Did The Nigerian Bar Association Really Clear Kunle Ogunba?

Did The Nigerian Bar Association Really Clear Kunle Ogunba?
Kunle Ogunba

We found this Ynaija editorial interesting. Read.

A couple of weeks ago, the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) stripped a senior lawyer, Mr. Kunle Ogunba, of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). In the LPPC’s official statement, it also barred another lawyer, Oluwatoyin Bashorun, from applying for the SAN rank for 3 years. The LPPC reached its decisions after finding separate petitions written against both lawyers meritorious.

For some context, Kenny Ogunba was accused by the Honeywell Group, a food and beverage manufacturing company that operates out of Lagos and Ogun state of gross misconduct, using the full force of their legal team to ensure that their petition against Ogunba was addressed swiftly and favourably. In their petition against Kunle Ogunba, the Honeywell Group accused him of trying to obstruct the rule of law by using legal loopholes in the Nigerian judiciary system to delay a legal case the group had against Ogunba’s clients, they described it as thus “institution of multiplicity of proceedings before different judges of the Federal High Court on the same subject-matter, with the deliberate aim of abusing the process of Court and derailing the course of Justice.”

HoweverAccording to reports in some sections of the press including this and this, however, it was suggested that Kunle Ogunba had earlier been cleared of misconduct allegations by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in 2016 when Honeywell Group similarly sent a petition to the NBA against him. But investigations by our correspondent have revealed that the claim that Mr. Ogunba was cleared by the NBA is itself a matter of dispute. The petitioner, Honeywell Group, claims that it has not yet received any official record from the NBA that it had cleared Mr. Kunle Ogunba. Both articles we have cited in the article attribute their information to an ‘unknown source’, which is a little ridiculous considering the Nigerian Bar Association keeps meticulous records of all its legal proceedings. The only evidence that seems to exist of this ruling is this photocopied document that is yet to be corroborated by representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association as legitimate.

This begs the question: did the NBA actually clear Mr. Ogunba?

Based on documents reviewed on the current information offered by said anonymous source, the chronology of events surrounding the matter suggest that the only concrete decision to date (based on available records) is the one by the LPPC, wherein Ogunba was stripped of the SAN rank. Readers will recall that the official statement announcing withdrawal of Mr. Ogunba’s SAN rank was duly signed by Mrs. Hadizatu Mustapha, Esq., Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court and Secretary of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC).

Indeed, the letter written by Honeywell Group to Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) where the former said it was not aware of any official ruling of the NBA on the matter, as it (Honeywell Group) was yet to receive an official copy of the purported ruling. In the letter dated 17th January, 2018 and which was duly received and acknowledged by the NBA on 23rd January, 2018, Honeywell Group also requested the NBA to officially avail it of a copy of the alleged ruling where Mr. Ogunba was cleared of any misconduct, if such exists.

In fact, Honeywell Group, from the document, is saying that based on the series of its correspondents with the NBA, what it can only ascertain is that: It (Honeywell) submitted a petition dated 7th April, 2016 with respect to some acts of professional misconduct by Mr. Kunle Ogunba. The petition was received and acknowledged by the NBA on the 8th of April, 2016. On the 26th of October, 2016, it received a letter from the NBA forwarding Mr. Ogunba’s response to Honeywell’s petition. The firm, via a letter dated 23rd November, 2016 issued a rejoinder to the response. The rejoinder and a further affidavit in support of the response were duly received and acknowledged by the NBA on the 2nd of December, 2016. Honeywell sent a letter to the NBA dated 20th November, 2017 requesting for an update on the status of the petition.

In the said January 17th letter, Honeywell wrote that: “We note that although a ruling dated 5th August, 2016 was allegedly issued, the NBA in September 2016 forwarded the petition (containing the infractions from which Mr. Ogunba claimed he had been exonerated) to Mr. Ogunba, requesting that he provide a response to the allegations therein. Mr. Ogunba submitted a response to the petition which was dated 27th September, 2016. In the said response, there was no mention of any ruling by the NBA and we wonder why Mr. Ogunba issued a response to the petition almost two months after a ruling had been issued purportedly dismissing the same petition.”

Essentially, Honeywell Group is saying that based on the sequential correspondence between it and the NBA, it was doubtful if the NBA actually cleared Mr. Ogunba as reported in some sections of the press. An officer with the firm, who pleaded for anonymity because he was unauthorised to speak on the matter, told our correspondent that Honeywell Group has not received any official communication from the NBA conveying clearance of Mr. Ogunba.

Again in the letter recently submitted to the NBA by Honeywell Group, the firm specifically wrote that: “We respectfully submit that the timeline of events above reveal a grave discrepancy between Mr. Ogunba’s claims that he has been exonerated and subsequent correspondence from the NBA.

“If indeed a ruling dismissing Honeywell’s petition was issued by the NBA, then it is implausible that the same NBA would have forwarded the petition to Mr. Ogunba for his response, and thereafter forwarded the response to Honeywell for our reply. The disparity between Mr. Ogunba’s claim and the sequence of events from the time we filed our petition, raise serious issues of concern which we require clarity on from the NBA.”

As at the time of filing this report, we were unable to ascertain if the NBA had responded to Honeywell Group’s letter. We will keep readers updated as events unfold.

culled

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