Olawale Fapohunda, SAN, Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice Ekiti State wrote:
It has been an incredible privilege to serve the government and people of Ekiti State.
I am leaving office humbled by the sheer audacity of what we have achieved. If not anything else I am satisfied with the prestige and respect that we have brought to the office of the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice.
Gone are the days when the Attorney-General and State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice will be treated with disrespect.
In the last four years, we have made the Ministry of Justice the centre of government business and rightly so. Nothing happens in government without the input of the Ministry of Justice. This feat has been achieved by sheer dint of hard work, professionalism and efficiency in overseeing state legal affairs.
I am thankful for the support I received from my boss, HE Dr. Kayode Fayemi . His absolute confidence in my ability to deliver on my mandate has been an important contributory factor to our success.
Under my watch, recognizing that charity must necessarily begin at home and that we can not give what we do not have, we embarked on an aggressive review of our human resources, systems and processes. We repositioned staff for effectiveness and enabled new departments for quality service delivery.
We aggressively pursued a continuous learning programme with the establishment of the Ministry of Justice Academy, a first of its kind in Nigeria. We have renovated and expanded our library and ours is possibly the only Ministry of Justice in Nigeria with a bookshop with an in-house legal solutions service provider to facilitate access of our lawyers to current decisions of the Superior Court and best practice laws.
I am also pleased to announce today that the complete overhaul of the Ministry of Justice complex has commenced. When completed, the facility will provide an affirming work environment for all those who work in the Ministry.
We institutionalized mock examinations for our State Counsel in our desire to see them excel in the Public Service. We realized early in my tenure that the reward system for civil servants is in many ways limited. In response, we developed our reward system.
The publication of the Annual Attorney-General’s Honours List is a much sought-after event that publicly recognizes and appreciates State Counsel and administrative staff alike who go beyond their call of duty. On Thursday, we recognized eleven of our outstanding officers during our Annual Black Tie Lawyers Dinner.
Having sufficiently empowered our staff, we embarked on a radical review of the administration of justice system in Ekiti State. Starting with a law reform program, we began and completed the holistic review of the Laws of Ekiti State, ensuring that only laws that are relevant to the aspirations of the people of Ekiti State remain in our law books.
Our interventions in this area include a review of the Criminal Law of Ekiti State and the enactment of some of the most progressive laws in Nigeria. These include the Administration of Civil Justice Law, the Victims of Crime Law, the Office of the Attorney-General Law, the Ekiti State Economic Development Law, and the Sustainable Development Goals Law. These are some of the Laws that have earned our State national and international commendation. I should specially mention our Transition Law, which has now provided the legal framework for the smooth transition from one administration to another.
Quite apart from our achievements in law reform, we have supported the development of legal practice in Ekiti State. We are the first State in Nigeria in recent times to publish judgments from our High Court. I am pleased to announce that Volume 2 of the Ministry of Justice Publication of Decisions from the High Court of Ekiti State is now ready for publication.
Furthermore, we have backed our commitment on the use of technology in the administration of justice by providing Lapstops for all the Judges of the State High Court. It is our hope that virtual court hearings at least in respect to non-contentious matters will shortly be the norm in our courts. We also recognized the importance of traditional courts in our justice system. In response to concerns about transparency and fairness in these court, we began the novel publication of decisions from our Palace Courts across the State.
These Publications are two of the several other Publications from the Ministry of Justice on several aspects of our work. Of no less significance is the fact that we have achieved greater efficiency in our case management and appearance in court. I am assured that our Judges can acknowledge the increased level of efficiency and competence with which State Counsel prosecute state matters before our courts.
Even as we struggle with dwindling numbers of State Counsel, we have managed to achieve a level of representation in state legal matters that affirms our commitment to professional service delivery. Our imprint is visible across all priorities of the state government. We have, for example, taken the state government’s zero tolerance policy for all forms of sexual violence against women to a level unseen in any state of the federation. Our sex Offenders Register and our Name and Shame Policy have earned our State accolades, especially in the international community. We are by far the leading State in the protection of rights of women and girls.
In all, what has been of immense satisfaction to me has been the integrity with which we have carried out our mandate. For this, I am grateful to the staff of the Ekiti State Ministry of Justice.
I am not unaware of concerns about the sustainability of these landmarks. My attention has also been drawn to comments about the fate of these interventions after the exit of this administration. Let me quickly allay such concerns. The Governor, Biodun Oyebanji is 100 per cent committed to the sustainability of all we have done. It was not a mistake that the Ministry of Justice was the only Ministry he visited to receive Ministerial briefings. The Governor, during his tenure as Secretary to the State Government, participated actively in the debates on the review of the Laws of Ekiti State.
I am particularly pleased to inform you that one of the key deliverables he has set for himself is supporting the independence of the judiciary. I will be the first to admit that our intervention in the judiciary particularly on the issue of judicial autonomy has been work in progress. I however have no doubt that the judiciary will find in the Oyebanji administration an unflinching commitment to strengthening the judiciary and the rule of law.
It is now left for me to thank #Ekitikete for the support. May the almighty God keep us all till we meet again!