Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN is one of the leading Nigerian lawyers. He delivered the last convocation lecture of the Ekiti State university at Ado Ekiti. The Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose who was the chief host of the event was very pleased with the attack on the anti corruption policy of the Buhari administration by Chief Olanipekun. This is not surprising, given the Governor's hypocrisy having been indicted by the Obasanjo regime for N1.2 billion poultry farm scandal and the Buhari regime for N2. 5 billion arms fund scandal. Though, Chief Olanipekun is a proud Ekiti man he does not want Governor Fayose named and shamed. Hence the Senior Advocate has never criticized the governor for exposing Ekiti people to ridicule.
In the lecture entitled "Breaking the Jinx: the Cyclical Nature of Nigeria's Problems," the Senior Advocate attacked the anti corruption policy of the Mohammadu Buhari administration. As far as the eminent lawyer is concerned, the regime should not be taken seriously over the fight against corruption. He condemned the "the naming and shaming" of corrupt people "rather than confronting headlong and holistically the toxicity of corruption in the nation." Pray, why should corrupt people not be named and shamed when they have named and shamed our country before the committee of nations? Why should criminals who have ruined the lives of our people not be named and shamed in the fight against corruption?
Chief Olanipekun proceeded to make a strong case for the human rights of corrupt people. He accused the government of enthroning dictatorship in the country by not treating corrupt people with dignity and respect under the rule of law. He cautioned Nigerians to desist from the way and manner that we pronounce and crucify people in this country, without trial and without affording them the right to be heard." He reminded Nigerians that "God gave Adam and Eve the right to fair hearing before he passed judgment on them." In defending the human rights of corrupt people to fair hearing Chief Olanipekun did not say a word on the rights of the millions of victims of corruption to a decent life. For goodness sake, why do Nigerian lawyers only talk of human rights and rule of law whenever corrupt people are asked to justify the public fund stolen by them?
Chief Olanipekun observed that "The virus called corruption has entrenched itself in virtually every area of our national life. Over the last decade, Nigeria has consistently ranked high on the Global Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, as one of the most corrupt countries in the world; in fact, the country was ranked as the 136th amongst 145 countries for year 2016 (nine countries short of being the most corrupt)."
The observation of Chief Olanipekun cannot be faulted. However, the leading role of many leading lawyers in ensuring that Nigeria remains at the top of the ladder of corrupt countries was conveniently left out of the lecture. Nigerians ought to know the extent of the involvement of the Senior Advocate in making it impossible for Nigeria to stamp out corruption from all areas of our life.
Chief Olanipekun is entitled to criticize any of the policies of the Buhari administration, but he lacks the moral right to condemn the fight against corruption. As President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Chief Olanipekun did nothing to stop the corruption in the legal profession. He tried unsuccessfully to use the lawyers' body to kick against the fight against corruption by the federal government under President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has consistently condemned the work of the anti corruption bodies. When corrupt judges were arrested last year he took part in the press conference of the leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association. Even when the NBA asked the corrupt judges to step down Chief Olanipekun criticized the body. Apart from condemning the anti corruption policy of all governments since 1999, he has never made any suggestion on how to stamp out corruption from the society.
Although, a suspect has the liberty to choose his lawyer and every person accused of committing a criminal offense including corruption has the constitutional right to hire any lawyer of his or her choice. Since corrupt people are rich and can afford the very high professional fees charged by Chief Olanipekun, he has always defended them whenever they are charged to court for stealing public money. While we cannot blame him for defending corrupt people we must take him up for using his legal knowledge to sabotage the fight against corruption in the country. It is necessary to review some of the corruption cases that Chief Olanipekun has handled in recent time. It has become necessary to do that to let Nigerians know the contribution of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria to the promotion of corruption. Otherwise, Chief Olanipekun will continue to deceive and mislead the public to believe that he means well for the country.
One of the leading 419 kingpins in the world, a Nigerian whose criminal action led to the collapse of a leading bank in Brazil recently hired the services of Chief Olanipekun. Although, the fraudster had been convicted and jailed by the Lagos High Court for tricking the bank to lose over $250 million. The money, which was brought to Nigeria, was traced and forfeited to the federal government which returned all the forfeited assets to the Brazilian bank. But Chief Olanipekun turned round to ask the court to order the release of the forfeited assets to a crook. The Court of Appeal dismissed the unlawful relief sought by Chief Olanipekun for his client. In addition, the Justices condemned the lawyer for asking that the convict be allowed to profit from a crime that had exposed our country to shame before the whole world. By the way, the international community had commended the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which recovered the money, sold the assets of the 419ers and returned the entire proceeds of the crime to the Brazilian bank.
Chief Olanipekun is presently manipulating the law to frustrate the cases of the Managing Directors of distressed banks who were removed by former CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, for stealing billions of depositors funds. The lawyer has said that the Lagos High Court cannot try the bankers for stealing from the capital market. After about 6 years the Supreme Court has dismissed the very frivolous argument and ruled that the trial of the cases should go on in the Lagos high court as the venue of the offence is immaterial as stealing is stealing. Chief Olanipekun had also raised other objections to make it impossible to have the trial of the former bank chiefs. Thanks to Chief Olanipekun, one of the cases has already been adjourned to March 2018 by the Supreme Court. At the next hearing date the case will be further adjourned to 2019!
In 2005, Senator Adolphus Wabara was removed as Senate President. He was charged with corruption at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. As defense counsel to the former Senate leader, Chief Olanipekun has frustrated his trial for the past 12 years. He has also frustrated the trial of bank executives for over 6 years. In the case of former Managing Director of Intercontinental bank, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, the CBN ensured that a case was filed in London where he used depositors' funds to buy properties. The English Court gave judgment against Mr. Akingbola and ordered him to refund over N200 billion. But Chief Olanipekun has frustrated the registration and enforcement of the judgment in Nigeria. The manipulation of our criminal justice system in the cases involving the bank executives by Chief Olanipekun is one of the reasons why the international community believes that Nigeria is not seriously committed to the fight against corruption.
It is only in Nigeria where Chief Olanipekun who has mastered the act of frustrating corruption cases can turn round to condemn the federal government for not fighting corruption. How can a lawyer who goes to courts to stop the prosecution of corrupt people turn round to describe Nigeria as a highly corrupt country. Of course, we are aware that Chief Olanipekun is not happy with the administration for insisting that Chief Raymond Dokpesi and other corrupt clients of his be tried for stealing public funds. It is for his own selfish reasons that he is campaigning against the anti corruption policy of the federal government. This is why Chief Olanipekun will never condemn the public officers who have stolen public funds and caused misery and poverty for our people. While he continues to make money from his corrupt clients, Chief Olanipekun should be warned to stop fooling the Nigerian people. His hypocrisy of condemning corruption while frustrating the trial of corrupt people in our courts should stop.
Value and Integrity Group