By Henry Ojelu
Ahead of plan to begin full adoption of Restorative Justice system, the Lagos State Judiciary Wednesday began a two days training for magistrates on the application of the system.
Declaring the training open, Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke said the training was necessary to equip magistrates with necessary knowledge and skills on how to apply the system in their various courts.
Justice Oke stated that the decision to adopt restorative justice approach into the state judiciary was based on the need to ensure that offenders are not just punished but also reintegrated and restored back into society.
“We are changing the narrative in Lagos State by the introduction of Restorative Justice at the Magistrates Courts level. This will ensure that restorative justice outcomes are applied to many minor offences.
“Today in Nigeria, we have seen countless cases where defendants are arrested for minor offences – burglary, wandering, two fighting and so on. They are locked up in our prisons for the flimsiest reasons and join the teeming population awaiting trial.
“In fact the Awaiting trial inmates account for more than 75% of the inmates in our prisons today. They are in our prisons with hardened criminals and by the time they come out they have been initiated into a life of crime and are ready to spread terror, death and destruction in their post-prison escapades.
“We are changing that narrative in Lagos State by the introduction of Restorative Justice at the Magistrates Courts level. This will ensure that restorative justice outcomes are applied to many minor offences
This training is being held in keeping with my vision to ensure the entrenchment of restorative justice in the administration of justice in Lagos State to create more avenues for access to justice and a holistic approach to criminal justice administration.
She urged the magistrates to ensure that they used the training to equip themselves with requisite knowledge and skills needed to ensure efficient and effective application of the new system.
“You, your Honours, will be the mediators, which is the reason for putting together this training to enable you understand the basic principles of restorative justice, its workings, what we hope to achieve and how it can help to decongest our prisons.
“The skills you will learn at this Training will be a foundation to your effective mediation in our Restorative Justice Centres. So I enjoin you all to pay rapt attention and take all you can from this training. You are at the vanguard of this revolution in the Criminal Justice space of Lagos State. We must make it work and set an example for the whole country to follow,” she said.
Justice Oke noted that the system would soon be officially launched along with the establishment of restorative justice centres in the seven magisterial districts in the state.
She said: “Lagos State Judiciary, under this administration, has decided to take the bull by the horn and start this project and is set to roll out restorative justice centres in the seven (7) Magisterial districts of Lagos State. The Practice Direction on Restorative Justice will also be launched after this training.”