The Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Justice is set to launch the ‘Restorative Justice Centre’ as part of efforts to ensure quick dispensation of justice, promote peaceful communities and prevent re-offending.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN stated this during a webinar organised by the Lagos State Restorative Justice Steering Committee as part of activities to commemorate the International Restorative Justice week.
Representing the Commissioner, the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary,Ms Titilayo Shitta -Bey, in her remarks at the virtual webinar noted that the Restorative Justice Centre’ has a great potential for decongesting court dockets as well as correctional centres, promoting peaceful communities, transforming the criminal justice system, heals wounds of crime as well as reintegration of offenders.
Noting the importance of this initiative, he said that the ‘Restorative Justice Centre’ will soon be launched by the State Government in order to ensure an effective dispensation of justice whereby people can walk into the centre to make enquiries as well as file complaints.
Also speaking at the event, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba in his address noted that the annual international Restorative Justice (RJ) week held every November is to create awareness about the benefits of restorative justice for the victim, offender , community and stakeholders.
The chief judge who was represented by Hon. Justice O. Oshodi stated that restorative justice is a method used for dealing with a crime that puts the needs of victims first while the offender takes responsibility for their actions.
The Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Ms. Titilayo Shitta-Bey reiterated that Restorative Justice is a form of diversion which is also an ongoing global shift in the perception of crime and punishment.
According to her “This webinar is mainly to sensitize and equip our stakeholders with necessary knowledge and skills on how to apply the Restorative Justice system in their various districts”.
She also said that the decision to adopt a restorative justice approach in the state judiciary was based on the need to ensure that offenders are not just punished but rather to reintegrate back into society.
Shitta-Bey reiterated that the Coordinating Centre will be launching very soon and will also be equipped with excellent and exceptional RJ facilitators to ensure transparency and management of the due process to restorative justice in the state.
A keynote speaker at the webinar, Hon. Justice Chinyere Ani of the High Court, Enugu State, stated that RJ is as old as man and its approach to crime dates back thousands of years as it has been the dominant model of criminal justice throughout most of human history.
“Some of the goals and objectives of RJ program include; holding the offender accountable in a meaningful way, increasing victim and community satisfaction, repairing harm caused by the offender, reducing Incarceration, reintegrating the offender into the community, increasing public confidence in the justice system and saving time and cost of prosecution”.
In addition Hon. Justice Chinyere Ani stated that RJ is mainly used for cases involving children/juvenile offenders or when the offence is of a non-serious nature and there is need for reconciliation.
“Courts can apply Restorative sentence in addition to light custodial sentence or may in addition to the agreed terms of VOM, give the offender a sentence such as community service, parole caution or suspended sentence”.
She further explained that RJ is about communication, confrontation, accountability, healing, compensation, restoration and restitution. It considers crime largely as an infraction against people within communities, contrary to the more abstract legal explanation of crime as harm against the state.
Others panelist at the webinar include, the associate professor, faculty of law, UNILAG, Dr. Akeem Bello, and RJ Coordinator for Jamaica, Andriene Lindsay.