By Wahab Abdulah

Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Chairman Body of Benchers, BoB, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN recently donated an ultra-modern high court building to the Ekiti State High Court, Ikere Judicial Division.

Speaking during the official commissioning of the complex in Ikere-Ekiti last week, Chief Olanipekun noted that the gesture was informed by his commitment to bequeath the judicial sector with modern facilities.

The commissioning of the courthouse in Ikere Ekiti has ‘exposed’ Chief Olanipekun’s ‘attitude’ not only to philanthropic gestures but ‘gave’ him away to spirituality in fulfilling the Lord’s command.

Little wonder when the Chairman of Body of Benchers quoted copiously from the Holy Bible and said, “there is nothing we have that has not been given.” Olanipekun added, “the totality of our lives should be lived and geared towards appreciating God for His benevolence, as the one who gives all, through His awesome grace.”

At the well-attended event, the legal luminary equally refused to hide his feelings, love and passion for the law profession which he chose and dedicated his life to even at the risk of envy. He stated the reasons for donating the commissioned courthouse to include but not limited to his love for charity and also his love for the law profession which he has been practicing for over four decades.

He said, “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 misdemeanor if my charity should begin at home.”

The creme la creme who honoured the judiciary, the legal profession and particularly Chief Olanipekun who donated the gigantic building to the state judiciary by attending the event were the Governor of the state, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji; 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 Ojudu, senior lawyers and justices, among others.

Many people would have asked the question, ‘Why did he single-handedly donate a court room, furnish it and equip its Library with law books?’ For critics, their views may be that Chief Olanipekun embarked on the gesture in order to have the dominance and influence over whatever happens in the court system in his domain.

The answer was provided by Chief Olanipekun himself when he said: “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 the Ekiti State Judiciary, vested in it in perpetuity.”

For doubting Thomases, Olanipekun went further to state that he has no single case being handled by his law firm in Ekiti.

The iconic court building comprises of two courtrooms, well equipped library, Judges chambers, Conference rooms, registry, pre-trial room, changing rooms for lawyers, exhibit room, general office, holding cell, toilets, cashier’s office, and a functional heavy-duty capacity generator. The two court rooms were named after Justice Emmanuel Ogundare and Justice Olajide Olatawura respectively, 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, foremost lawyer from Ekiti and founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti.

Olanipekun’s footprints are all over home town and beyond. This thirst for charity and unrivaled feat can be 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. Besides, Olanipekun built a 1,600-capacity auditorium for his local church in Ikere in 2020.

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 again refurbished in 2019.

Chief Olanipekun in 2014 built a 350-capacity Bar Centre for the NBA Ikere-Ekiti branch, and in August 2019 purchased a brand new 16-capacity bus for the Branch.

In 2015, he built the Iyaafin Abosede Ultra-modern Amenity Ward located within the premises of the State Specialist Hospital, Ikere-Ekiti, equipped it with state-of-the-art facilities, and donated it to the Ekiti State Government.

The lists of his humanitarian gestures and interventions to make his people happy are numerous. Recently, on November 12, 2022, he hosted the 26th edition of the Wole Olanipekun Scholarship Scheme and 3rd Edition of Wole Olanipekun Foundation Youth Empowerment & Aged/Widows Support Program, where cheques were given to hundreds of beneficiaries.

Speaking extensively on the motivation for building the courthouse, the erudite lawyer explained that his decision to build and donate the complex in his community was as a result of calls received from stakeholders from the law profession on the poor condition of the High Court Complex, making it difficult for judges and lawyers to carry out their duties.

He said, “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.”

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.

His words: “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 unkept theatre.”

The Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji commended Olanipekun for his kind gesture, describing it as noble and unprecedented. He added that the new court room would in no small measure enhance the administration of justice.

The governor, who later 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 conducive environment, calling on individuals to contribute to the development of the society and not leave everything to the government.

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 and Bench.

“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.”

On his part, the Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice Oyewole Adeyeye lamented the growing infrastructural decay in the judicial sector. He commended the former NBA President for the timely donation of the edifice, adding that it would enhance effective administration of justice in the state.

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.”

* Abdulah is a journalist and public affairs analyst.

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