Legal Luminary Profile: Honourable Justice Serifat Oloruntoyin Solebo

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Honourable Justice Serifat Oloruntoyin Abeni Solebo, a Judge of the Lagos State High Court was born on Thursday, 28th November 1957 in Lagos State to Alhaji Suleiman Oluremi Solebo and Hajia Aminat Abike Shekoni.

She started her nursery education at St.  Mary’s School and went to Lagos Anglican Girls’ Primary School for her primary education. In December 1969, she proceeded to Mushin Girls’ High School, Ijebu-Ode for her Secondary education, where she sat for the West African School Certificate Exam (WASSCE) in June, 1974.

Being a child of traders and growing up in the midst of successful popular traders, particularly from the paternal side,  her aspiration was to be a well-famed trader despite her grace of innate intellect.  When all entreaties to get her to go for higher education failed, her parents registered her at the Labour Office for job opportunities. In July 1974, she attended a job interview at the Department of Post and Telegraph, passed the interview and was employed immediately as a Postal Clerk. Between 1977 and 1978, after working at the Department of Post and Telegraph for over two years, she was sent to Pitman College, Southampton Row, London for a secretarial course. She remained there for an extra six months in order to acquire 100wpm typing speed.

Miss Solebo performed excellently well at Pitmans within the time and was seconded to Internal Press Company, London and thereafter to Inner London Probation and After Care Office, Greenwich. The opportunities remain memorable and became the footstool upon which her passion and interest for children was founded. After her training in London, she returned home and worked with Elder Dempster Agency (Nig) Ltd, Apapa and ITT (Nig) Ltd, Jibowu both in Lagos State, before going in to try her hands on trading until sometime in 1984, when fate changed her life trajectory and her path crossed with that of Late Chief Bola Adedipe. She went back to Secretarial practice and became the Confidential Secretary to Late Chief Bola Adedipe, the then Elewo of Akure, who upon interviewing her told her she was too brilliant to be just a Secretary. He encouraged her to go back to college for further studies. Though she rebuffed the suggestion several times, Miss Solebo eventually applied to study Law at the University of Lagos.

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Before then, being a Science Student, she had gone to St. Peter’s School, Ajele Lagos as a part-time extra-tutorial student for coaching in Economics, Governments and Accounts and in December 1988, sat for GCE ‘O’ Level and came out in flying colours. Armed with the prerequisite for admission, she got admission to the prestigious University of Lagos, Akoka to study Law and concluded her studies in  1995  with  an LL.B  (Hons 2nd   Class Lower)  and  thereafter proceeded to the Nigeria Law School, Victoria Island where she obtained a B. L. (Barrister at Law) (2nd Class Upper) and later returned to the University of Lagos in 1997 for her LL.M (Master of Law).

Her Ladyship went into private practice under the tutelage of Kunle Tayo & Co where she had the opportunity of varied and various exposures in Court and to different cases, including election petitions and constitutional matters. She joined the services of the Lagos State Judiciary as Magistrate Grade II on the 10th of November 1999 and rose through the ranks to the position of Chief Magistrate. She was subsequently appointed Deputy Chief Registrar (Special Duties) by Her Ladyship, Chief Judge (Emeritus) Olufunmilayo O. Atilade (retired), who believed in her capacity and ability and encouraged her a lot until her elevation to the High Court Bench as a Judge of the Lagos State Judiciary on the 8th March, 2017.

As a Magistrate, Justice Solebo had the privilege of working at the Juvenile/Family Courts where she was coopted into the UNICEF Advocacy Group in 2002 and has since continued to be involved in Children’s matters till now.  She was the Deputy Registrar of Titles and Deed between 2004 and 2009.  In 2008 she was appointed Local Land Administrator Expert by World Bank and became a contributor to its research on Doing Business in Nigeria till the programme ended in 2021. She also had the privilege of adjudicating over criminal, civil and family matters in different Magisterial Jurisdiction and was also a panelist in the Local Government Election Petition Tribunal in 2012.  She was appointed as the Coroner for  Mushin  between  2012  and  2015.

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Justice Solebo attended numerous professional courses both locally and internationally which includes:

  • Land registration Law  and  Practice  course  at  College  of  Law,  Holborn, London.
  • Judicial Administration course at Royal Institution of Public Administrator.
  • The 36th and 39th Symposia on Economic Crimes at Jesus College, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • Judicial Education at Commonwealth Judicial Education, Halifax, Canada.
  • International Standard on Freedom of Expression organized by Bonavero Institute and UNESCO.
  • Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practice by Harvard X
  • Couple of courses on Mediation and Negotiation locally and internationally particularly on Family Mediation.
  • Continuing legal education by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court  Judges   Reno,   Nevada,   particularly   on   domestic   violence   and improving practice in child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Continuing legal education on trending legal issued organized by the National Judicial Institute, Abuja.
  • Judicial Education by the National Judicial College Reno, Nevada, USA.

She had the honour of serving as a member of different committees which included:

  • Committee in the review and reform of the Criminal Procedure Law now Administration of Criminal Justice Law;
  • Committee on the review of the then Registration Laws in Lagos State; and
  • The restructuring of Certificate of Occupancy;
  • The review of the Family Court Rules;
  • The review of the Child Rights Law;
  • Law for the protection of Persons against violence among others.

She also  had  opportunities to  deliver  papers  at  different  fora  on  Gender  issues particularly on the rights and protection of women and girls.

Hon. Justice Solebo belongs to the following professional affiliation:

  • Fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute, Halifax, Canada;
  • Member, National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges Association, Reno, Nevada, USA;
  • Member, Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates Association;
  • Member, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA);
  • Member, Lagos State Domestic & Sexual Violence Agency among others. She is a family court Mediator per excellence.
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Having reached the mandatory  retirement  age  of  65  years,  Hon.  Justice Serifat Oloruntoyin Solebo bows out from the Lagos State Judiciary on Friday, 25th November, 2022.  Though her stay on the Lagos High Court bench was short, Justice Solebo would be remembered as one of the finest, erudite, hardworking and ‘no nonsense’  justices to have graced the Lagos High Court Bench.

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