Ogunde Quits Jrp Over Stance, Backs Daughter, Olanipekun Over LPDC Probe

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The father of Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde, the senior lawyer in the middle of the clamour for the Body of Benchers Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN to recuse himself from the seat, has finally broken his silence, throwing his weight behind his embattled daughter and Olanipekun.

In a statement obtained by CITY LAWYER, Mr. Wemimo Ogunde SAN dissociated himself from a statement by the influential Justice Reform Project (JRP) calling on Olanipekun to quit, saying that he was not consulted before release of the statement.

Responding to an online publication (not CITY LAWYER) where he was said to have endorsed the JRP statement, the senior lawyer stated that “I want to state categorically that I do not wish to be associated with that statement. At no time did I participate in any meeting or discussion where the content of the statement was tabled or my consent sought or obtained.”

Ogunde hinted that he has quit the justice sector reform body as “my membership of JRP has now become untenable,” adding that “Many members of the JRP already know my difficult situation in this matter. For that reason I expected that i should have been consulted so that I would have had the opportunity to have dissociated myself from it internally, and the statement could then have been framed in a way to make my stance very clear, rather than putting me in this clearly embarrassing and awkward situation.”

He exonerated Olanipekun and other partners in the law firm from the solicitation debacle, saying: “However, one thing that is clear is that the innocence of the other partners has been clearly expressed. Whether they are vicariously liable for the acts of Ms Adekunbi Ogunde is one of the questions already submitted before the LPDC. Until then, the presumption of innocence of everyone involved, a constitutional right, ought to be respected.”

Ogunde stated that “My focus as a father at this time, is to assist my daughter prepare her defence,” adding that while the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has filed a complaint against his daughter, “I think as lawyers, the sanctity and independence of that body (Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee) should be respected.”

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report cited a searing complaint by an apparently embittered senior lawyer and former Minister of Energy and Petroleum ministries, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia SAN where he referenced an email to the oil company from Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde, a Partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co, and demanded an apology from the law firm. The firm apologized for the debacle and disowned the Partner.

The NBA has filed a petition at the LPDC where it not only demanded sanctions against Ms. Ogunde, a Partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co, for alleged solicitation of briefs from Saipem SPA, but invited the Committee to “consider whether the Partners of the Firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co. are not liable to be disciplined by this august body seeing that the Respondent has the ostensible authority to act as a Partner and indeed acted for and on behalf of the said Firm.” Olanipekun is the Founding Partner of the law firm. The LPDC is a committee of the Body of Benchers.

The association followed this up with a letter personally signed by Akpata which urged Olanipekun “to recuse yourself from chairmanship of the BOB henceforth and to allow for the emplacement of an interim leadership of the BOB, in order to enable the LPDC carry out this particular assignment, amongst others, without coming under an undue suspicion of impartiality.”

The full text of the statement is below.

THE CALL FOR THE RESIGNATION OF CHIEF WOLE OLANIPEKUN SAN AS CHAIRMAN OF THE BODY OF BENCHERS: MY POSITION AS A MEMBER OF THE JUSTICE REFORM PROJECT

Today, 29th July, 2022, my attention was drawn to a publication by BarristerNG, an online law newspaper that 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (including me) who are members of the JRP have called for the resignation of ChiefOlanipekun SAN on account of the email written by my daughter.

I want to state categorically that I do not wish to be associated with that statement. At no time did I participate in any meeting or discussion where the content of the statement was tabled or my consent sought or obtained.

The NBA has filed a complaint against my daughter before the LPDC and I think as lawyers, the sanctity and independence of that body should be respected. It must be noted that no complaint was filed against any other partner and Mr Odein Ajumogobia SAN has neither filed any complaint nor deposed to any statement in support of the NBA’s complaint. My focus as a father at this time, is to assist my daughter prepare her defence. However, one thing that is clear is that the innocence of the other partners has been clearly expressed. Whether they are vicariously liable for the acts of Ms Adekunbi Ogunde is one of the questions already submitted before the LPDC. Until then, the presumption of innocence of everyone involved, a constitutional right, ought to be respected.

In the circumstances, my membership of JRP has now become untenable. I believe and support my daughter’s solemn declaration expressed privately and publicly, that the email was written unilaterally, without the knowledge of any other partner in Wole Olanipekun & Co. Those who have a contrary view are also entitled to their opinion, but in the interest of justice, we all have to await the verdict of the LPDC.

Many members of the JRP already know my difficult situation in this matter. For that reason I expected that i should have been consulted so that I would have had the opportunity to have dissociated myself from it internally, and the statement could then have been framed in a way to make my stance very clear, rather than putting me in this clearly embarrassing and awkward situation.

I am grateful to all those who have contacted me privately, particularly those who also know Adekunbi very well. May the Almighty God bless you and yours always.

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