Chief Gani Fawehinmi (Senior Advocate of the Masses & Senior Advocate of Nigeria) the irrepressible doyen of human rights activism and the biggest contributor to the growth and development of law in Nigeria, exited the mortal world into immortality on 5th September, 2009. In commemoration of his death, we bring you the report of a tour of the Gani Fawehinmi Law Library and Gallery. Our guide was the amiable Chief Librarian of the massive complex, Mr. Uche Ekeocha.
On Jobi Fele Way at the Alausa Central Business District, Ikeja sits the massive edifice that houses the Gani Fawehinmi Library and Gallery as well as the Nigerian Law Publications, Nigeria’s pioneer weekly law reporting outfit.
The Vision of the Gani Fawehinmi Library
The library occupies 3 floors in the building. There is the archives section in the basement or underground and the first floor is the area for members to access the library. Offices are also contained there. The 2nd floor also holds books. Don’t miss this, the library is not a law library, it’s a public library with collections in Medicine, Engineering, Politics, Economics, Philosophy and even new areas like Information and Communication Technology etc. The membership of the library cuts across different professions in addition to lawyers.
I was really impressed. “Chief Gani Fawehinmi was committed to the development of education in Nigeria”, Mr. Ekeocha explained in response to my question on the vision in establishing the library. “This was influenced by the death of his father during his law studies in London. His education was nearly jeopardized”.
“Gani’s vision in setting up the library was to ensure that Nigerians have access to a public library. He started gathering his collections which included non law books to make this a reality. In fact, his law chambers’ library had none law materials”.
Running and Funding of the Library
The library and the gallery is funded by Gani from the grave as it was established under his will. According to Mr. Ekeocha, “this library is funded from trust funds created under Gani’s will and we cannot go outside the dictates of the will in the running of the library. We have Directors and Trustees who share in the vision and carry out the dictates of his will. We are keeping the vision alive 5 years after his death despite challenges in the areas of readership and patronage”.
Continuing further, he said;
“Our sister company, the Nigerian Law Publications Limited has also been very supportive. We on our own partly raise funds through membership fees”
Structure of the Gani Fawehinmi Library
As I pointed out earlier, the library is a public library with collections in virtually all fields of learning.
Mr. Uche Ekeocha heads a team of 5 qualified librarians who attend to the daily needs of readers. Work starts by 8am daily at the library but the library can be accessed by the public from 9am to 5 pm on Mondays to Fridays. Mr. Ekeocha told me there were plans to keep the library open on weekends and public holidays.
The library also makes use of ICT facilities in meeting the needs of members. The cataloguing is electronic and Mr. Ekeocha also told me they have plans to store the materials in their archives electronically (view the e-catalogue here and the list of newspapers and magazines in the archives here).
Resources of the Library
Speaking of the Archives, I was given a tour of each section of the library housed on different floors.
“We have collections in virtually all fields of learning running into over 4 million of in books, magazines, journals and periodic publications etc. Our Archives section has all newspapers and magazines published in Nigeria dating as far back as 1968 till date bound in booklets”, Mr. Uche showed me as he beamed with pride. I saw newspapers that have gone out of circulation before I was born.
“We also have over 400 bibliographical items on Chief Gani Fawehinmi published over the period of his life and death”, he said as he gave one copy (see picture below) and I think he could read my fears that those priceless resources could be lost to a fire outbreak or other natural disasters.
“We have plans to preserve these materials in electronic format”, he said and I sighed and breathed an air of relief.
Related Article I Met Gani in Court
The Gani Fawehinmi Gallery
We veered off to the issue of the Chief Gani Fawehinmi Gallery and why it was not functional yet. Mr. Ekeocha said;
“The gallery was established to depict the life and times of Chief Gani Fawehinmi and like the library was also covered in his will. It will exhibit items like Gani’s various prison uniforms, court robes, prison cups and other items. We also have visual images of his activities and life. We also have over 400 bibliographical materials on Gani, his activities, write ups and quotes in our collection”.
On the nagging question of when the gallery will open its doors to the public, he said; “the gallery will be operational soonest. All the materials have been gathered together and would be professionally set up and exhibited. After that, we would be open to the public”
Membership & Patronage
Membership of the Gani Fawehinmi Library cuts across people in different disciplines and Mr. Ekeocha informed me they have members who use the library for specific purposes i.e. preparation for examinations and general members who use the library to update their knowledge. The former seems to be more than the latter.
There are Institutional/Corporate and Individual membership platforms.
Institutional/Corporate membership costs N75,000.00 per annum with full access to all sections of the library and benefits from all services including but not limited to current newspapers, books, journals/magazines, archives, internet access, e-mail alerts, limited borrowing rights etc
Individual membership is in 3 forms;
Limited Access (Undergraduate Student Membership) at the cost of N5,000.00 per annum with access/benefits are books and photocopy (at a fee).
Partial Access at the cost of N10,000.00 per annum with access to current newspapers, books and photocopy (at a fee)
Unlimited Access at N30,000.00 per annum with access/benefits including archives, current newspapers, books, journals/magazines, internet access, e-mail alerts, photocopy (at a fee)
Gold membership which lasts for a 5 year duration at N100,000.00 and has the same benefits and access as Unlimited Access.
I am sure going for the Partial Access at N10,000.00 and if you want to subscribe to any of the membership, click here to download the membership forms. You can also get the other requirements for membership by clicking here.
“Our greatest challenge is low publicity”, he responded to my greatest surprise. I thought it would be funding. “Even many people complain they are not aware of the existence of the library. Though we have had support from media houses like Channels Television, the Guardian, Daily Independent etc but yet our facilities are greatly underutilized”, he concluded.
Other challenges he said were people not willing to pay for services on account of Gani’s philanthropy. “They expect our services to be free but that is not possible as even the library is meant to be self sufficient in future”.
It was a worthwhile experience and I have billed my next trip to be for registration as a member. That is the least I could do to support Gani’s dreams and legacy. Celebrate Gani by visiting the The Gani Fawehnmi Library & Gallery, appreciate his struggles and contribution to the world by becoming a member and keep his legacy alive by telling others of the library.