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On Lagos’ special corruption and sexual offences courts

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Sir: Across the globe, especially in the developed world, the idea of specialised courts has proven to have enhanced the performances of their judicial processes and this has made these countries reference points for quick dispensation of justice, fairness and functional legal systems.

Indonesia and Malaysia provide interesting case study on this. They established constitutional courts, administrative courts, commercial courts, land courts, fisheries courts and tax courts.

The recent disclosure by the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke that over 50 per cent of cases in Nigeria courts today borders on corrupt practices and sexual abuses is not only shocking but calls for a more strategic approach to reverse the status quo.

While the volumes of court cases continue to increase on a daily basis, the numbers of available Judges to preside over these litigations remains grossly inadequate.

In fact, the few Judges are sometimes confronted with the challenge of administering cases that do not fall within their core scope of jurisdiction in the absence of a specialist jurist. The challenges posed by these developments are multifaceted ranging from skyrocketing court cases, non-appearances by litigants, unavailability of witnesses, inadequate judges, ceaseless adjournments and many more.
 
Unlike other legal issues, the incidences of sexual abuses are such that require speedy judgment considering its vicious effect and irreparable emotional damage on its survivors and the possibility of grooming more potential abusers if stringent punishments are not meted out to the perpetrators to serve as deterrent to others in a swift and appropriate manner.

In the same vein, the issue of corruption is also another monster that has left the country in a state of perpetual underdevelopment up till now. One cannot dispute the fact that if the war against corruption is won, so many other things will start falling in their rightful places for all Nigerians.

Demonstrating its resolve to signal a tougher warning to individuals and master-minds of sexual abuses and corrupt practices, Lagos State Government recently inaugurated a Special/Sexual Offences Court to solely administer corrupt cases and sexual related issues. In addition to this, core professional lawyers on issues relating to sexual abuses and corrupt practices have been designated to preside over cases in these courts. 

According to statistics, there are over 500 cases of financial crime pending before the high court, the bulk of which have now been assigned to the Special Offences Courts.

The initiative of the Special Courts will make it possible for other regular courts in the State to concentrate on other legal issues and will also aid quick dispensation of justice in these courts.
 
The establishment of the Lagos Special Courts further bring to fore a renewed attention which the state government is paying to the elimination of all forms of heinous crimes against humanity.

These Special Courts will among other functions, fast-track the trial of identified special cases and encourage the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and other relevant bodies like Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, to expedite the investigation and prosecution of such cases.
 
Although the possibility of totally ridding the society of these vices remains a very long-term vision but one way to ensure that the society follows the path of civility is by ensuring that the legal system works and is sensitive to needs of the survivors.

• Adekunbi Bakare is a public affairs officer based in Lagos.


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