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Brief solicitation: Olanipekun, law firm dissociates self from junior partner’s letter

By Francis IWUCHUKWU, Lagos

A letter written by a junior partner in the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co., Adekunmbi Ogunde, to Francesca Caio of SAIPEM, soliciting to handle the firm’s $130 million claims against the Rivers State Government, has been punctured by the firm alongside its founding father, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN.

According to a disclaimer signed by two associates of the firm, James Adesulu, and Quam Owolabi Bisiriyu, and addressed to Mr Caio, the firm insisted that the letter was written without the instruction of Chief Olanipekun as the founding father, and his son, Bode, also a senior advocate.

It would be recalled that Ogunde who joined the 42-year-old law firm less than seven months ago, had written a letter to Caio, a senior official of the oil company soliciting for the brief, more than two months after both SAIPEM and Rivers State government had reached an out-of-court settlement on the brief.

However, in the disclaimer issued by the firm to Caio, “the letter was written without the instruction, authority, mandate, approval, or consent of Wole Olanipekun & Co. It was also not brought to our attention by the writer. It has never been the practice of our law firm to solicit for cases or clientele, and we shall never indulge ourselves in this practice and trend.”

In confirming that she wrote the letter without the consent of the principal partners of the firm, Ogunde stated, “I wrote an email to Saipem on 20th June 2022, without the consent or knowledge of either the Founding Partner or the Managing Partner of the firm, Bode Olanipekun, SAN.

“I found out about the Saipem matter through an online article, and I unilaterally reached out to Saipem about the said matter, which unknown to me, was no longer before the court. My limited knowledge about the litigation space came to bare because, had I consulted with other persons conversant with the recent happenings in the litigation circles, I would have been informed that the matter between Saipem and the Rivers State Government had been settled out of court about two (2) months prior to my email of 20th June 2022. Therefore, as at the time of writing the said email, there was no such pending matter before the court.

“I was admitted into the partnership of the firm in December 2021, to supervise and oversee the firm’s corporate & commercial practice, having worked on various transactions in that area for over 12 years. I have never really played an active role in the Nigerian litigation space, and am largely unfamiliar with a lot of its inner intricacies.

“My limited knowledge of litigation is mainly based on the experience which I garnered during my early years of practice, and my occasional appearance in court to watch some of the finest, brilliant and refined minds in the legal profession – my father, Mr. Oluwemimo Ogunde SAN, the Founding Partner of the firm, Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR, and other distinguished persons in the legal profession, display their impeccable and almost-flawless oratory and legal skills. I am therefore not conversant, to any great extent, with what goes on in the litigation circles – at least as far as legal matters/cases in court are concerned.”

Also in a letter written by the Managing Partner of the firm, Bode Olanipekun, SAN, to SAIPEM’s lawyer, Odein Ajumogobia SAN, the position of Wole Olanipekun chambers was stated

The letter reads:

26 June, 2022

Mr. Henry O. Ajumogobia, OFR, SAN
Ajumogobia & Okeke
2nd Floor, Sterling Towers
20 Marina, Lagos.

Dear Learned Silk,

RE: USD 130 MILLION CLAIM IN NIGERIA – RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT VS. SAIPEM SPA, SAIPEM CONTRACTING NIGERIA LIMITED & ORS

Kindly refer to the above subject, particularly, the disclaimer issued by our firm on 24th June 2022 immediately the events necessitating the disclaimer were brought to the firm’s attention.

This letter serves as further reiteration that the contents of the disclaimer represent the position of Wole Olanipekun & Co. in respect of the unauthorized correspondence that warranted the disclaimer. I was in Court outside Lagos on 24th June 2022 when your email of the same date notifying our Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN of the unauthorized correspondence was brought to my attention. I immediately put several calls through to your phone that rang free. I also sent you whatsapp messages apologizing for the correspondence and described it as “unauthorized, unfortunate and scandalous”. I am aware our firm’s founder, with whom you share a significant history, also reached out to you to apologize. I subsequently reached out to other partners of your firm to proffer our firm’s profound disappointment and apologies and was made to realize you were out of Nigeria.

In the same manner that you subscribe to very high standards of ethics and decency, such standards are non-negotiable basics and uncompromisable for our firm. Indeed, in our firm’s 42 years history, we have never solicited for client engagement in the manner of the unauthorized correspondence, neither do we give clients assurance(s) of judicial outcomes. We are also bold to assert that, there has also not been a single instance where we have attempted to influence judicial outcomes by improper means, influence peddling or means outside our representations in court.

In the circumstance, once again, kindly take this letter as reconfirmation of our disclaimer of 24th June 2022, both in terms of content and sincerity of purpose; as well as our immense respect for your person and the venerated law firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke.

Yours faithfully,

Bode Olanipekun, SAN.

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