Legal luminary and Chairman of the Body of Benchers (BOB), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), has advised lawyers not to see the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) as a forum for settling scores with imaginary enemies.
Olanipekun said the LPDC, as an independent agency of the BOB, serves solely as an avenue through which it exercises the power to discipline any erring legal practitioner.
He spoke during the Call to Bar ceremony for 1491 new lawyers, held by the BOB on Wednesday, at its secretariat in Jabi, Abuja.
Olanipekun stressed that 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.
“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.”
He expressed concern about the unethical practice of forum shopping and hinted at the plan by the BOB for regulations to address the problem.
“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 a 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.
“The committee has submitted a draft Regulations to the Body of Benchers and the Regulations when approved, will become binding on all legal practitioners, who will be restricted to initiating and filing causes and matters where the said causes of action arise or as provided by the Rules of the adjudicating courts.
“Just as it is provided under the Matrimonial Causes Rules, lawyers will be required to sign and file certain forms and documents, indicating compliance with the Regulations before filing any originating process at trial courts.
“Any infraction or breach of the Regulations would amount to professional misconduct,” he added.
Olanipekun, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, stressed the need for lawyers to always uphold the time-tested moral and ethical standards of the legal profession.
“I admonish you all to carefully and soberly go through the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the legal profession, as the Rules regulate all your conducts, be it as a practicing lawyer in private legal practice or in any of our various Ministries of Justice, or as a solicitor, working in any private establishment, institution, company, organization or body.
“You should not assume that the Rules are meant to regulate and control legal practitioners in what is commonly known as ‘active legal practice’ or the private Bar.
“Adherence to the Rules is also a condition precedent to your success at the Bar and the legal profession.
“I plead with you, as you join the Bar, to always strive at being an added value to the nobility, honour, dignity and respect of the profession, rather than coming to deplete and discount the established virtues the profession has stood for over the ages,” Olanipekun said.