Olanipekun: Giving Back to the Judiciary and Legal Profession
In an act of selfless philanthropy, one of Nigeria’s foremost legal titans, Chief Wole Olanipekun CFR, SAN built and donated to the Ekiti State Judiciary, an ultramodern High Court complex in his hometown, Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State, which was commissioned last Thursday. Onikepo Braithwaite and Jude Igbanoi who were present at the epoch making ceremony, report
In Chief Olanipekun: Touching Lives
There is no gainsaying the fact that kindness resides in the heart and life of Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN. In demonstration of this fact, the legal colossus has in the past few decades touched lives and humanity in different ways. To honour God, he built a mighty church auditorium for his hometown town, Ikere Ekiti; and in the service of humanity, he established a Foundation to cater for the needs of widows and indigent women in the community. In education, Chief Olanipekun’s scholarship scheme benefits hundreds of students and beyond. He built a 20 bed ward for the Ekiti State Hospital at Ikere, complete with a brand new ambulance. There are others too numerous to count, including lecture auditoriums he built and donated to universities across the country. He also built a radio station for the community, New Cruise FM.
But, for his legal profession, he built and donated a befitting Bar Centre for the NBA Ikere Ekiti Branch, and subsequently bought a new Toyota Bus for the Branch in 2019 to ferry members.
In his unstoppable quest to positively impact his profession, he took this building an ultramodern court complex at Ikere Ekiti and donated it to the State Government.
Olanipekun, SAN who was the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2002- 2004, is the current Chairman of the Body of Benchers. He is totally committed, to the advancement of the legal profession and the Judiciary.
The Ekiti State Governor, His Excellency, Biodun Oyebanji cut the tape, to declare the court open. Also present were President of the Court of appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem; Acting Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Abiodun Adebara; Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojodu, the 3 Senators representing Ekiti in the 9th National Assembly, Senators Abiodun Olujimi, Opeyemi Bamidele and Olubunmi Adetumbi, Senior Lawyers and many judicial officers.
Chief Olanipekun’s Address:
Decision to Build/Donate a High Court Complex
Chief Olanipekun explained that his decision to build and donate the complex to his community, was a result of calls received from stakeholders of the law profession, on the poor and dilapidated condition of the High Court Complex, making it difficult for Judges and Lawyers to carry out their duties.
He said ‘Lo and behold, I started receiving ‘Macedonian’ calls from my primary constituency, that the High Court Complex in my hometown was derelict, to the extent that it had become very unconducive and almost uninhabitable for Judges and Lawyers to carry out their sacred duties in the temple of justice. We all know what administration of justice entails, its raison d’etre, its very essence to humanity, as well as its primary importance to the existence of mankind. Justice is at the heart and hub of any meaningful and peaceful co-existence, either among governments, governments and citizens or citizens inter se. Law and justice constitute the distinguishing factor between human beings and animals. In the peculiar circumstances of Nigeria today, the law courts virtually decide everything, including those who govern us, from the President to members of the National Assembly, crisscrossing to the Governors and members of their State Houses of Assembly. The Yoruba proverb which says that “T’igi ba wo lu igi, t’oke l’ako ma gbe”, literally translated thus: “When a tree falls on top of another, we lift the one on top, first”, came to my consciousness, and a decision to embark on this High Court Complex first, before the Senate Building project was taken, and the funds already earmarked for the Senate Building project were diverted to the High Court Project; but, before taking the decision, I briefed and pleaded with the University Vice-Chancellor. We are convinced and persuaded that we did not take a wrong decision, and we thank God that this project, which was initiated with the consent and permission of the Honourable Chief Judge of Ekiti State, who also approved and modified the drawings appropriately, has today been commissioned by our amiable, dignified, noble and excellent Chief Executive, Governor Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji. Let me also state for the record that, before now, both the present and immediate past Chief Judges of Ekiti State had repeatedly beckoned on me to assist at repairing, renovating or refurbishing the old court building which has been there for almost five decades.
Why I Built the Court
Chief Olanipekun said “I am very sure that a lot of people will be asking, either within themselves or in private conversations with others, why Chief Wole Olanipekun and his law firm, Wole Olanipekun & Co., would donate a High Court Complex to the Ekiti State Judiciary, rather than allowing the Government, whose responsibility it is to provide such facilities, to do so; more particularly, when Chief Wole Olanipekun could have deployed the resources invested in the High Court Complex in other charitable ventures. It has been whispered to me, even within this nativity of ours, that I should have established a factory or an industry instead of building a 1,600 Capacity Auditorium for my local Church here in Ikere in 2020; or straying into core government responsibilities by donating and equipping an Ultra-Modern Amenity Ward to the State Specialist Hospital here in Ikere in 2015, among other sundry interventions, both within and outside Ekiti State.
