Babatunde Fashola, the Lagos State governor, has restated his administration’s commitment to provide more than 100 magistrate courts across the state.
Mr. Fashola made this remark, Tuesday, during the commissioning of the Office of the Public Defender complex at Surulere, Lagos.
“We have seen reforms in paper, we have seen reforms in people, and we have seen reforms in physical infrastructures,” said Mr. Fashola.
“Almost everything that emanated from the Justice reforms was started in 1999, and of course has become the standards and benchmarks for the whole of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The complex, a three storey edifice built by Messrs Moreno Group, was originally scheduled to be commissioned two weeks ago but had to be rescheduled after an early morning storm tore away a section of the roof.
In his welcome address, Ade Ipaye, the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, described the OPD as “the manifestation of public spirited thinking.
“It appeals directly to the ideals of a just and egalitarian society in which the rights of all men and women, whether young or old, rich or poor, are protected with equal force by the laws and authorities of the land,” said Mr. Ipaye.
‘Cause to smile’
Since its inception in the year 2000, the OPD has handled 34,100 cases ranging from petitions, courts matters, and police station matters.
In 2011 alone, it handled 1243 cases, concluding 624 of them while 619 are still ongoing.
In addition, it recovered almost N15 million, last year, in compensation on behalf of petitioners.
“The OPD since inception has risen to the occasion and shared responsibility that we have been carrying alone to the fact that when we have vases now, we find it easy to refer to the OPD,” said Olasupo Ojo, a representative of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.
“We also monitor the cases. They always have cause to smile at the end of the day,” Mr. Ojo added.
Some beneficiaries of the free legal services of the OPD in the past told their stories to the gathering.
Diya Olu, a beneficiary, said that the OPD helped to settle the property dispute among his family members.
“The very first meeting of our family in 60 years was held in the DPP (Director of Public Prosecution)’s office and since then she has never left us alone,” said Mr. Olu, who said his great grand father died 92 years ago and left them properties in eight streets in Ebute Metta.
“And by the grace of God, we were able to obtain a Memorandum of Understanding,” Mr. Olu added.
Another beneficiary narrated how he was beaten up by four officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps while applying for a Driver’s Licence.
“I went to their head office at Ojodu Berger and they summoned four of them but I (was) not okay with the judgment.
“So I (came) to the Office of the Public Defender to take the matter up. They charged them to court. When they received the letter from OPD, they started begging that they don’t want to lose their jobs, that they have a family,” said the beneficiary.
The case of Uzoma Okere, the lady whom the Lagos High Court ordered to be paid N100 million by the Nigerian Navy after she was assaulted by naval ratings in 2009 was cited as among the OPD’s ‘high profile’ cases by both Mr. Fashola and Bola Tinubu.
“That is a classic case of what the OPD should do in a democracy especially when we have just come out of the military rule with its characteristic impunity,” said Mr. Tinubu, who was represented by Yemi Osinbajo, a one time Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State.
Some of those who attended the event included Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, the Lagos State Deputy Governor; Inumidun Akande, the Chief Judge of Lagos State; Olasupo Shasore, the immediate past Attorney-General of Lagos State; and Oluremi Tinubu, the Senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial district; among others.
Mr. Fashola noted that the commitment of the Lagos State government is ensure the delivery of justice “irrespective of your means.”
“This commitment is historic because, perhaps, never in the history of our country has there been such a public commitment and dedication of resources to the pursuit of justice like Lagos State has done since 1999,” said Mr. Fashola.
“Citizens must rest assured that whatever part of this country they come from, whatever tribe they speak, whatever the level of their means, that we will ensure that they get justice even if the heavens will fall,” he added.
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