Legal Aid / ADR

Background Information

  • The criminal justice system in Oyo state is slow; this could be linked to corruption, the criminal procedure laws and bureaucracy.
  • The police arrest criminals and in some cases fail to provide necessary documents for the prosecution of the case.
  • There are delays from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in issuing out legal advice and information papers to the courts in pending cases. As a result, a suspect is either remanded in the police cell or sent to Agodi Prison and this has consequently congested the prison. For instance, the Prison that is meant originally to accommodate 294 inmates presently accommodates up to 634 inmates out with 53 convicts and 581 awaiting trials.
  • The shortest length of time an armed robbery suspect will be in prison before going on trial after arrest is six months, while the Nigerian Constitution says that trials should start at most 2 months after arrest.
  • The customary courts which the state has jurisdiction over has been politicized and appointment of judges based on political patronage, therefore, some illiterate, incompetent and people of low integrity have been appointed to preside in the court.  Because their appointment is based on political patronage their tenure in office is unstable as they are immediately removed when a new government assume position of authority in the state. This results often in the miscarriage of justice by these judges, e.g. sending to prison suspects who should have been given only warning or community service.

INTERVENTION STRATEGY

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OBJECTIVES:

  • To enforce human rights of indigent awaiting trial inmates of Agodi prison
  • Promote and provide alternative dispute resolution
  • Build the capacity of stakeholders in the criminal justice system
  • Advocate for reforms in the criminal justice system
  • Use media for enlightenment and stimulate policy change

APPROACHES/METHODOLOGY/STRATEGY ADOPTED:

  • Legal aid
  • Mediation
  • Networking/courtesy visits
  • Trainings/workshops
  • Public enlightenment through media
  • Advocacy & lobbying

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Networking Partners

  • Police, especially the Investigating Police Officers (IPO) and the officer in charge of legal matters
  • Director of public prosecution in the Ministry of Justice
  • The Federal legal aid council
  • The Prison authority
  • Voluntary prison apostolate members, which include:
  • The Redemptorists & - The Carmelites
  • Divine Mercy devotees
  • Legion of Mary & Nurse’s Guild
  • Pro La bore & SMA Fathers
  • Our Lady of Apostles Sisters
  • Catholic Women Organization
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • SS Peter and Paul Major Seminary

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Prospects:

  1. There is the possibility of achieving reform in the criminal justice system given the cooperation of some of our partners and the fact that there is a general consensus that the criminal justice system is slow.
  2. Missio Aachen has in the last three years facilitated internal reorganization, programme realignment and regional capacity building within the Nigeria Catholic Congress of Prison Pastoral Care (NCCPPC).  Complementing this development is the recently concluded nationwide assessment of the Catholic Prison and Prisoner’s Rights Programme funded by Misereor Aachen. These two major interventions have brought a new wave of solid structure and enhanced capacity to NCCPPC in consonance with the new dispensation in the criminal justice reform effort of the Federal Government of Nigeria. To this end, the programme of the commission will be aligning with the NCCPPC new strategy for policy advocacy, and the adoption of a pragmatic approach to reform advocacy: “POLICE STATION MONITORING” the police station being the entry point to criminal justice system. This approach, hopefully in collaboration with the Human Rights desk of the Nigeria police, will entail case analysis at the police level in order to determine cases requiring ADR and those bound for litigation. This will significantly checkmate overburdening of the judiciary, delayed police prosecution and congestion of prisons by awaiting trial inmates.

Challenges

  • Existing slow justice system is affecting our performance as legal aid officers
  • Lack of a comprehensive programme for rehabilitation of released prisoners
  • Corruption on the part of police which makes them charge some suspects for offences not commit
  • Obsolete laws on prison services