‘Lagos Justice Administration Inadequate, Needs Review’ | Independent Newspapers Limited
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‘Lagos Justice Administration Inadequate, Needs Review’

Posted: Nov 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chukwudi Nweje,


The various agencies like the Citizens’ Mediation Centre, the Office of the Public Defender, and other similar agencies established by the Lagos State Government under the Ministry of Justice to provide various types of formal and informal legal and social services to the ordinary residents of Lagos are ineffective and incapable of discharging the responsibilities reposed in them because “many of the staff members who populate these citizens agencies and centres are career civil servants who lack the training, skill, compassion and commitment to fulfil the mandate of these agencies.”

This was the position taken by the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) in a letter to the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, dated November 2, 2015 and signed by its National Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma, a copy of which was made available to Daily Independent in Lagos.

In the letter, NOPRIN said that the administration of justice agencies were not functioning at its best and therefore called on Governor Ambode to as a matter of urgency, review their staff, composition and procedures with a view to making them more responsive to the needs of the state.

NOPRIN, which said it had interphased with some of the agencies and referred cases to them, through petitions, added that, “our general observation is that these agencies, on many occasions, have been unable to render satisfactory services to citizens who seek their intervention. This, in our humble opinion, is because, a lot of the staff members who populate these citizens agencies and centres are career civil servants who lack the training, skill, compassion and commitment to fulfil the mandate of these agencies.”

It said that on many occasions, women who were victims of persistent domestic violence, and who complained to some of these agencies, were “blamed and simply advised to go and settle with her husband, or told ‘don’t allow anyone take over your husband’, without being sensitive to, and considering the real threat to the physical safety, emotional health and psychological integrity of the women.”

The letter entitled ‘A Call on the Lagos State Governor to Review the Staff Composition and Procedures of Lagos State Justice Administration Agencies With a View to Professionalising Them to Achieve Their Purpose and Mandate’ read in part, “We understand the purpose and good intentions of the Lagos State Government in establishing these agencies, which include to enhance access to justice for the poor and other vulnerable groups such as women and children who are victims of crime and injustices. Lagos state government set up these formal and informal justice administration agencies to serve the needs of the poor and vulnerable sections of the society, especially the poor, women and children who are the main subjects of human rights abuses…

“The people currently heading and working in these agencies lack the professional competence and commitment to provide the services they are established to render to the people. They don’t seem to share the vision and mission of the government that set up the agencies.

“NOPRIN had recently intervened in a case of a woman who was a victim of persistent assault and battery by her husband- a drug- offences convict. We informed the police. The police refused to invite and caution the man or take necessary actions to deter him. They simply blamed the woman and asked her to go and settle with her husband. Eventually, the woman died in her friend’s house two days after she ran there for refuge after another vicious assault by her husband who later threw her out after midnight. The same police arrested the dead woman’s friend and her husband in whose house she died while taking refuge. The police compelled the detained couple to pay money for their bail after days of unlawful detention.

“Now, another woman is facing similar assault and threat from her Indian-hemp addicted husband who has, for the umpteenth time, thrown her out after series of assaults that have landed her in hospital many times. This is despite interventions by the families of the couple to reconcile them. In one of the reconciliation meetings, the man admitted being violent and wrote an undertaking to be of good behaviour.

“Later, when this violence continued, and the woman reported to NOPRIN, we wrote to the police (to investigate the man for violence and threat, and to guarantee the woman’s safety). We also wrote to the Lagos State Citizens’ Mediation Centre, and later (when we were dissatisfied), to the Lagos state Office of Public Defender (to address the issue of custody of the couple’s 7-year-old twin boys).

“The man has for several months, after he threw his wife out, continued to threaten her and denied the woman access to the children, despite evidence that the children are not being well catered for and are craving for their mother.

“Unfortunately, these two agencies – the Mediation Centre and the Office of the Public Defender- completely ignored the woman’s safety concerns and the best interest of the children, and resorted to blaming the victim, and asked her to go and settle with her husband without any attempt to even get the man to commit in writing not to continue to abuse, assault and threaten the life of his wife.

“Shall we wait until another woman dies in the hands of an unrepentant violent husband, like in the former case mentioned above, before we drop this empty religious and misguided ‘marriage at all cost’ mentality?

“NOPRIN hereby calls on the Lagos State Governor to order a review of the composition and procedures of these agencies. Only professionals who understand the mission and vision of the government, and who are committed to the mandate of these agencies, should be posted to them,” the letter concluded.