By Emmanuel Udom
Bayo Akinlade, Esq, convener of FIACIJ, has reacted to the online report/documentary titled: JUSTICE FOR SALE, saying that he is deeply saddened by it.
According to Bayo, the international community’s rating of the Lagos State Judiciary as the 3rd most corrupt institution in 2019 comes as a rude shock and an indictment on not just the institution but an indictment of the profession that runs the institution i.e. the legal profession
The video tracks a corruption ring that begins with the police and ends with the correctional services with the courts and lawyers in the middle of the conspiracy either as passive or/and active players in the corruption circle.
No doubt that our administration of criminal justice leaves much to be desired but I would like to outline some issues here that will encourage us that all is not lost.
The legal community through the 3 arms of government and the NBA has done its bit to curb corruption within the administration of criminal justice system by establishing a scheme called the *Police Duty Solicitors Scheme* [PDSS]. This scheme ensures that a lawyer working probono, has access to the police station to provide *free* legal assistance to suspects upon arrest.
The scheme is a first responder’s intervention mechanism to counter acts of indiscriminate arrest and detention by the police .
All NBA Branches in Lagos State are currently running the scheme in selected police stations around the State. This initiative has reduced the number of people unlawfully arrested and detained by the police. It has further helped in decongesting the courts.
The Lagos State Judiciary has since 2018 designated Chief Magistrates to visit police detention centers at least once a month to ensure that the rights of suspects are not violated and no one is detained beyond the required legal limit.
The Lagos State Ministry of Justice has recently deployed senior state counsel to Magistrate Courts around Lagos to filter charges brought in by the police; ensuring that the process of charging a suspect to court is no longer subject to abuse.
The NBA in Ikorodu devised a court centered prison decongestion initiative in partnership with the Office of the Public Defender and the Judiciary with grant support from Total E&P Coop Society to decongest the prisons and courts by providing free legal representation to inmates who have no legal representation.
With all these interventions, it is hard to say that the government and the NBA are complicit in this corruption in our justice delivery sector. It is however clear that we need more awareness and tighter measures in ensuring that those responsible for the corruption within our administration of criminal justice sector are identified and promptly shown the way out.
THE ROLE OF THE CITIZEN
One thing is clear from the video, in a bid to release their loved one from police detention and subsequent prosecution, family members are quick to give in to the extortion by offering a bribe. The question then arises, are they not aware that they can approach the court directly? Are they not aware that they can approach the NBA, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria or the National Human Rights Commission?
Are they not aware that they can approach other NGOs or simply just allow the police do their investigations and call a lawyer to offer services? If they have money to give bribes, surely they can use the money to pay a lawyer for his services.
The public needs more information and awareness; this is probably where the judiciary and the NBA should collaborate more to sensitize the public through traditional and social media channels.
Each year, the NBA branches in Lagos embark on a law week programme. These law weeks should be more community focused and should be used as a tool to create awareness about how the justice system works.
We, at Fight Against Corruption in the Judiciary [FIACIJ] will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders with a view to finding lasting solutions to the corruption problems faced within the Lagos State Judiciary and the judiciary in general.
Please contact us by text on *08065172866* to report any corrupt court official or if you have any general complaints. You may also visit your nearest NBA Branch for assistance.
Adebayo Akinlade, Esq, chairman, Ikorodu NBA and convener of FIACIJ, is the principal partner of Bayo Akinlade & Co. He could be reached on:
+234 806 517 2866