legal profession and the nation. The Recovery of this nation can only start with the actions of the Legal profession and there is no better time than now and no better Body than this to key into this crusade that the NBA has taken the lead to do.”