Lagos government seeks support on decongestion of correctional facilities
Lagos State Ministry of Justice, through the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has held a stakeholders’ meeting to further enhance and promote plea-bargain and district prosecutors’ scheme of the state government.
In a statement, yesterday, the state’s Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), said that the meeting, which was a hybrid version of both physical and online, was an opportunity to create more awareness about the plea bargain and the district prosecutors’ scheme, as well as a platform to receive feedback from stakeholders on how to improve and further strengthen the scheme.
According to the attorney-general, the scheme took off in April 2020, following the recommendations of the advisory committee on police prosecutors at the Magistrate Courts, chaired by Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey (former Solicitor-General of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice), to set up a review mechanism that will ensure residents are not unnecessarily detained for charges that are civil in nature.
The commissioner also stated that plea-bargain had served as an important tool to keep the wheel of justice moving in a timely and cost-effective manner as it had helped to decongest the extremely congested correctional facilities in the state.
Onigbanjo reiterated the administration’s commitment to enhancing the administration of criminal justice in the state with the implementation of the use of video conferencing in criminal proceedings, magistrates’ visit to police stations on monthly basis, prohibition of media parade of suspects, remote hearing, award of compensation to victims of crime, among others.
He, however, urged the continued cooperation and partnership of stakeholders to implement the laudable initiatives.
The Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Titilayo Shitta-Bey, stated in her welcome address that the state government had done a lot to improve on its administration of justice system with the various innovations designed by the state, which has set the pace for other states.
According to her, the plea-bargain has also assisted in the decongestion of prisons and promotion of speedy dispensation of justice in Lagos State, which is not restricted to particular persons but for everyone, irrespective of the person’s status (rich or poor/illiterate or literate), race and tribe.
Also, Director Public Prosecutions of the ministry, Mrs. Adeyinka Adeyemi, said that the essence of the workshop was to eliminate the perceived misconception on plea-bargaining, hence the need for the sensitisation programme for stakeholders in the legal community, as well as the public.
She, however, reiterated that the application for plea-bargaining is free while noting that over 500 applications have been reviewed and considered.
The state Programme Coordinator of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) programme, Mrs. Ajibola Ijimakinwa, noted that the body had partnered with the ministry on plea-bargain with the training of judges, magistrates and prosecutors and also the development of a plea-bargain manual to sensitise lawyers and also judicial correspondents on how to report plea-bargain processes and outcomes accurately.