The Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BOB), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), has urged lawyers not to see the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) as a forum for settling scores with their perceived enemies.
He said the LPDC, as an independent agency of the BOB, exercises the power to sanction any erring legal practitioner.
Olanipekun spoke during the Call to Bar ceremony for 1,491 new lawyers at the BOB secretariat yesterday in Jabi, Abuja.
But while many key stakeholders in the nation’s legal profession attended the event, the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and member of the BOB, Olumide Akpata, was absent.
Olanipekun said the LPDC “is a committee of the Body of Benchers saddled with the responsibility of disciplining any legal practitioner in Nigeria where his or her conduct amounts to infamous conduct in professional respect in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners in Nigeria”.
He added: “Over the years, the LPDC has continued to operate as an independent arbiter, enjoying absolute independence in the course of carrying out its assignment.
“The Body of Benchers does not and will not interfere with any of the proceedings or outcome of such proceedings before the LPDC.
“It is important to point out that the LPDC is not an avenue for dealing with perceived enemies or ventilation of grievances against fellow lawyers on personal issues.
“The decision of the LPDC is known as Direction, and any appeal against the Direction goes directly to the Supreme Court.”
The eminent lawyer expressed concern about unethical practice of forum shopping and hinted of plan by the BOB to address it.
Olanipekun said: “You are no doubt aware of the disturbing trend of Forum Shopping in Nigeria, a very reprehensible conduct introduced to the practice of law recently, whereby litigants and legal practitioners shop for ‘friendly venues and judexes’ to file and litigate otherwise frivolous and questionable causes, purportedly arising out of the jurisdictions where the actions are eventually filed, pursued and prosecuted.
“This ugly practice is permeating the entire Nigerian legal landscape, leading to the churning out, on regular basis, of conflicting orders and decisions of courts of coordinate jurisdictions.
“As a result of this as well, the legal profession is being brought to disrepute and opprobrium, leading to tirades, venoms and uncomplimentary remarks and sentences being passed on the legal profession and some of our judges.
“Be informed that the Body of Benchers, by virtue of the powers conferred on it by Section 10 (1)(c) of the Legal Practitioners Act, has now set up a Regulations Committee, empowered to make regulations, for the decent practice of law in Nigeria.”