Adekunbi Ogunde, a Partner in the law firm of Wole Olanipekun & Co has written to Saipem SA and Saipem Nigeria Limited, in an attempt to steal a client from another law firm, Ajumogobia & Okeke, claiming his firm’s leading partner, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) is close to Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges.
Odein Ajumogobia, a former Minister of State for Petroleum, has, however, demanded an apology from Olanipekun & Co., describing the move to steal one of his clients as professional.
Adekunbi had written a letter titled, “USD 130million claim in Nigeria – Rivers State Government vs Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and Ors,’ to Saipem Nigeria Limited’.
In the letter addressed to Mr Caio, Adekunmi attempted to take the Saipem case from the law firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke for his law firm Olanipekun $ Co.
The letter read, “I trust you had a good weekend and you are doing well, despite these somewhat challenging times at SAIPEM.
“My name is Adekunbi Ogunde and I am a Partner leading the oil and gas practice area in Wole Olanipekun & Co.
“I am writing specifically in relation to the ongoing USD130 million case at the Rivers State High Court brought by the Rivers State Government against Saipem SPA, Saipem Nigeria and others.”
Adekunbi said Saipem Nigeria Limited needs “a more influential lawyer/law firm to prevent a potential huge payout to the Rivers State Government and without a doubt, I believe that my law firm, Wole Olanipekun & Co, can help in this regard.
It added, “A quick research about Wole Olanipekun & Co., will show that the law firm is the leading litigation firm that has helped other multinationals in sensitive, highly political matters. It will also reveal that the presence of our leading partner, Chief Olanipekun SAN, OFR, in the matter will significantly switch things in favour of Saipem.
“Chief Olanipekun is currently the Chairman of the Body of Benchers, which is the highest ruling body in the Nigerian legal profession, made up of Supreme Court judges, Presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges of all State High Courts including Rivers State High Court. In other words, Chief Olanipekun is the head of the entire legal profession in Nigeria.”
Ajumogobia in his letter to Wole Olanipekun & Co., seeking a retraction of claims made by one of its Partners over the $130 Million Rivers State Government vs Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and Ors case, demanded an apology.
Ajumogobia described Adekunbi Ogunde’s letter as ‘shocking and appalling’ while expressing disappointment that such a letter could come from the Olanipekun’s chambers.
He further sought an apology from the Olanipekun chambers and retraction of the letter sent to Saipem SA & Saipem Nigeria Limited within 7 days of the receipt of the letter.
He said, “My sentiments about the unfortunate but unmistakable allusion to ‘influence’ with “Justices of the Supreme Court, Presiding Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges” with whom you happen to serve on certain bodies in the legal profession, with regard to a matter before a Court, is better left unsaid.
“Suffice it to say that the attached letter, is in my opinion, tantamount to gross misconduct of the worst kind.
“For the record, our mandatory Rules of Professional Conduct expressly prohibit self-advertising and solicitation by Nigerian legal practitioners!
“Rule 39 expressly provides that “A lawyer shall not engage or be involved in any advertising or promotion of his practice of the law which …..makes comparison with or criticizes other lawyers …..or includes any statement about the quality of the lawyer’s work, the size or success of his practice or his success rate.
“The email from your firm could not be more egregious in its breach of this essential mandatory rule, especially in its acknowledgement that the defendant companies had already retained counsel.
“That I and my firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke were retained in the matter, was a matter of public record and was personally known to you and your firm, since you had asked me about the matter during our Unilag Law Faculty Alumni dinner at Harbour point in February.
“The attached email from your firm also contains false and misleading statements with several defamatory imputations of and concerning myself and my firm.
“In the circumstances, we demand within 7 days of the date of this letter, a written apology to the firm of Ajumogobia & Okeke from Wole Olanipekun & Co, for this most deplorable conduct of Adekunbi Ogunde and your firm.
“In addition, we demand that Wole Olanipekun & Co sends a letter to Saipem the top management to retract your said letter. The retraction and a copy of the apology to my firm must be copied to the top management of Saipem SA and the same recipients as the original email, namely Caio Francesco…
“I trust that your firm will comply with our demand forthwith.”
Olanipekun’s law firm in a letter dated June 24, 2022 however dissociated itself from Adekunbi’s letter, saying it was sent without the firm’s consent.
The firm said it would take internal measures “to address and redress this very unfortunate situation”.
It added, “Our Principal, without being immodest, has never been known to indulge himself in the type of practice portrayed in the letter under reference. He is a very sober and humble person, and we believe learned Silk, H. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, OFR can attest to this. He stands for the best in the profession, in terms of ethics, honour, integrity, discipline, character and carriage.”
The disclaimer from Olanipekun & Co., addressed to Francesco Caio of Saipem and copied to Ajumogobia, was signed by Messrs James Adesulu and Quam Owolabi Bisiriyu.
In the letter, the firm apologised to Ajumogobia for the incident, saying, “We unreservedly apologise to the highly respected H. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, OFR and the entire law firm of Ajomogobia & Okeke for the embarrassment which the letter might have caused them; but let it be known that the letter has also caused us a lot of embarrassment as well”.
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