…7 other senior lawyers sanctioned
By Bassey Udo
The U.S.-Nigeria firm, BFIGroup, which emerged the preferred bidder for the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, has asked the Nigerian Bar Association to take disciplinary actions against the Attorney-General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, his predecessor, Bayo Ojo, along with seven senior lawyers for alleged “unethical and unprofessional conduct”.
The lawyers, including three senior advocates of Nigeria, were accused of “deliberately, deceitfully, knowingly and wilfully making false and misleading representations and affirmations to a foreign arbitration tribunal” against BFIG’s interest in the dispute over the sale of ALSCON by the Bureau of Public Enterprise to Russian Aluminium.
The accused SANs include the former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Olasupo Shasore; chairman, National Lottery Regulatory Commission and Principal Counsel, DD Dodo & Co, Damian Dodo; as well as the managing partner, Obla & Co., Godwin Obla.
Following the July 6, 2012 ruling of the Supreme Court in the case by BFIG against BPE’s decision to handover ALSCON to RUSAL, Dayson Holding Ltd. had filed an application before the London Court of International Arbitration against the Nigerian government, alleging breach of contract under international arbitration.
The Russians’ action was aimed at stopping the execution of the Supreme Court ruling, which ordered the immediate reversal of the sale of ALSCON to RUSAL as well as the reinstatement of BFIG as winner of the bid held in 2004.
While Mr. Ojo, who served under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, was nominated BPE’s Arbitrator in the case, Messrs. Dodo, Shashore and Obla were retained by BPE as legal counsels to the Federal Government, representing the National Council on Privatization and the Federal Ministry of Finance.
In his petition to the NBA President, Augustine Alegeh, BFIGroup President, Reuben Jaja, said other lawyers that should be sanctioned were Festus Jumbo, of DD Dodo & Co.; Emmanuel Egwuagu of Obla & Co., and his colleagues, Chris Agbiti, and George Adeyemi.
For Mr. Adoke, Mr. Jaja accused him of accepting the Russians’ invitation to travel to London with the Director General of BPE, Benjamin Dikki, for a secret meeting on September 6, 2012 for the purpose of deliberating on ways to stall the enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling.
During the meeting, Mr. Jaja said the minister and BPE affirmed that RUSAL’s acquisition of the full legal title to ALSCON shares was free from all encumbrances, including all counterclaims by BFIG.
He said they also resolved to, among other things, protect and defend the interest of the Russians in ALSCON and ensure that BPE would neither take any step to enforce the ruling of the Supreme Court, nor allow BFIG to do so.
According to the BFIG president, other resolutions during the meeting included an agreement that BPE would not only prevent Dayson from suffering any losses through the enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling, but also protect the Russians from actions likely to lead to the divestment of their 85 per cent stake in the issued and outstanding Share Capital of ALSCON.
During the LCIA hearing, BFIG said Mr. Adoke and BPE had said that the Federal Government had fully complied with the 2012 Supreme Court ruling, while affirming that the share purchase agreement (SPA) signed by RUSAL with BPE on February 3, 2006, was valid and binding, irrespective of the order sacking them from ALSCON.
Mr. Jaja said the LCIA, which relied on Mr. Adoke and BPE’s submissions that all issues concerning the disputed acquisition of ALSCON were resolved, was misled into giving an arbitral award in favour of the Russians.
He said contrary to the London court’s decision, the Supreme Court order that BPE should “take full control and possession of ALSCON from anybody, including United Company RUSAL et al. and prepare same for handover to BFIG” was yet to be enforced.
For the lawyers, the BFIG President said by agreeing to appear as legal counsels to BPE in the case, they lent themselves as witnesses to the privatization agency’s false and misleading submissions against BFIG’s interest.
Mr. Jaja said as SANs, Messrs. Shashore, Obla and Dodo betrayed their professional and personal integrity requiring them to be honest in all their dealings and be of good character and reputation by observing the Code of Conduct and etiquette at the Bar.
“How can such men be allowed to profess themselves to be Senior Advocates of Nigeria, or for that matter, legal practitioners in Nigeria, when they will so blatantly misrepresent the rulings of the most apex court of the country?” Mr. Jaja asked.
But, in a fierce reaction to the accusations, Mr. Shasore, who is also a senior partner in a Lagos-based law firm, Ajumogobia & Okeke, described as absolute rubbish attempts to smear his name, as he has always acted professionally at all times.
“I did nothing other than acting as counsel to the Federal Government on the instructions of the Attorney-General’s office,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I have always conducted myself in the highest ethical manner. To think that my appearance in a case can affect the outcome is ridiculous.
He said if there was any decision that was taken in the case, BPE, as a responsible organisation that retained their services, should be held responsible, not its counsels who were discharging a professional obligation.
For Mr. Obla, he and his colleagues (Shasore and Dodo) had a duty to appear in any court and take any action necessary to protect the interest of their client anywhere, irrespective of a pending ruling of the Supreme Court or not.
Mr. Obla, whose services were retained by BPE for a legal fee, threatened to bring the full weight of the law on any organisation that attempts to malign their integrity for representing their client in their capacities as counsels.
Messrs. Adoke and Ojo did not pick calls to their phones. They also did not respond to the text messages sent to them last week Monday.