The level of decay in most Nigerian courts has become very worrisome as stakeholders in the nation’s judiciary blame the situation on lack of maintenance, neglect by successive governments and poor funding of the sector. Regrettably, despite calls for renovation and rebuilding of critical court infrastructure to aid justice delivery, there seems to be no response, writes Onozure Dania
On Thursday, January 19, 2023, the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Abiodun Oyebanji commissioned the multi-million naira ultra-modern High Court Complex built and donated by the Chairman of Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun.
At the event, the governor called on other sons and daughters of Ekiti State to emulate Olanipekun.
Also, during the commissioning of the court building, Oyebanji assured the judiciary that his regime will continue to ensure the effective administration of justice through improvement of the condition of the courts and the welfare of judicial officers in the state.
The governor who noted that his administration understood the importance of law and order for the progress and development of the state, assured that his government would ensure its sanctity.
He commended the state’s judicial officers for maintaining the high standard of professionalism that makes the judicial system one of the most progressive and innovative in the country, as well as the judges, most courageous and erudite despite the obvious inadequacies in the system.
Oyebanji called on good-spirited Ekiti indigenes to emulate the good gestures of the donor saying, “As a people who need urgent development, Chief Olanipekun has given us a legacy to copy.
“I want to, therefore, call on all Ekiti indigenes all over the world to emulate this act of generous giving back. If we all look back at our family houses, our communities, our primary and secondary schools, our worship places and other places that once contributed to whom we are, and give back, we will have a better Ekiti of our dream.
“I have known Chief Wole Olanipekun for quite a while. In Ekiti State, aside Aare Afe Babalola, I am yet to find a man who finds satisfaction in giving back to his place of birth as he does. His signature act of kindness can be found in every aspect of his life in Ikere-Ekiti.
“I am aware of his immense role to the transformation of the then College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti to Bamidele Olumilua University of Science and Technology. His doggedness and commitment to see the university succeed led to his appointment as the first Chancellor of the University after a similar appointment in the University of Ibadan where chief left an enduring legacy,” the governor eulogised.
The court comprises of two courtrooms, a library, judge’s chambers, conference rooms, a registry, a pre-trial room, changing rooms for lawyers, an exhibit room, a general office, a holding cell, toilets, a cashier’s office, and standby generator. The two courts were named after Justice Emmanuel Ogundare, and Justice Olajide Olatawure, two Ekiti-born jurists that got to the pinnacle of the judiciary as Supreme Court Justices.
The library is named after Aare Afe Babalola SAN, a foremost lawyer from Ekiti and founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.
The interior of the ultra-modern High Court complex is equipped with modern fittings and air-conditioned courtrooms which are furnished with state-of-the-art furniture and gadgets that will make court fittings an enthralling, cozy experience.
In July 2022, the Edo State Government commenced the remodeling of the dilapidated Magistrate and District Customary Courts at Ekiadolor in Ovia North East Local Government Area in conformity with the ‘Make Edo Great Again’ (MEGA)’, agenda of the state.
One would have thought that Edo State which is referred to as the heartbeat of the nation, will not be faced with such infrastructural decay, but that was not to be as the Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Joe Acha, lamented the sorry state the courts were, before the government commenced the construction and remodeling of the courts which were built during the colonial era.
Like his learned brother in Edo State, The Chief Judge of Benue State, Justice Aondover Kaka’an, in December 2022, also decried the dilapidated infrastructure of courtrooms, staff quarters, declaring that the development was hindering the effective administration of justice in the state.
Aondover noted that many of the courtrooms had become uninhabitable with leaking roofs, broken windows and decayed furniture, while staff quarters have been taken over by rodents and reptiles.
He made this observation at the commissioning of a newly built BAR Centre and a renovated High Court Complex, in Otukpo, Benue State, by a lawyer’s foundation ‘Godwin Obla Foundation’.
In November 2021, some Delta State indigenes took to the social media to castigate Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over the state of a dilapidated court in former governor James Ibori’s home town, Oghara, headquarters of Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state.
They described the state of the customary court, located in Oghara community, as shameful and disgraceful.
Ekiti State, like others, wasn’t left out of this sorry state of infrastructural decay in the judiciary, until the chairman of BoB and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olanipekun (SAN), took it upon himself to build a modern and well-equipped court for the Ekiti State judiciary.
Olanipekun noted that he decided to continue to give to humanity because he believes that whatever he achieved in life was made possible by the grace of God, adding that life should be about giving and impacting humanity.
