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Lagos Mobile Courts And The Quest For Justice

Published on February 19, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

Bilikis Bakare

Justice Olufunlayo Atilade

Justice Olufunlayo Atilade

As it is with other mega cities like New York, New Delhi Jakarta and so on, the population growth in Lagos brings with it challenges, ranging from environmental to transportation and provision of good road network among others. Added to the aforementioned is the peculiarity of the population that resides in the state because it is a mini-Nigeria. Almost every ethnic group is represented in the city. The sheer number of people that visit or reside in Lagos remains an African record and the pressure that this exerts on the environment and infrastructure in the state is quite alarming. In addition, the challenges of governing as well as providing basic infrastructure for these diverse people of varying backgrounds and cultural orientation is, indeed, quite intimidating.

In as much as the government is trying all within its power and the limited resources available to make life comfortable and meaningful for residents, like it is always the case, there would always be people who just delight in breaking laws. In Lagos, people break traffic, environmental and other laws that are meant to ensure peaceful co-existence with reckless abandon. Traffic offenders are particularly notorious in Lagos. Despite the enactment of the State Traffic Law in 2012, some still behave as if the laws are non-existing. There are designated bus stops and laybys constructed all over the state by the government for picking as well as dropping off passengers, but some commuter bus drivers still pick and drop off passengers in the middle of the road. This consequently leads to needless traffic build-ups and loss of man-hours, with attendant effects on socio-economic activities.

Similarly, the commercial motorcycle riders are partners–in-crime with the bus drivers; they drive recklessly in a prohibited direction, otherwise known as “one way”. Many residents have been maimed or killed as a result of these thoughtless acts. At a time, it became a butt of joke among the residents that a ward has been designated for victims of Okada accidents.

In the same vein, the poor and nonchalant manner in which the residents dispose of their wastes is by far the major cause of environmental nuisance in the state. It is common to see people empty huge sacks of wastes into the drainages whenever it rains. In addition, commuters in both private and commercial vehicles have formed the habit of throwing papers and sundry wastes through the windows of moving vehicles. This garbage end up in gutters and other drainage channels after being blown away by breeze. And despite the clean up activities of LAWMA, complemented by the PSP operators, some residents still patronize cart pushers for their waste disposal. And often times, the latter dispose of these wastes into large drainage channels and canals, resulting in the blockage of free flow of waste water and subsequently flooding whenever it rains.

And since all efforts at initiating attitudinal change among the residents have not been yielding the desired results, there is the need to tackle old challenges with new methods. To truly succeed in the war against environmental degradation and traffic chaos in the Lagos, the Governor has to apply the rule of law. Universally, the rule of law operates on the legal theory that law should govern a nation and not capricious verdicts of ‘powerful’ individuals. The rule of law underlines the power and weight of law within society, principally as a restraint upon behavior. The guiding principle behind the rule of law is the prevention of anarchy and the creation of a just society where everyone is equal before the law. The rule of law presupposes that no law breaker must go unpunished.

It is on this premise that the mobile courts were recently inaugurated in the state by the State Chief Judge, Justice Funmilayo Atilade. The introduction of the courts is one of the ways the State Government plans to ensure preservation of civility in the society. According to the Chief Judge, the courts were inaugurated to summarily try traffic as well as environmental offenders and mete out immediate punishments to those convicted. This is also a way to decongest the courts and not add to inconclusive cases that have been in courts for years.

According to the State Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, the courts will operate in line with the constitution. While dispelling residents’ fears about transparency and lack of bias in the prosecution of offenders, the commissioner added that justice will be dispensed with respect to the fundamental human rights of defendants arraigned in the courts. Starting with five vans, prosecution of offenders is expected to be handled by lawyers in the State Ministry of Justice, while lawyers from the Office of Public Defender, OPD, responsible for provision of free legal services to the residents- are available to defend offenders who so desire.

There is no gainsaying the fact that there is an urgent need for restoration of sanity in terms of safety on our roads as well as safeguarding the environment in Lagos. Like the Chief Judge rightly remarked at the inauguration, a number of people have been maimed and lives cut short on account of reckless driving and disregard for traffic laws in the state, not to mention the needless traffic build-ups and loss of man-hours that attend such unruly behaviour. No doubt, the mobile courts will further enhance the performance of the officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) brigade.

It is expected that all peace loving residents of the state would join hands with the state government by respecting and obeying the laws of the land. The mobile courts are put in place to ensure that sanity prevails in our society. A lawless society is a reproach. Today, we are primarily where we are, as a nation, partly because of our utter disregard for lawful conducts. If, indeed, change has come, the time to turn a new leaf is now.

—Bakare is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

Posted by on February 19, 2016, 11:37 am. Filed under Columns, Opinions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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