Lagos okays deployment of district prosecutors to magistrate’s courts
Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), has said the state has concluded plan to deploy district prosecutors to magistrate’s courts to effect charges and review case files.
Onigbanjo disclosed this at the weekend in his office at Alausa, Ikeja, while speaking with newsmen on the report of the advisory committee chaired by Mr. Fola Arthur Worrey.
He said the district prosecutors would be deployed to Ogba, Ebute-Metta and Ikorodu magistrate’s courts as a pilot scheme.
According to him, “the district prosecutors would be vetting police charges before prosecution to determine if they are criminal or civil cases. The development would aid the decongestion of work-load in courts and prison population vis a vis ensuring an effective administration of criminal justice system in the state.”
He said part of the focus of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration is to ensure that Lagos residents no longer face unnecessary charges and detention at the police custody.
“We accept the recommendation of the committee to put in a filter mechanism. With immediate effect, we shall commence deployment of district prosecutors in three pilot magisterial districts (Ebute-Metta. lkorodu, Ogba) to vet charges and review case files presented by the Investigating Police Officers (IPOs) and ensure they meet the evidential threshold required by law,” he said.
Onigbanjo added that as rightly observed by the committee, “there is an urgent need to eventually deploy lawyers to prosecute criminal matters in the various courts, particularly at the magistrate’s courts.”
The complaint is that lay prosecutors often cannot respond adequately to legal challenges raised by defence counsel during trial, and inadequate skills to competently present their cases in courts.”
The attorney-general, who further stated that the immediate take over of all prosecutions by the DPP’s office is desirable, and same impracticable due to shortfall of personnel, logistical limitations, and financial implications, said: “We note that states that adopted sudden abolishment of lay prosecutors experienced challenges, which led to severe gridlock in the system as lay prosecutors usually abandon cases.
“Learning from such experience and to avoid gridlock in the system, we have decided to adopt a strategic model of streamlining the involvement of police prosecutors at all levels. We will meet with the police to categorise the offences lay prosecutors will handle, while we will ensure adequate monitoring of such cases.”
The AG reiterated that the Ministry of Justice and Police enjoyed a good working relationship and were always providing the police with technical and infrastructural support as well as enhancing the capacity of their prosecutors and investigators.
“We will continue to collaborate with the police and engage the Commissioner of Police to deliberate and find lasting solutions to issues as they arise. The CP, being a major stakeholder in the administration of justice, also participates in the Criminal Justice Sector Reform Committee, chaired by the Chief Judge of Lagos State,” he said.