Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, and Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, have formally protested against the fine imposed on them by the Supreme Court over the suit challenging the apex court’s ruling on the Bayelsa governorship matter.
The lawyers, in two protest letters addressed to the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), also ventilated their grievances against the harsh words directed at them by the apex court.
The duo had represented the All Progressives Congresses (APC), and its candidate in the Bayelsa governorship election petition matter, following which they asked the court to set aside its judgment in which it voided the declaration of David Lyon Pereworinmin and Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo as winners of the governorship election.
The Supreme Court, in a ruling by a seven-man panel on February 26, dismissed the applications by the APC and its candidates, with Justice Amina Augie, in the lead ruling, rebuking both lawyers and awarding N30 million punitive cost against each of them.
While Olanipekun personally authored his letter dated March 10, Babalola’s letter, dated March 11, was written by the Managing Partner of his law firm, Adebayo Adenipekun.
In the letters, the duo insisted that they did no wrong by asking the court to take a second look at its earlier judgment.
While seeking NBA’s intervention, Babalola and Olanipekun argued that they did nothing unlawful and unprofessional to warrant the harsh words used on them and the unprecedented cost awarded against them for “merely carrying out their professional responsibilities as lawyers”.
They warned that the decision of the apex court, as it related to them, was capable of laying the wrong precedence that lawyers could be penalised for merely seeking to explore the justice administration process for the benefit of clients.
In his letter, to which he attached all processes in respect of the case, Olanipekun declared: “I and the team of lawyers that I led in the matter did no wrong, either in terms of our presentation through the filling of the application, or during the oral adumbration in court.
“I repeat again, with every emphasis at my disposal and all sense of responsibility, that I/we did no wrong, committed no error and did/do not deserve the harsh comments (to put it mildly), in the leading ruling of Justice Amina Augie.
“It might interest you to note that there is no nexus or proximity or even bearing between the processes filed by us and the most unfair and least expected stern expressions of her Lordship, Amina Augie.”
Part of Babalola’s letter read: “I write to bring to the attention of the NBA the unfortunate events which occurred that day.
“I also, more importantly, wish to protest and draw the attention of NBA to the danger posed to the due administration of justice by the disparaging remarks made in the ruling of the court concerning our principal, Babalola, and the imposition on him of N30 million cost.
“The action of the Court, aside from being unfair and totally unwarranted, is, if not urgently addressed, capable of sending a wrong signal to judges of courts, lower in the hierarchy to the Supreme Court, about how they can and should relate with lawyers, who appear before them to plead the case of their clients.
“This, in the long run, will be inimical to the development of trust and respect between the bar and the bench, and will ultimately hamper the smooth operation of the justice delivery sector in Nigeria.”