The former NBA President, who disclosed that the Court complex complied with global best practices with grandiose and state-of-the-art facilities that would encourage optimal performance for judges and lawyers, appealed to the government and all men of goodwill to improve the courts of law by improving their facilities all over the state.
He used the opportunity to reaffirm his position on the arbitrariness in the provision of section 65 of the Electoral Act which empowers the Chief Returning Officer to review and rescind his decision, saying the Returning Officer is not a court of judicial power or tribunal that could be vested with such powers.
Olanipekun who went philosophical, reiterated his total commitment to the course of justice in Nigeria with a vow: “if it remains one minute for me to compromise the course of justice or that of my clients, may God call me home. The legal profession constitutes my natural habitat; and through the profession, which I believe is my calling, my own ministry from the Almighty God, through which I have bountifully received grace, favour, mercy, blessings and benevolence from the Creator. It is the ministry God has blessed me with to make my own contributions to mankind. Everyone has their ministry. May the day never come that I will compromise my calling.”
Speaking further, he said: “The Holy Writ makes it clear that whatever we have, whatever we possess, whatever we own and whatever we achieve or attain comes from God, the creator of the earth and all those who dwell therein. He is also the one who blesses, prospers and endows us with all our possessions. No wonder it is written that there is nothing we have that has not been given. Arising from the foregoing is the fact that the totality of our being should be lived and geared towards appreciating God for His benevolence, as the one who gives all, through his awesome grace.”
The senior legal luminary made it clear that the complex has become the property of Ekiti State Judiciary. “May I state it loud and clear that this court complex neither belongs to the law firm of Wole Olanipekun and Co, nor my person. It remains forever the property of Ekiti State Judiciary, vested in it in perpetuity.”
An elated Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice John Adeyeye narrated how Olanipekun built the complex within four months and four days. “When the setting of the structure by way of pegging of the building was performed on September 15, 2022, little was known that the commissioning of the same in a fully furnished state would come up within a space of four months and four days. 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.”
Olanipekun’s footprints are all over his hometown; a feat attributed to his family background. His father, Late Pa Isaac Olanipekun could not be described as rich in material things, but his service and dedication to God was remarkable. For 17 years, Pa Olanipekun who passed on in 1999, served at St. Peter’s Church, Ikere Ekiti, sweeping the floor, planting flowers and cutting grasses without collecting salaries. No wonder his son, Oluwole built the vicarage of the church in his memory in 2012, signifying the blessings of God over the sacrifices and service of the father.
Earlier in 2007, Chief Olanipekun built a Computer Laboratory hub fully equipped with laptop and desktop computers for his alma mater, Amoye Grammar School, Ikere-Ekiti. The hub was further refurbished in 2019.
In 2014, Chief Olanipekun built a 350-capacity Bar Centre for the NBA Ikere-Ekiti branch, and in August, 2019, he purchased a brand new 16-seater capacity bus for the branch.
In 2015, he built and donated the Iya’afin Abosede Amenity Ward furnished with state-of-the-art facilities, to the Ekiti State government within the premises of the State Specialist Hospital, Ikere-Ekiti.
On February 18, 2020, the multi-million naira and architectural masterpiece church building he built for the same St. Peter’s Anglican Church was dedicated. It was a replacement of the old building. The dedication of the ultra-modern building drew dignitaries from all parts of the country, including the Vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo SAN, one-time Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, almost all the governors of South West, among other dignitaries who graced the ceremony.
Chief Olanipekun also donated a ventilator and N10 million to Ekiti State for Covid-19 eradication in the state.
Since 1996, the Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Scheme has been in existence and as at the last award exercise in November 2019, over 649 indigent students from various secondary schools and universities in Nigeria have benefited from the scheme. At the same event, he paid for the 2020 JAMB fees of 94 students of St. Louis Grammar School, Ikere, 46 of whom are Ikere indigenes, while the remaining 47 are from other parts of the country.
Taking the kind gesture a notch higher, Chief Olanipekun sacrificially gave his substance ceaselessly when he was appointed by the government as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of University of Ibadan. He used his influence to open up Ajibode, the second phase of the institution. In 2011, when the flood ravaged the university, he personally donated N10m towards the amelioration of the situation. Before his tenure expired, he donated a 350-sitting capacity lecture theatre to the Faculty of Law, known as Wole Olanipekun Law Lecture Building.