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Robust judiciary: Lagos’ game changer for good governance, investment drive

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Sir Alexander Hamilton, an American military officer and Secretary of Treasury (1789-1795) once said: “I think the first duty of society is justice”. Taking it further is the aphorism, “justice must not only be seen to have been done, it must be seen to have been well done”. These are powerful quotes that underscore the importance of good justice delivery to the health of any society. With Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu identifying robust Justice delivery as stimulant of good governance, the governor is not only demonstrating his humanity, he’s also following a trajectory.

For instance, we have justice under the Security and Good Governance leg of this administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S plus agenda and the governor has not reneged on efforts to make justice delivery accessible and timely in the state. After all, Lagos is one of the very few states that have been administered by the same political party since the inception of the fourth republic. Therefore, there have been continuity of programmes and policies for successive administrations to leverage on. And as far as justice delivery is concerned, the governor has been intentional in expanding the scope and injecting new ideas towards achieving smooth justice delivery in Lagos State.

In furtherance to the institutional reforms kick-started by President Bola Tinubu as governor in the state, Sanwo-Olu has deliberately expanded the reform agenda by identifying the role of the judiciary towards full realization of the state’s investment potentials. Sanwo-Olu stressed this at a Justice Reform Summit organised by Lagos State Judiciary with the theme: “Enhancing the Administration of Justice for Economic Growth, Investment Protection and Security in Lagos”, held at the Marriott hotel, GRA, Ikeja, recently.

Drawing a parallel with Singapore – a fishing village with environmental similarities with Lagos, Sanwo-Olu said Singapore’s faith in rule of law and fairness transformed the efficiency of the country’s justice system, leading to the country’s rapid economic growth and prosperity.

He said: “Singapore is what it is today because of Ease of Doing Business. It takes less than 30 minutes to register a business in Singapore, which makes it to surpass many countries in Ease of Doing Business. Singapore has one of the best judiciary system in the world; they have quick turnaround time in mediation and dispute resolution.” Sanwo-Olu noted during the conference that judicial reform must remain on the agenda in a functional society in order to improve administration of justice system and make the court the last hope of the common man.

Given people’s apathy for the judicial process owing to delays and denials, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Lawal Pedro, SAN, at the summit proposed a trial period of 18 months for civil cases from the commencement date, six months for simple debt recovery cases, and three months for cases involving the recovery of arrears of rent and possession of premises. He believed the policy when implemented would restore public confidence in the courts and validate Lagos judiciary as a beacon in protecting the rule of law and setting good examples for other jurisdictions in the dispensation of justice.

Lagos has not just being for show, it has always set the pace. Be it high profile case of child molestation that involved Nollywood actor, Olanrewaju James (well known as Baba Ijesha), or that of lawyer Bolanle Raheem, who was shot dead by a trigger-happy policeman on Christmas Day 2022, and securing compensation for families of victims of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) killings. The Sanwo-Olu administration had led by example.

In the same vein, the governor is enhancing the capacity of the state’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), which is statutorily assigned to rid the state of all forms of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and end the culture of silence in that space. The agency, under the Ministry of Justice, has been further energised to prevent and respond to domestic and sexual violence cases in Lagos. Under the supervision of Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, DSVA recognises the expediency of cultural and mindset shift in tackling SGBV by focusing on long term gains even as it strikes the balance between responding to the current issues and preventing tomorrow’s concerns.

Over the years, the agency has activated its instruments of awareness creation, community and school engagements, and support system by collaborating with relevant Non-Governmental Organizations and support groups.

Meanwhile, the forte of the agency is to break the culture of silence by urging victims to speak up when faced with SGBV. The agency also guarantee survivors, institutional support provided they come forward to report. The agency has a X handle @lagosdvsa and a line dedicated to the public use 08000333333. Also using the instrumentality of state, the agency makes arrests, prosecute and convict SGBV suspects. Only recently the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court convicted one Sunday Uche to Life Imprisonment for defiling a four-year old girl.

As far back as 1999, Lagos has led the way in justice reform. As Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who would later become Vice President, undertook far reaching reforms that addressed critical areas such as judges’ recruitment, remuneration, training and discipline. He facilitated access to justice for the poor by establishing appropriate institutions in the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and the Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC) thereby repositioning the ministry from a “law and order” agency under the military, to a citizen-focused department of justice.

Lagos has not set its eyes away from justice for all since then.

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