By Hauwa Isa
Following the passage of the bill forbidding the parade of a suspect by police in Lagos State, the State House of Assembly has assured of the pilot implementation of decriminalization of Petty offences in the state.
Speaking through the chairman house committee on judiciary, human rights and public petition, Mr Victor Akande, the lawmakers stated, petty offences do not constitute a threat to the safety of the public, law and order in the state.
Akande, who gave the assurance in his goodwill message at the consultative workshop on the development of an action plan for the decriminalisation of petty offences in South-West pilot States (Lagos and Oyo) in Ikeja, Lagos.
The two-day workshop was organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), with support from the Network of African National Human Rights Institution (NANHRI).
Participants were drawn from NHRC, Ministry of Justice in Lagos and Oyo, Houses of Assembly in Lagos and Oyo, Nigeria Police, Nigeria Correctional Services, Legal Aid Council and Civil Society Organisations.
Speaking on the theme, Akande said that the decision to develop an action plan for the decriminalization of petty offences in Lagos State was a step in the right direction, stressing that such was long overdue.
He said that the state legislature has a huge role to play in the decriminalization of petty offences through law reforms.
He said: “There is, therefore, a need to decriminalize these offences, which consequently eliminates the marginalization and discrimination of a sect of the society, reduce the congestion of the prisons, create a sense of inclusion in the state for the vulnerable and incapacitated.
“The need for the decriminalization of petty offences in Lagos State is prerequisite for the further strengthening of the judicial system.”
Akande commended the NHRC for being in forefront of the affairs in creating positive societal impact, particularly the development of an action plan for the decriminalization of petty offences.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu said that the objectives of the consultative forum were to increase dialogue and focus on the importance of decriminalization of petty offences, enhance partnership with state actors in the criminal justice system and Civil Society.
Represented by the commission’s Deputy Director of Investigation, Mr Iheme Richmond, Ojukwu said the forum was also to address the economic, social and cultural implications of petty offences to address challenges of social security in the country.
He noted with sadness that most awaiting trial in Nigeria Correctional centres were petty offences – Hawking, loitering, failure to pay the debt, begging amongst others, stressing that these offences have a strong link with poverty.
The Executive Secretary said the pilot consultative engagement for Lagos and Oyo states will be replicated in other zones of the country.
Mr David Barissa, Senior Programme Officer of NANHRI, said that the forum should be able to right the wrongs created by Colonia masters who introduced punishment for petty offences, stressing the need to implement recommendations from the forum.