- December 6, 2022
- Posted by: Stephen Legal Admin
- Categories: Case Law Blog, Trending
In a press release issued on 6 December 2022, the Chairman/CEO of Innoson Vehicles has approached the Court of Appeal, Awka Division, seeking an order of the Court disqualifying Chief Wole Olamipekun, SAN as a Counsel to Guaranty Trust Bank in Appeal No. CA/E/288/2013.
The grounds for the application are related to the “Saipem Scandal”.
It is doubtful if the application will succeed in view of the decision of the National Industrial Court (Suit No. NICN /PHC/120/2021 – Mr. Wilson Udo Essien v. Unitech Drilling Company Ltd.) to the effect that the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners do not apply to a law firm. Rather, only legal practitioners called to the Nigerian Bar are captured.
More so, the claims by the former Partner of Wole Olanipekun & Co., Ms. Adekunbi Ogunde, and the culpability of the Firm (and other members of the Firm) are yet to be established.
Worse still, granting Innoson’s application at this stage is tantamount to making a “winding up order” against the law firm of Wole Olanipekun and Co. and an automatic disqualification of Chief Olanipekun, SAN and his colleagues from further practice of law before our courts.
Meanwhile, all of these may not be on board if Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN had hearkened to the call by the Nigerian Bar Association to resign his position as the Chairman of the Body of Benchers.
It is left for the Court to decide. These are indeed trying times for the legal profession in Nigeria.
The press release
Read Innoson’s press statement below.
Innoson Ask Court To Disqualify Olanipekun As Counsel To GTB
The Chairman/CEO of Innoson Vehicles has approached the Court of Appeal, Awka Division to seek an order of the court disqualifying Chief Wole Olamipekun, SAN as a Counsel to GTB in appeal no. CA/E/288/2013 on grounds of a statement by Wole Olanipekun’s law firm that as the Chairman of the Body of Benchers he compromises any court in Nigeria court in which he appears in favour of his clients. The Body of Benchers is the highest legal body in the Nigerian Legal Profession, made of the Supreme Court Judges, presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal, and Chief Judges of the State High Court.
In a Motion on notice filed in the court by the Counsel to Innoson, Prof J.N. Mbadugha SAN of McCarthy Mbadugha & Co praying for an order of the Honorable Court to disqualify Chief Olanipekun, SAN in his capacity as a legal practitioner or counsel from signing, filing, instituting or prosecuting Appeal No. CA/E/288/2013 between Guaranty Trust Bank PLC vs Innoson Nigeria Limited. More so the counsel to Innoson further sought the prayers of the court for an order setting aside all processes signed and filled by chief Wole Olanipekun SAN as Counsel/Legal Practitioner of or to GTB Plc on the same appeal on the grounds that the processes are incompetent. Lastly, an order striking out GTB Motion on Notice, dated 26 October 2018 prepared by Chief Wole Planipekun, SAN for want of competence, he also signed an amended notice of appeal.
The grounds upon which the motion is brought are:
1. Wole Olanipekun & Co in its email published that:
a. its “Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN is currently the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, which is the highest ruling body in the Nigerian Legal Profession made up of the Supreme Court Judges, presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges of the State High Court. In other words, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN OFR, is the head of the entire legal profession in Nigeria”;
b. Presence of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN in the matter will significantly switch things in favor of the party that engaged him in the matter.
2. Appearance or continued appearances of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN in this matter will jeopardize or imperil the integrity of this Honorable Court.
3. The appearance or continued appearance of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN in this matter will compromise the integrity of the court or give the impression that the court is compromised and that no justice will be done by the court.
4. The involvement of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN in this Appeal for GTB will create an appearance of impropriety or such a fashion that will imperil the Court’s- Court of Appeal- status of legitimacy to enable the legitimacy of the court- court of Appeal- need to be maintained.
Recall that GTBank stole the sum of N560 Million from Innoson’s account. This resulted in Innoson commencing suit No. FHC/AWK/139/2012 against GTBank at the Federal High Court, Awka. The court rendered judgment in favor of Innoson on 16th May 2013 in the sum of N4.7 billion with a 22% interest rate until it is fully paid.
GTBank appealed against the judgment in Appeal No: CA/E/288/2013 at the Court of Appeal Enugu Division. On 9th December 2014, the Court of Appeal made an order that GTBank pays the judgment debt which then stood at about N6Billion to the Deputy Registrar of the Court for onward payment into an interest-yielding account. Chief Wole Olanipekun is the Counsel to GTB in this appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Interestingly, in an email sent on 20th June 2022 to SAIPEM SPA by Wole Olanipekun & Co, the author of the email stated that “It will also reveal that the presence of our lead partner, Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR, in the matter will significantly switch things in favor of SAIPEM. Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR is currently the Chairman of the Body of Benchers which is the highest legal body in the Nigerian Legal Profession, made of the Supreme Court Judges, presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal, and Chief Judges of the State High Courts, including the Rivers State High Court. In order words, Chief Olanipekun SAN OFR is the head of the entire legal profession in Nigeria. Wole Olanipekun & Co. has also helped other multinationals, such as in the famous cases of MTN tax dispute, Shell Petroleum, Equinor (former Statoil) dispute, etc., avoid huge payouts in more complexes, sensitive and highly-political matters”.
This boastful claim made to SAIPEM SPA by Wole Olanipekun & Co has generated a huge outcry and condemnation and made headlines in several media and this has propelled the Chairman/CEO of Innoson Vehicles to approach the Court to pray for an order of the Honorable Court to disqualify Chief Olanipekun, SAN in his capacity as a legal practitioner or counsel to GTB.
Head of Corporate Communications
IVM Innoson Group