Aondoakaa's Suspension: LPPC Erred â€“ NBA
San Francisco, Oct 10, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) today said the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, (LPPC) decision to strip former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa of his SAN rank was done without following due process.
NBA President, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, in a statement, advised the LPPC, which confers the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to distinguished lawyers to reconsider its decision.
Daudu said: "From all indications, the personality, subject matter of the LPPC’s actions is not loved by most legal practitioners and Nigerians; but whether saint or villain, the rule of law is constant and on this occasion as with others, the NBA chooses to err on the side of the rule of law.
"A few days ago, it was announced by the LPPC, the body responsible for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria upon deserving legal practitioners, who have satisfied existing criteria for the award of the exalted rank, that Aondoakaa has been stripped of the said rank for a period of six months pending the determination of a petition lodged, which alleged, misconduct on his part whilst occupying the office of Attorney General of the Federation between 2007-2009.
"The rank of SAN occupies a central position in the professional career ladder of legal practitioners; hence any issue relating to the rank usually attracts intense debate among stakeholders and even curious observers. Before proceeding further, it is necessary to state that the following facts are not in dispute. The LPPC is chaired by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, it is a creation of section five of the Legal Practitioners Act, which specifies the way and manner a legal practitioner can be conferred with the rank of SAN.
"Aondoakaa was formerly Attorney General of Nigeria and not particularly liked by members of the Bar and outsiders because he was seen as exceedingly partisan in the discharge of the functions of his office. There is at the moment a petition which has led, in the interim, to the suspension of Aondoakaa’s use of the rank of SAN for six months until the petition is resolved one way or the other.
The critical issues include, whether Aondoakaa is guilty of the allegations contained in the petition the basis of the suspension of the rank of SAN which he wears. It is whether the LPPC has, ab initio, the powers to strip him of the said rank? And whether the LPPC has, in the present circumstances, the powers to suspend Aondoakaa of the said rank?
Implicit powers to remove appointees
"It has been argued by those who support the actions of the LPPC that any body that is empowered to appoint expressly possess implicit powers to remove its appointees from office. See section 11-(1)-(a)-(c) of the Interpretation Act.
"However, the Legal Practitioners Act under the maxim generalia specialibus non derogant (the special provision displaces the general) does not envisage a withdrawal, removal or suspension of the rank of SAN by section 5-(1)-(8) and 6 of the Legal Practitioners Act. Except in circumstances set out in sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Legal Practitioners Act. The long and short of the foregoing is that from its conception, the rank of SAN is a leadership position.
"It is conferred only on persons who have shown exemplary character as well as distinction in advocacy. Consequently it can only be taken away where another statutory body the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee adjudges the person accused of infamous conduct or breach of any of the rules of professional conduct (which the petition alleges that Aondoakaa has breached in this case) guilty.
"LPPC, notwithstanding, its eminent membership cannot and is not equipped to deal with matters of discipline. Its present foray in looking at matters of the discipline of a lawyer under the guise of suspending a person of the rank of SAN is ultra vires, illegal, unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.
"By way of illustration the Privileges Committee has never considered a petition alleging indiscipline made against prospective candidates for the conferment of SAN. It recognizes its lack of powers to do so. What it does is to forward such petitions to the Disciplinary Committee for actions," the NBA President said in the statement.
The news of the decision to strip the former controversial Attorney General of his SANship was applauded by majority of Nigerians who were appalled by Aondoakaa’s conduct during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.