“For those who are agitated or might be agitated by the gathering of today or the reason for the gathering, may I plead with them to hold their peace. Primarily, the law profession constitutes my natural habitat; and through the profession, which I believe is my calling by the Almighty God, I have bountifully received grace, favour, mercy, blessings and benevolence from the Creator, and as such, I am convinced that I am not committing any misdemeanour, if my charity should begin at home. By the way, in 2014, we donated and equipped a Bar Centre to the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikere Branch, in order to encourage and motivate the young Lawyers from the Branch to aiming for and attaining greatness in the profession; and without being immodest as well, we went further to pay their Bar Practising Fees for four years. In addition, we donated a 16-Seater Capacity Bus to them. I am happy to note that, with these token of encouragements, the Branch has grown in leaps and bounds, and it is one of the most formidable Branches of the NBA in Nigeria.”
Chief Olanipekun quickly reminded the august gathering that “I have no single case, before any court in Ekiti State. I haven’t appeared in any court in Ekiti State, in the past 20 years”.
He called on Government at all levels, including private individuals, to pay attention to what he described as the deteriorating state of court facilities in the country, noting that a well-equipped court room would build litigants’ confidence in our judicial system.
“The walls and roofs of a good number of our courtrooms, are collapsing and caving in. Basic facilities such as toilets are not available in a good number of courts all over the country; in most instances, functional libraries are not available.
“The ambience of a typical or average courtroom should reflect an atmosphere of learning which Judges and Lawyers subscribe to, and are known for, rather than representing both from within and without, a rough, untidy, unclean and unkempt theatre”, he said.
Governor Oyebanji’s Comments
Governor Biodun Oyebanji commended Chief Olanipekun for the gesture to the Judiciary, describing it as noble and unprecedented, adding that the new court room would in no small measure, enhance the administration of justice.
The Governor who commissioned the new court room, explained that his administration would remain committed to the development of the State’s Judiciary with effective policies and provision of a conducive environment, calling on individuals to contribute to the development of the society, and not leave everything to the Government.
Governor Oyebanji said, “There is no doubt that, Chief Olanipekun is a man who takes pleasure in giving back to the society and institutions that once nurtured him. This is yet another demonstration of his commitment to giving back to the law profession, where he has made his mark as a distinguished member of the Bar.
“As a Government, our administration understands the importance of law and order to the progress and development of our State. We are committed to effective administration of justice that serves the public, by ensuring that condition of our courts and the welfare of the judicial officers are well attended to.”
Ekiti CJ’s Comments
Also speaking at the event, the Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Hon. Justice Oyewole Adeyeye who lamented the growing infrastructure decay in the judicial sector, lauded the former NBA President for the timely donation of the edifice, which he said would enhance effective administration of justice in the State.
CJ Adeyeye said, “Our prayer was for the renovation of the existing structure; the Learned Silk, by way of consequential order, granted us a brand new fully furnished court complex. That the project was delivered within such a record time is not only a testimony to determination and commitment, but also a manifestation of a promise kept.
“Let it be quickly stated however, that today’s occasion is by no means an admission of failure or helplessness on the part of the Government, in its social contract with the people through the provision of enabling facilities for service delivery.
“Rather it is testimony to the need for the private sector to intervene when necessary, in order for the wheels of governance not to grind to a halt.”
Chairman, NBA Ikere Branch’s Comments
NBA Ikere Branch Chairman, Dr Michael Afolayan stated “We are solidly behind Olanipekun. We’ll strongly reject any effort to rubbish and tarnish his image”.
He enjoined the Governor Oyebanji to renovate the courts in other judicial divisions, and give Judges and Magistrates befitting cars.
In the court complex, a court room was named after the late Hon. Justice Olatawura of the Supreme Court, and another courtroom named after the late Hon. Justice Ekundayo Ogundare.
The Snake Incident
An unforgettable incident, led to the building of the court complex. The earlier courtroom was in such a dilapidated and unkempt state. Things came to a head when the Judge came into the court, and met a huge snake staring at him from inside a drawer. Both Lawyers and litigants stampeded out of the court, and the Judge thereafter, sought an immediate transfer to the nearby Ilawe Ekiti Division of the State High Court.
On hearing about this ugly incident, Chief Olanipekun, SAN said ‘No!’, and wasted no time in taking up the challenge of building an ultra modern court complex, which was commissioned last Thursday.
About the New Court Complex
The court is equipped with two state of the art courtrooms and Judges Chambers, complete with a sitting capacity of 50 litigants each. In addition, the court has four dressing rooms for Lawyers, 13 toilets, 120 KVA generator, meeting rooms, 26 air conditioners, 30 fans, computers and a Law Library named after the doyen of the Bar, Aare Afe Babalola CON, SAN. The library boasts of over 4,000 publications, and more have been ordered and are being expected.
He told Governor Oyebanji that “Ekiti State is not poor! Ideas rule the world, and Ekiti State has leaders with ideas”.
Perhaps, the first of its kind in Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN has set a precedent, an excellent example of giving back, which will not be that easy for others to emulate. In the interest of the development of the profession, it is the hope of Lawyers, that those who are in a position to do so, should embark on similar laudable projects of enhancement.