Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, on Friday, lauded a legal icon, Wole Olanipekun, at an event marking his 70th birthday.
Mr Osinbajo, who chaired the event held in Lagos, described Mr Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, as “one of Nigeria’s most consequential Nigerian constitutional lawyers” given his contributions to the nation’s legal jurisprudence.
Mr Osinbajo praised the jurist for deploying the proceeds of his sweat to ameliorating the plight of the less-pprivileged.
“What must give him more satisfaction as much as his accomplishments in the legal profession, is how he has affected the lives of hundreds and may be thousands who cannot repay him for his kindness,” the Vice President said.
“Chief Olanipekun’s great intellect and his mastery of the law, his incredible ability to get to the heart of the matter and let a whole panel of judges see his daring points, his disarming wits and humour, poetic submissions make him one of the most outstanding legal minds in this or another generation,” Mr Osinbajo said.
The Vice President delved into Nigeria’s many justice sector issues, urging speakers at the event not to “rehash” the already familiar problems, but to “focus on implementable ideas” that would address the problems.
He highlighted the issue of delays in Nigerian courts, referencing a United Kingdom appellate court’s description of the issue as “catastrophic” as it would take a further 30 years to resolve.
Speaking on Mr Olanipekun’s accomplishments and generosity, the CJN who was represented by Olukayode Ariwola, a Justice of Supreme Court, said Mr Olanipekun “bestrides the Nigerian legal landscape with iconic and academic discernment.”
He also described him as a “very unique and nationalistic Nigerian with a radical posture of justice and rule of law.”
In a goodwill message, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said Mr Olanipekun is an erudite scholar, who has contributed to the growth and development of the Nigerian system.
Underscoring Mr Olanipekun’s kindness, Mr Sanwo-Olu recalled the former’s donation of his entire allowances to indigent students of the University of Ibadan while he served as Pro-chancellor of the varsity.
The governor lauded Mr Olanipekun’s wife, Omolara, for her steadfastness and love on reaching out to less privileged people.
Earlier, Mr Olanipekun’s son, Bode who moderated the session, traced the 41-year history of his father’s law firm that has “serviced legal obligations from 31 out of the 36 states of Nigeria, including FCT.”
Bode, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the ‘Wole Olanipekun and Co Justice Summit 0.2’ was organised to coincide with his father’s 70th birthday.
“We initiated the justice summit as a platform for critical engagements, where remarkable thought leaders of distinguished pedigree to lead discussions that enhance justice delivery in Nigeria.
“Our law firm is underpinned by the core values of diligence, integrity, and refined expertise because we believe there is no value that is antithetical to these can be sustainable,” he explained.
‘Burden of justice’
In a presentation, former Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, Olanrewaju Fagbohun, said there must be effective institution checks within the judiciary to guard against misconduct on the part of both judges and lawyers.
Speaking on the theme: ‘Implementing Justice Sector Reforms in Nigeria: Connecting The Disconnect,’ Mr Fagbohun, a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, noted “The burden of justice is beyond the attributes of impartiality, equity or fairness of the judge which we most times try to generalise as justice.”
He opined that the issue “extends to the multitude of state and civil society institutions in the justice sector with varied vested interests, who must equally play their roles with a clear understanding of the importance of their contributions.”
In proffering solutions, Mr Fagbohun said,
“In implementing justice sector reforms, there were three key assumptions whose self-evident truths we concluded were clear to all.
“The first is that the moment we bring in best practice, we will achieve the desired goals. The second is that all critical stakeholders have an understanding of what is at stake, and at worst, what will be required is the upscale of their skill set and knowledge. The third is that all critical stakeholders will exude the right discipline and commitment.”
Born November 18, 1951, Mr Olanipekun, who hails from Ikere Ekiti in Ekiti State, is a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Mr Olanipekun, who has led legal teams in many landmark cases, including President Muhammadu Buhari’s defence team at the presidential election petition tribunal on the outcome of the 2019 presidential election.
A former Attorney-General of the old Ondo State, Mr Olanipekun was called to the bar in 1976 and awarded with the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria in July 1991.