A growing scandal has enveloped the latest list of nominees to receive the coveted title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, as some lawyers and anti-corruption activists describe some lawyers on the list as unworthy. Among the controversial nominees is John Olusegun Odubela. When officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested top lawyer, Ricky Tarfa, on charges of bribing judges and obstructing justice, Mr. Odubela swore to affidavits claiming that the EFCC had framed Mr. Tarfa.
A source in the legal community also told our correspondent that Mr. Odubela was the person who mobilized all the senior lawyers who came to court to defend Mr. Tarfa. Mr. Odubela is the head of Mr. Tarfa’s law firm, Messrs Rickey Tarfa & Co and was reportedly responsible for approaching judges to fix cases in which the Tarfa firm represented clients.
Another lawyer told Source that Mr. Odubela could not realize an ambition to be elevated as a judge in Lagos State during Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s term as Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. “Odubela failed [to become a judge] due to allegations of his involvement in corrupt acts,” said the source. The lawyer later became a Commissioner of Education in Ogun state where he lived a lavish life that attracted constant media scrutiny.
Another controversial SAN nominee is Oluwatoyin Ajoke Bashorun. A lawyer told our correspondent that the Nigeria Bar Association in Lagos had in 2014 sanctioned Ms. Bashorun “following a petition that she had gamed a client. Said the lawyer: “In 2013, one Mrs. Chinwe Adelekan petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria, alleging several instances of professional misconduct against Ms. Toyin Bashorun who was then practicing under the name of her legal firm, Churchfields Solicitors. The petition was referred to the Nigerian Bar Association disciplinary panel in Lagos, and the NBA panel found that Bashorun had engaged in misconduct and referred the case to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee.”
Source learned that the NBA panel’s report stated, “In the final analysis and against the backdrop of the conclusion reached in all the allegations above, we hold the view that there is a prima facie case of serious professional misconduct/ infamous conduct against the Respondent, which should be forthwith referred to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee.” However, the LPDC never acted on the recommendation of the NBA panel that indicted Ms. Bashorun.
Earlier this year, Ms. Adelakun, the petitioner against Ms. Bashorun, took out an advert in a Nigerian newspaper to remind the Chief Justice of Nigeria that there was lack of action on her complaint. One source told Source that Ms. Bashorun’s name has been dropped from the list of persons to be sworn in on Monday as Senior Advocate of Nigeria, but our correspondent could not independently confirm the information.
One of the worst cases among the newly appointed SANs is Enefiok Essien, an erstwhile professor at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) who was accused of sexual harassment. According to a Premium Times report, Mr. Essien, who was then a Vice Chancellor-designate of the University of Uyo, was in 2005 indicted by the Court of Appeal for forgery and sexual assault.
The Court of Appeal in Calabar, capital of Cross River State, handed down the indictment on July 14, 2005, in a verdict that affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court, Calabar, which nullified Uniuyo’s expulsion of a female student, Linda Onyebuchi Essell, from the university. The student had been expelled ostensibly over her alleged involvement in examination malpractice. Uniuyo did not appeal the judgment, and Ms. Essell went on to complete her first degree in law and graduate from the university.
An official of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) told our correspondent that his group wrote a petition to the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee not to grant SAN to Mr. Essien. “Unfortunately, our petition against Professor Essien was not acknowledged or acted upon,” said the official.
A lawyer told Source perhaps the CSNAC petition was ignored because of the indicted professor and Nigeria’s current Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen, are close friends.
NIGERIA BAR ASSOCIATION DISCIPLINARY PANEL ‘A’, LAGOS
HOLDEN AT LAGOS CASE NO: 40/2014 BEFORE: MR. C. A. CANDIDE-JOHNSON SAN (CHAIRMAN); MR. KEMI PINHEIRO SAN; DR FABIAN AJOGWU SAN; MRS. IFEOMA OKWUSOA; MRS. TOSIN ADEKOYA; AND DR DAPO OLANIPEKUN IN THE MATTER OF A COMPLAINT OF PROFESSIONAL/INFAMOUS MISCONDUCT MADE BY MRS. CHINWE ADELEKAN AGAINST MS. TOYIN BASHORUN
Brief facts of the case
By a letter dated May 24, 2013, one Mrs. Chinwe Adelekan (the Petitioner) wrote to the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria, alleging several cases of professional misconduct/infamous conduct against one Ms. Toyin Bashorun (the Respondent) practicing under the name and style of Churchfileds Solicitors, and craving the indulgence of the Honourale Chief Justice to intervene in the matter to ensure the Petition dated August 20, 2007 which had been submitted to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association on August 26, 2007, is heard. 1.2
By another letter dated February 14, 2014, the Petitioner also wrote to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) seeking to draw the attention of the NBA President to the above referenced Petition which had been submitted to the NBA almost 7 (seven) years prior
, and also pointing out the Petitioner’s
grievance at the Respondent becoming a Prosecutor for the NBA despite the subsistence of the Petition. 1.3
The Petitioner states that the Estate in issue is the Estate of her late husband, Mr. Peter Adelekan, who until his death on board the ill-fated
Bellview Airlines plane crash on October 22, 2005, was the Regional General Manager (North-East) of Intercontinental Bank Plc. 1.4
The Petitioner further states that the Estate of her late husband was desirous of maintaining an action against Bellview Airlines for the irreparable damage it had occasioned the Adelekan family, and the services of Ms. Toyin Bashorun was recommended, after which Churchfields Solicitors was appointed as Solicitors to the Estate. 1.5
From our summation of the Petition, the Petitioner alleges against the Respondent the following: 1.5.1
Unprofessional conduct in refusing to abide by the instructions of her client to cease further dealings with Intercontinental Bank Plc on behalf of the Estate. 1.5.2
Falsely representing herself as solicitors to the Petitioner, after being debriefed. 1.5.3
Deceitfully withholding the Petitioner’s items/property.
Receiving Share Certificates/money for and on behalf of her former Client and appropriating same to herself by failing to disclose its existence. 1.5.5
Inciting disaffection and causing division among the family members/beneficiaries of the Estate.
The Respondent by a letter dated June 4, 2014 essentially denied the allegations as contained in the Petition, to wit: 1.6.1
That there was never in existence any Share Certificate reflecting shares belonging to Intercontinental Bank Plc, and that what she had recovered was an old Share certificate reflecting shares belonging to Equity Bank of Nigeria Limited held by the deceased, which had been in the custody of the lead counsel, Prof. A. B. Kasunmu SAN. 1.6.2
That she had received three petitions thus far, two written by one Chinwe Adelekan, dated August 20, 2007 and February 14, 2014, respectively, and another dated January 20, 2012 written under the hand of Mrs. Maryam Uwais, solicitor to the Petitioner,
Anti-corruption watchdogs and lawyers who spoke about these scandalous nominations said the legal community owe it to Nigerians to drop these three nominees before the swearing-in event on Monday.