Oyeyipo: Kwara's longest serving CJ who transformed judiciary
Apparently, the history of the Kwara State judiciary will not be complete without referencing enormous impact of the retired Justice Timothy Oyeyipo who served as Chief Judge of the state from 1984 to 2005.
During his time, the jurist was able to set a record in which, years after he bowed out of active service, none of his predecessors have been able to close. This is however evident in the fact that till date, no one has ever served in CJ capacity for 21 years other than him.
His reign cut across two governmental systems. He came on board when the Military system of government took prevalence in Nigeria and held the mantle of the state judiciary from when Group Captain in the Nigeria Air Force, Salaudeen Latinwo was the state Governor till the democratic epoch of the former state governor Moh'd Lawal through the administration of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, now Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While he was CJ, it was recorded to his credit he promoted the course of justice, shun lackadaisical attitude of justices as well as magistrates and also aided speedy promotion of judicial staff among others. The present High Court edifice was reportedly constructed by him during his aeon.
Going by history, Justice Oyeyipo was the Second CJ in Kwara state. He took up the leadership of the judiciary after Justice Saidu Kawu, who was the first, and held sway from 1975 to 1984. After Oyeyipo was Justice Saka Yusuf, who had a short stint between 2006 and 2007. Justice Raliat Elelu resumed office thereafter and served from 2008 till 2012. Justice Bamigboye equally served in 2014 while the current CJ, Justice Sulyman Kawu took over the mantle in 2014.
An High Court judge, Justice Issah Babatunde Garbar who during Oyeyipos's tenure served as his Chief Deputy Registrar, while speaking on his personality, described the retired CJ has a disciplinarian who by all means ensured staff carry out their duties promptly and without delay.According to him, the jurist held his staff in high esteem to the level that he doesn’t take any petition against them that cannot be substantiated.
He however attributed the secret behind the 21 years of Oyeyipo successful sojourn as the CJ as God's providence and the good kismet of life that smiled on him early enough.
Giving insight into why the jurist spent over 21 years in office, this medium gathered that Oyeyipo was able to get to the pinnacle of his career as the CJ at the age of 44, thereby having 21 years to spend in office in order to attain the retirement statutory age of 65.
“I worked with him for the period of 21 years, he’s a person who doesn’t take any laid-back attitude from his staff, my testimony of him today is that, he trained me to be proactive to work. After praiseworthy service, he was considered to be CJ; and he held the office for the next 21 years after been appointed at 44.
Also speaking with Pilot Law, a legal luminary in the state, Abdul Tunde Gegele, confirmed the efforts the retired jurist devoted into promoting welfare and upgrading living standard of the judicial staff while he was CJ.
He stressed that his tenure was laced with lots of challenges but he was able to deploy enough strategies that ensured upgrading of members of the bench, especially the lower cadres. He added that salaries of the judicial members were held in paramount priority and it was promptly paid.
"Judiciary staff were trained during his time, he went on various training and retraining programmes. Some went to Universities of Jos, ABU Zaria Sokoto even Kwara State Polyechnic for diploma certificate in Law. Afterwards, the judiciary started having qualified personnel especially at the lower bench.
"I was one of those trained during his era, and several others, among them are: late Abdulkareem Ololu, Justice Titi Daibu, Justice Tunde Garba, Justice Salman Haleeman, late magistrate Ayo Idowu while a new High Court was built and new courts opened in every local government areas of the state.
"He built a magistrate court each in Erin-Ile, Kosubosu, Kaima, Ijagbo, Osi also in Ipata Oloje, Shao and Afon. Upper Area courts were equally constructed at Akerebiata and Ganmo areas of the state.
Speaking on his personality, a veteran legal practitioner in the state, Akin Akintoye II, stressed that uprightness distinguished his tenure even as he noted that the attribute earned him respect that put him in control of the system he managed.
"He was an upright judge and was able to hold the judiciary together, he served meritoriously," Akintoye said.
In the same vein, a serving High Court judge who spoke with this medium on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Oyeyipo was an incorruptible judge, who was very brave and disciplined.
According to him, "My Lord was rich so you cannot buy him over with money. He served as long as 21 years because he was just good in service. Promotion of staff were done in due time. He was the CJ, yet he will be in court early enough for proceedings. This is one attribute I imbibed from him.
"I can always give kudos to him because he's a custodian of what he preached. On many occasions, he has helped me and several other persons whom I know of fiscally, during his time in office, he was brave, disciplined and above all, he knew his job as the CJ.
After he bowed out of active service on 25th November, 2005, he was appointed an Administrator, National Judiciary Institute.