Lagos State Mobile Court Won’t Abuse Human Rights – Commissioner

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Adeniji Kazeem

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The Lagos State government says its mobile courts which was inaugurated February 5, will not abuse the human rights of Lagosians

| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb 29, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |

WITH growing concern over the use of the recently inaugurated Mobile Court in Lagos, to intimidate Lagosians, the Lagos State government has assured residents that the mobile court will operate in line with the Constitution. Adeniji Kazeem, attorney general and commissioner for justice, in a statement on Monday, February 15, said justice would be dispensed in accordance with the dictates of the law and with respect for the fundamental human rights of defendants arraigned in the court.

The attorney general said the introduction of the court was one of the ways Governor Akinwunmi Ambode planned to ensure preservation of civility in the society. He said, “The constitutional rights of defendants, being innocent until proven guilty, would be respected and upheld. The prosecution of defendants appearing before the court would be handled by lawyers in the Ministry of Justice, and I will directly supervise the operation of the prosecuting counsel. There will be lawyers from the Office of the Public Defender to defend any defendant who so desires to be defended, while defendants can also appoint any lawyer of their choice to defend them.”

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, while urging that defendants should not be unduly detained, had added that the mobile court would enforce discipline and sanity on Lagos roads. He said: “I have just advised the attorney general that we would not allow the police and the traffic officials to detain people illegally. But I have been assured that the penalty for most of the traffic offences shall be community service, which I think is a very progressive development. It is going to enforce discipline on our roads and sanity in the system.”

Joseph Nwobike, lawyer, lauded the governor and the state judiciary for the initiative, saying the court would discourage people from violating traffic and environmental laws in the state. He said, “This is the best time for it when there are many cases of unmitigated infraction of environmental laws and traffic regulations in Lagos. I think what the governor and those who head the judiciary have done is to provide a platform that will, by way of trial and punishment, discourage people from engaging in abuse of environmental laws and disobedience to traffic rules.”

The Lagos State government had on Friday, February 5, inaugurated the Mobile Court to summarily deal with growing cases of traffic and environmental abuses in the state with the view to bring sanity and civility in the conduct of residents. The Mobile Court, which will be manned by highly-qualified magistrates of the State Judiciary, will summarily try cases involving traffic and environmental offenders.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Kazeem said the launch was an institutional reaction to identified societal challenges, and that henceforth traffic offenders such as motorcyclists who drive against traffic and refused to obey traffic signs like zebra crossing and traffic light indication, would no longer find it easy to get away with commission of such crimes in the state.

He said commercial bus drivers popularly known as Danfo Drivers on motion with their doors open thereby endangering lives of those of their passengers and other road users would equally be prosecuted before the Mobile Court. While anyone crossing the highway where pedestrian bridges are provided, would equally face trial. Kazeem, who disclosed that henceforth driving on Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, lanes of non-designated vehicles by anyone including military personnel, would attract prosecution before the Mobile Court.

The Attorney General also warned people to desist from parking at undesignated places and indulging in noise pollution and street trading among others, saying such offences would be handled by the court. “These set of offences appear to be so simple but the reduction of its commission I believe is a major yardstick in determining how much we have progressed as a civilised society. It may seem simple, but its significance and expected impact to the society is a lot more profound,” Kazeem said.

The special offences court in Lagos, was established in 1994 to try essentially environmental offences and it has been vested with powers to sit in any convenient place close to the scene of commission of any offence triable by it. Though summary in nature, the proceedings before the Mobile Court will be operated in accordance with rules of natural justice and fair hearing. There will be lawyers from the office of the public defender for any defendant who so desires to be defended, while defendants can also appoint any lawyer of their choice to defend them.

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