Prof. Safiriyu Abiodun Adesanya
For getting an improper person to recommend her for the call to bar, Miss Kariba Biobelemoye Spiff was denied participation in the prestigious ceremony that would have allowed her to practise law in the country.
However, that is not the end of the issue as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has taken up Prof. Safiriyu Abiodun Adesanya (SAN), who endorsed Spiff’s application, for alleged impersonation. Adesanya was said to have endorsed Spiff’s application, as a member of the Body of Benchers, as requested by the NBA, whereas he had ceased to be a member of the body seven months earlier.
Consequently, the NBA has given Adesanya a 21-day ultimatum to respond to allegations of impersonation levelled against him by Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN).
NBA’s letter was sequel to a petition filed by Awomolo where he alleged that Adesanya signed a form for Spiff for her call to bar, on the claim that he was a member of the Body of Benchers only for Spiff to be denied participation in the call to bar ceremony by the Council of Legal Education because Adesanya was not qualified to endorse her application.
In a letter dated December 5, 2012 and signed by the General Secretary of the NBA, Mr. Emeka Obegolu, the association asked Adesanya to send his response, which must be in 10 copies, to the secretariat of the association.
The letter, which was obtained by THISDAY, ordered Adesanya to submit his response within 21 days from the date he was notified.
Awomolo, who supported his petition with documents, said the conduct of Adesanya amounted to professional misconduct and demanded the disciplinary committee of the NBA to look into the allegations.
Investigation by THISDAY revealed that when the Council of Legal Education, the operators of the Nigerian Law School, refused to call Spiff to bar, her parents were so furious that they reported the matter to Awomolo who promptly petitioned the NBA.
The Body of Benchers was established under section 3 of the Legal Practitioners’ Act, 1975 as amended by the Legal Practitioners’ (Amendment) Acts of 1976 and 1977 and now Laws of the Federation Cap 207 1990, as a Body of Legal Practitioners of the highest distinction in the legal profession and the body is responsible for the admittance (call to bar) of lawyers.
Awomolo’s petition to the NBA reads: “I write to make this complaint against the above legal practitioner, who also carries the privilege of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
“Professor Safiriyu Abiodun Adesanya (SAN) was nominated by the Nigerian Bar Association as a member of the Body of Benchers pursuant to the powers of the Nigerian Bar Association. His membership of the Body of Benchers terminated in September 2011. He ceased to attend the meetings of the Body of Benchers since 2011.
“He was aware that his term as a member of the body had lapsed and was never renewed due to unsatisfactory representation as a nominee of the Nigerian Bar Association in the Body of Benchers.
“On April 23, 2012, this legal practitioner misrepresented and held out himself as a member of the Body of Benchers by presenting and holding himself out to students of the Nigerian Law School who sought recommendation to the Body of Benchers as a Bencher.
“Indeed, Professor Abiodun Adesanya (SAN) paraded and presented himself as a member of the Body of Benchers in particular to Miss Kariba Biobelemoye Spiff and he falsely claimed to be a bencher of the honourable and distinguished Body of Benchers when he was not, thereby impersonating membership of the Body of Benchers.
“He wrote and falsely claimed to be a bencher and wrongfully signed application for call to the Nigerian Bar of the student. The student, believing Professor Abiodun Adesanya (SAN), presented herself for screening by the Body of Benchers.
“The candidate was rejected as the recommendation of Professor Abiodun Adesanya was found to be false, illegal and not in accordance with Legal Practitioners’ Act.
“This innocent student was disqualified but was given a last chance of presenting a valid nomination by a member of the Body of Benchers.
“On November 17, 2012, this candidate presented herself to me for recommendation as a fit and proper person to be called to the Nigerian Bar. This student explained to me that she was misled by the representation from Professor Abiodun Adesanya.
“I consider the conduct of Professor Abiodun Adesanya wherein he presented and held himself out as a bencher when he was not, as grave professional misconduct and a violation of the rules and regulation governing the conduct of legal practitioners.
“It is more damaging that a professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria could commit such grave misconduct of impersonation.”
So did the learned professor forget that he was no longer a member of the Body of Benchers? Did he commit the alleged offence to gain a certain professional advantage? Was he merely “posing” in the industry? Was there any other untoward reason that influenced the action of Adesanya? These and many other questions are what he will be answering in the days ahead .