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2 Years After: The Scandalous E-Mail that Ends the Career of the Lawyer in Nigeria

2 Years After: The Scandalous E-Mail that Ends the Career of the Lawyer in Nigeria

 

The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) has disbarred Adekunbi Ogunde, an ex-partner at Wole Olanipekun & Co. over a scandalous email she wrote while at the firm.

LPDC took the decision on Thursday after coming to the conclusion that Ogunde violated the Nigeria Bar Association’s (NBA) code of conduct by soliciting brief on a matter another law firm was handling.

After investigating for nearly two years, the committee concluded that in writing to Saipem Oil Ltd, an international oil company engaged in a dispute with Rivers State Government at the time, Ogunde ran foul of Rule 1 of professional conduct as the case was already being handled by Okeke & Ajumogobia.

John Aikpokpo-Martins, NBA Vice President 1 at the time, had petitioned the LPDC on behalf of the NBA on July 19, 2022, stating that the association was surprised by Ogunde’s letter to Saipem asking to take over the case.

copy of the letter Ogunde sent to Caio Francesco, CEO of Saipem at the time, on Monday, June 20, 2022. Also copied in this email were Puliti Allesandro, then General Manager and current company CEO, and Chini Simone, the company’s general counsel.

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The letter read in part, “My name is Adekunbi Ogunde and I am a Partner leading the oil & gas practice area in Wole Olanipekun & Co. I am writing specifically in relation to the ongoing USD130 million case at the Rivers State High Court brought by the Rivers State Government against Saipem SPA, Saipem Nigeria, and others. I believe that, you need a more influential lawyer/law firm to prevent a potential huge pay out to the Rivers State Government and without a doubt, I believe that my law firm, Wole Olanipekun & Co., can help in this regard.”

Ogunde then mentioned a relationship between Olanipekun and judges in the country who were members of the Body of Benchers he chaired at the time.

“[A quick research] will also reveal that the presence of our lead partner, Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR, in the matter will significantly switch things in favour of SAIPEM. Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR is currently the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, which is the highest ruling body in the Nigerian legal profession, made up of Supreme Court Judges, Presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges of all State High Courts, including the Rivers State High Court.”

On August 3, 2022, Ogunde quits the legal profession to do pro bono work and work with NGOs in a bid to rebuild her reputation and return to the profession, but the committee’s decision means she will never practice law in Nigeria again.

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