The Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem (SAN), says Lagosians, under the watch of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, have had greater access to justice.
The justice sector in the last four years, he said, had witnessed the implementation of various programmes and initiatives to ensure that residents, regardless of tribe, religion and political affiliations, felt safe and secured to live and do their businesses.
Kazeem said one of such initiatives was the expansion and enhanced functionality of the mobile court, which was done in conjunction with the judiciary in the state.
“Through the successful running of the mobile court system, we have been able to reduce street trading, traffic congestion and unethical/anti-social conducts on the roads as well as environmental nuisances, thereby improving the socio-economic well-being of residents of Lagos State,” the commissioner said at a media briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, last week.
He listed the creation of the Lagos State Task Force on Land Grabbers; the E-Real Estate Litigation Database; the Lagos Criminal Information System or Criminal Case Tracking System; the DNA Forensic Centre as some of the interventions of the Ambode administration towards ensuring justice for residents.
“We were all witnesses to how the activities of land grabbers, popularly known as Omo Onile, were almost completely stifling commercial activities in the state before we came on board.
“In order to reduce to the barest minimum the activities of those notorious persons, who use force and intimidation to dispossess or prevent any person or entity from acquiring legitimate interest in property, we created the Lagos State Task Force on Land Grabbers, popularly known as ‘Omo Onile Task Force,’ with a mandate to rid the state of land grabbers.
“The task force has continued to receive petitions and several criminal prosecution of cases against suspected land grabbers are currently ongoing in different courts,” he said.
As a complement, Kazeem said the state launched the Electronic Real Estate Litigation Database, through which prospective land buyers in the state could check whether the land they are proposing to invest in is a subject of litigation or not.
This was to stem the growing cases of land disputes being taken to court, he said.
The commissioner said the DNA Forensic Centre, which he described as world-class and first in Nigeria, had greatly enhanced investigation and prosecution of crimes, while the Rapid Tax Prosecution Unit created in the Ministry of Justice had enhanced tax compliance among individuals and corporate bodies doing business in the state.
Kazeem said apart from inaugurating courtrooms, including the Olusola Thomas Combined Court Complex in Badagry; the Sikiru Adagun Combined Court Complex in Ajegunle; and the Oshodi Mobile Court, to ensure effective and quick dispensation of justice, the state also provided free legal services to indigent residents.
“Through the Lagos Public Interest Law Partnership, we have facilitated access to justice by firming out pro bono matters to private chambers and legal practitioners, who, on behalf of the Lagos State Government, defend or prosecute suits for the good of the public, free of charge.
“We launched the plea bargain protocol in 2017 with a view to driving quick and effective resolution of criminal cases and in turn decongest the prisons and court dockets.
“As part of efforts to overcome prison congestion and ensure accelerated hearing of cases of minor offenders, we facilitated collaboration between the Ministry of Justice and Prison Fellowship to explore the restorative justice measures as part of the sentencing options for designated relevant offences.
“Working towards building a citizen-centric criminal justice system, we published and distributed sentencing guidelines to ensure uniformity of punishments imposed on convicts by all the judges and magistrates handling criminal cases in the state,” Kazeem said.