ACCESS TO JUSTICE: WORKSHOP ON MONITORING OF DETENTION CENTERS

In Nigeria, there are a number of obstacles to the realization of Access to justice such as challenges of undue delays, high cost of litigation, reliance on technical rules locus standi, illiteracy which need to be addressed regularly.

Some lawyers and paralegals under the Lagos Legal Advice Scheme volunteered to monitor detention centers to ensure that the police respect human rights. The scheme is aimed at ensuring effective policing in line with international standards

The Legal advice monitoring scheme is a network comprising civil society groups working to improve access to justice for pre-trial suspects and detainees in Nigeria. Members of the network include:-

* Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE) - Executive Director Felicitas Aigbogun Brai

* Human Angle (HA) – Executive Director – Josephine Nzerem

* Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) – Executive Director – Adaobi Egboka

* Partnership for Justice (PJ) –Executive Director –Basil Ofili

* National Human Rights commission (NHRC)

A one day human rights networking day for civil society groups in Lagos was organized on the 24th of June 2016 at Cafe Neo in Victoria Island. The project was sponsored by Justice for All (J4A) a project of the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

At this workshop the volunteers reported what they observed, there were reports of suspects being detained in abandoned buildings rather than cells, that torture, including shooting suspects, was still used to extract confession from those suspected of committing serious crimes. They accused some Divisional Police Officers (DPO) of being uncooperative and difficult to deal with regarding suspects detained in their stations.

The organizations shared the impacts and gaps of the work in their various organizations. They discussed themes such as access to justice, social economic rights, domestic violence and sexual gender based violence. The group presentations captured the number of obstacles to access to justice to include substantive and procedural delays in administration of justice, cases that last between three to five years with adjournments, inability of judges and magistrates to deliver judgments, transfer of judges and cases starting de novo. Other challenges highlighted were bias in judicial prosecution with judges giving judgments on statement of witnesses, law provisions that hinder access to justice and violation of fair hearing with laws that negate fair hearing

At the end of the deliberations, some ways out of the these challenges were presented as law reforms and amendment to address injustice, collaborative suing by CSO’s and promoting access to justice as individuals, groups and CSO’s, enlightenment of the society on access to justice, training of justice delivery stakeholders on implementation of laws, lawyers, judges, police and prison officials. The legal system can only be made more responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians by guaranteeing that individuals and groups have access to justice in the country which consequentially will enhance human rights protection of everyone.

Report By: Barr.Isioma Okonkwo

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