Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), on Thursday, tasked participants at a conference organised by National Association of Women Judges to provide practical and meaningful ideas that would facilitate justice delivery without sacrificing the well-being of vulnerable witnesses in the process.
Osinbajo, in a goodwill message delivered on his behalf by his Senior Special Adviser on Research, Legal and Compliance matters, Prof Bulkisu Saidu at “the Hybrid Virtual Conference on “Protection of Child & Vulnerable witnesses in Nigeria”, said that such protection must not only address the overwhelming cultural and social norms and barriers to exposing criminals but must also address the problems that the witnesses may face before, during and after trial.
He said: “At all times, the protection of their privacy and their identities should be paramount. It is not enough to pass laws for the protection of the child and other vulnerable witnesses, there is the need to have in place clear implementation and enforcement mechanisms aimed at actualising the intendment of the law.”
Osinbajo also stressed the need for appropriate protective measures for children, saying that the prevalence of sexual and gender-based offences against children has further brought to the fore the imperative of designing appropriate protective measures for children, who are sometimes the only witnesses to the offences.
While declaring the conference opened, a justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the National Association of Women Judges in Nigeria (NAWJN), Justice Mary Peter Odili, explained the essence of the Conference on Child and Vulnerable witnesses protection.
She said it was meant to create awareness, cross-fertilise ideas and congregate experiences that would chart a new course for child and vulnerable witnesses in the country.
She said Nigeria is behind in the protection of the child and vulnerable witnesses compared to her Commonwealth counterparts, adding that, “No single legislation in Nigeria provides for the protection of the child and vulnerable witnesses in the country. The situation is further compounded by the challenge of defining who is a child under the Nigerian Law.
Justice Peter Odili charged the participants to drive discussion that would provoke lawmakers, legal practitioners and judges towards a deliberate legal frame work for child and vulnerable witness protection in Nigeria.