· Inaugurates the Nigeria Police Force and DPP focal group
In a bid to decongest correctional facilities and ensure quick dispensation of justice, the Lagos State Government has launched a restorative justice centre and secretariat of the Criminal Justice Sector Reform Committee (CJSRC).
The Lagos State restorative justice centre will serve as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and a tool for decongesting the courts of less serious cases.
In his address the Chief Judge of Lagos State, who also serves as the Chairman of CJSRC, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba, noted that the restorative system of justice is not alien but has been in existence for over three decades to ensure peaceful resolution of disputes.
Justice Alogba, ably represented by Hon. Justice Adenike Coker, stated that the traditional justice system has suffered many setbacks with an evident increase in the rate of crime, long prosecution process and overcrowding of correctional facilities amongst others.
He, therefore, stated that the restorative justice centre is a welcome development as restorative justice referrals from courts and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) can be settled amicably at the centre.
In his address, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, observed that the restorative justice system has been a dominant method of dealing with conflict for most of human history as it existed alongside a diverse range of other practices, including retribution, hence its adoption by the State.
Pointing out that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that matters are resolved in a reasonable and timely manner, Onigbanjo said that delays tend to make people find alternatives and take laws into their hands to get what they consider justice.
“A Restorative justice centre is a form of alternative dispute resolution and we are determined to deploy it as a tool for decongesting as many of the less serious cases in the docket of the court system and invariably the overcrowded correctional centres”.
He explained further that the restorative justice system is a process where all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to collectively resolve how to deal with the aftermath of the offence. It usually involves a trained facilitator.
The Attorney-General disclosed that the State government, in partnership with The Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), has trained over 100 facilitators, magistrates, traditional rulers and police officers on restorative justice procedures.
The centre, according to Onigbanjo, is expected to raise awareness and build support for the restorative justice program as well as invite participation and collaboration with relevant stakeholders in implementing the model of justice. This initiative, he noted, further demonstrates the commitment of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration to expanding access to justice in addition to building a peaceful and safe community that is victim orientated.
Making her contribution, the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-bey, expressed delight at the launch of the centre, noting that it is another way of ensuring quick dispensation of justice while thanking the British Council, GIZ, ROLAC and other donor agencies for their unwavering support towards promoting a criminal justice system that wins the trust of the community.
The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document that would serve as a roadmap to ensure seamless collaboration between investigation prosecutors from the Police and the DPPs office at different stages of investigation up to the prosecution stage was presented during the occasion, just as the Nigeria Police Force and DPP focal group was also inaugurated to fast track and champion the process of investigation and prosecution.
There were also goodwill addresses from Mr. Gertjan de Gruijter of GIZ police programme, Lagos Commissioner of Police, CP Abiodun Alabi, represented by ACP Mary Anyim, and RoLAC State Coordinator, Mrs. Ajibola Ijimakinwa and Dr. Akeem Bello among others.
Also in attendance were officers of the Nigerian Police Force, Correctional facilities, Prison Fellowship of Nigeria, members of the RJ steering committee and relevant stakeholders.