On Friday September 15th 2017, the Legal Practitioner’s Privileges committee (LPPC) issued a letter signed by the Chief Registrar of the supreme court of Nigeria who is also the Secretary of the LPPC announcing the deferment of the conferment of the title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on Toyin Bashorun. It is apparent that Toyin Bashorun, a former 2nd Vice Chair of Nigerian Bar Association,Lagos Branch who is believed to have arrived Abuja already for the ceremony would have been devastated by the news.
Subsequently, the news went viral across the length and breadth of the legal profession in Nigeria and beyond. This is not unconnected to the fact that the petitioners published their petition in the media.
In pursuit of the reason behind the deferment, Courtroom mail embarked on a voyage of discovery and made some findings many of which have been kept outside the public domain as the controversy continues in the media.
Courtroom mail discovered that the deferment was occasioned by two petitions written by Dr Tomi Asuni on the 10th of July 2017 and perhaps that of Chinwe Adelekan on the 9th of July 2017 in relation to the one she wrote in August 2007.
Efforts to reach Toyin Bashorun and Chinwe Adelekan proved abortive while Dr Tomi Asuni spoke to courtroom mail.
Speaking with Courtroom mail, Dr Asuni confirmed that he did the petition which borders on the grounds that Toyin Bashorun frustrated court proceedings that made it possible for her to live in his father’s house for Nine years without paying rent.
He further told Courtroom mail that the facts are public Knowledge being a matter that happened in court. According to Asuni, he expected Toyin to tow the path of honour by vacating the premises and paying her outstanding rent regardless of the court proceedings.
On another hand, Courtroom mail obtained a copy of the Court’s ruling in respect of the dispute in court. On the 24th of February 2017,the High Court of Lagos in Suit no: M/130/2008 struck out the suit of Prof Tolani Asuni after hearing the appeal of Toyin Bashorun challenging Jurisdiction of the Magistrate court on grounds of service. The Court ordered Prof Asuni to commence a fresh proceeding.
It important to note, that the ruling of the Magistrate court dismissing the defendant’s application challenging service was delivered on the 31st of January 2008. Toyin Bashorun now the Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal dated 20th of February 2008.Records were compiled and brief of argument dated 5th of January, 2015 was filed on the 9th of February, 2015.
The Respondent’s Counsel filed a Notice of Intention not to contest the appeal dated 8th of March 2016.Arguments in respect of the appeal were taken on the 14th of November 2016.
Dr Asuni, has alleged in his petition that the Appellant DELIBERATELY frustrated the proceedings of the court, if it were so, it calls for concern. Courtroom mail was not able to obtain the records of proceedings to determine that but a look at the ruling of the High court reveals that the respondent’s counsel filed his notice of intention not to contest in just 2016.
The court in the ruling also pointed out that in the course of the appeal, the original respondent became deceased and substitution was made.Courtroom mail could not ascertain how long it took to effect the substitution.
A source close to Toyin Bashorun informed courtroom mail that even after the case was dismissed, it would not have been possible for Toyin to pay the outstanding rent owing to the fact that she was apprehensive because the issue of who was the real administrator to the Estate was still not verifiable.
According to Dr Asuni, another notice to quit has been issued on Bashorun.
The second petition is a ten year old petition which has been called up many times by the author Chinwe Adelekan even after the NBA had dismissed it. It has also been dismissed by the Legal Practitioners Privileges committee in favour of Toyin Bashorun so it cannot be said to be a reason why her award was deferred. Any ways,it is important to throw a little light on it.
The petition was first written on the 20th of August 2007..It was in respect of a matter where Toyin Bashorun was briefed to represent the Estate of late Peter Adelekan the husband of kehinde and Chinwe (the petitioner) which Toyin acted as the estate lawyer in a suit against Bellview. Problems arose when Chinwe issued a mandate to UBA that made her a sole signatory to the estate account which Toyin opposed advising her to let the other administrator in.She pulled out of the matter by an order of the court and retained a personal counsel for herself and daughter. Alone – Mariam Uwais of Wali Uwais & Co. Meanwhile Toyin being led by Professor Kasunmu obtained compensation for the family. Chinwe Adelekan filed a petition that Toyin should not have continued representing the family.
Courtroom mail discovered that the said petition was referred to the Nigerian Bar Association by the Nigerian Bar Association Disciplinary Panel. Subsequently, by a letter dated 14th of April 2015 the Nigerian Bar Association dismissed the Petition on the grounds that the petition which was written on behalf of the Estate of Peter Adelekan was denied by her Co-administrator Adetola Adelekan as contained in his letter dated July 7, 2010.
Chinwe dissatisfied filed another petition after seven years and Bashorun was invited to make a representation by the Legal Practioner privileges committee (LPPC) which she did and the petition was determined .This cleared the way for Bashorun’s name being announced.
As our investigation reveals the information above, many issues arising will be determined under one question. Do the petitions have merit within the ambit of the rules for the award of the rank of Senior Advocate and if yes, will the defence of Toyin Bashorun relegate them to the trash can.? Only the LPPC will determine that as lawyers await their verdict that will set a precedent for future awards.