Published On: Mon, Apr 24th, 2017

UN, Prison Fellowship trains Police, Warders, others on Justice Reform in Nigeria

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Ayodele Samuel,Lagos

In a bid to improve the justice system in Nigeria, the United Nations, Federal and Lagos State Governments have partnered with the Prison Fellowship of Nigeria on training of Police officers, Prison and other officials incharge of justice administration system in the country.

During the training members of the Nigeria Police, Prison Services and Ministries of justice engaged in a brainstorming session to improve justice system in the country.

About 75 participants comprising of Magistrates, Police officers, Prison officers, Prosecutors from Ministry of Justice & scocial volunteers participates at the Restorative Justice Diversion and Mediation in criminal matters training workshop which ended in Lagos last week.‎

Assistant Director, International Cooperation Department, Mr. Johnson Bareyei, said the training was necessary to put Nigeria on the right track in her justice system.

He said, “We have a major task to ensure that the country achieves its objectives in terms of development. One of the key ingredient of national development is rule of law and good governance. In their absence, development will be a mirage. Unfortunately over the years, our judicial system has been bedevilled with a lot of challenges. We still have a lot of inmates awaiting trial and when people are not sure that they will receive justice, they may wrongfully begin to take laws into their hands.”

The Project Coordinator (Support to the Justice sector in Nigeria), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Dr Uju Agomoh, noted that the justice system in Nigeria needed to be improved upon.

She recommended that the country should upgrade her justice system by adopting and implementing restorative justice system.

She said, “The criminal justice system in Nigeria do have some challenges but we have noticed certain attempt to address those issues. Part of which is the passage of the Criminal Justice Act in the country. We are also looking at intervening in the problem by coordinating programmes as well as building the capacity of justice sector institutions. For instance, this particular programme is actually looking at ways of enhancing the quality of administration of criminal justice.

“We feel that introducing restorative justice will help the victims, the offenders and community involved. We believe that this will also help us to reduce the number of people in prison.”

The Executive Director of Prison Fellowship of Nigeria, Benson Iwuagwu lamented the delay experienced in the criminal justice of Nigeria.

He complained that some inmates while in prison got to stay beyond the period ordinarily attachable to their offences.

Benson, who doubles as the Coordinator of Lagos Restorative Justice Pilot Project, said, “We feel that people should not be imprisoned unjustly and that we should begin to address the fundamental issue, which we discovered to be our administration of criminal justice. We feel that the restorative system of justice is very doable and consistent with our African traditional system or dispute resolution.

“After conducting a couple of conferences, we can come out positive to say that restorative justice is something that our system and society needs. It will decongest the prison and when it comes to criminal adjudication, the victims will have a sense that justice has truly been done when his/her are feelings are considered in resolving such conflict.”

Benson faulted the current criminal justice system in Nigeria, saying that it was alien.

He said, “It is rather unfortunate, though not the fault of anybody but the manifestation of our common law system, that we inherited our current criminal justice system from Britain, which has an adversarial nature. It is not reconciliatory but a winner-takes-all system that aims to keep the king’s peace.

“The present justice system is only concerned with maintaining the king’s peace and that is why you see that every crime is charged State versus others. People come back from prison and their victims are still afraid of them. So, neither the offender nor the victims get any sense of justice nor the society and that is why we have high rate of dissatisfaction.”

Lagos State Assistant Comptroller of Prison, Edward Joy, expressed conviction that restorative justice system would aid the decongestion of prisons.

Photo

Sitting L-R Hon. Justice C.C.Ani, Executive Director of Prison Fellowship of Nigeria‎ Benson Iwuagwu, Chief Magistrate Mrs. A. Soladoye,Assistant Director, International Cooperation Department, Mr. Johnson ‎ Bareyei ,Director, Federal Ministry of Budget & Planning, ‎Micheal Batley during the Restorative Justice Diversion and Mediation in criminal matters training workshop‎ in Lagos recently.

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