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Review Judicial Staff Composition, Group Tells Ambode

Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has been asked to consider reviewing staff composition in the various agencies under the state Ministry of Justice so as to ensure that only those with passion are employed.

Giving this advice, a Lagos-based human rights group, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), on Saturday named the Citizens’ Mediation Centre, the Office of the Public Defender, and other similar agencies established by the government under the Ministry of Justice as too complacent and thus endangering the lives of people they are employed to protect.

The group, in a letter signed by its National Coordinator, Okechukwu Nwanguma, maintained that the named agencies had become a clog in the wheel of progress of the state.

NOPRIN lambasted the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) for refusing to act when needed whilst extorting money from innocent Nigerians.

According to the group, “Ordinarily, the agencies were set up to serve the needs of the poor and vulnerable sections of the society, especially the poor, women and children; who are the main objects of human rights abuses.

“Our general observation is that these agencies, on many occasions, have been unable to render satisfactory services to citizens who seek their intervention.

“This, in our humble opinion, is because a lot of the staff members who populate these citizen’s agencies and centres are career civil servants who lack the training, skill, compassion and commitment to fulfil the mandate of these agencies.

“The people currently heading and working in these agencies lack the professional competence and commitment to provide the services they are established to render to the people.

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“They don’t seem to share the vision and mission of the government that set up the agencies,” NOPRIN said.

“How come, for example, a woman who is a victim of persistent domestic violence, and who complains to any of these agencies, is blamed and simply advised to go and settle with her husband, or told: ”˜don’t allow anyone take over your husband’, without being sensitive to, and considering the real threat to the physical safety, emotional health and psychological integrity of the woman?

“NOPRIN had recently intervened in a case of a woman who was a victim of persistent assault and battery by her husband ”“ a drug offences convict.

“We informed the police. The police refused to invite and caution the man or take necessary actions to deter him. They simply blamed the woman and asked her to go and settle with her husband.

“Eventually, the woman died in her friend’s house two days after she ran there for refuge after another vicious assault by her husband who later threw her out after midnight.

“The same police arrested the dead woman’s friend and her husband in whose house she died while taking refuge. The police compelled the detained couple to pay money for their bail after days of unlawful detention.

“Now, another woman is facing similar assault and threat from her indian-hemp addicted husband who has, for the umpteenth time, thrown her out after series of assaults that have landed her in hospital many times.

“This is despite interventions by the families of the couple to reconcile them.

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“In one of the reconciliation meetings, the man admitted being violent and wrote an undertaking to be of good behaviour, but, “when this violence continued, and the woman reported to NOPRIN, we wrote to the police (to investigate the man for violence and threat, and to guarantee the woman’s safety). We also wrote to the Lagos State Citizens’ Mediation Centre, and later (when we were dissatisfied), to the Lagos state Office of Public Defender (to address the issue of custody of the couple’s seven-year-old twin boys).

“The man has, for several months, after he threw his wife out, continued to threaten her and denied the woman access to the children, despite evidence that the children are not being well catered for and are craving for their mother.

“Unfortunately, these two agencies ”“ the Mediation Centre and the Office of the Public Defender ”“ completely ignored the woman’s safety concerns and the best interest of the children, and resorted to blaming the victim, and asked her to go and settle with her husband without any attempt to even get the man to commit in writing not to continue to abuse, assault and threaten the life of his wife.

“Shall we wait until another woman dies in the hands of an unrepentant violent husband, like in the earlier case mentioned here, before we drop this empty religious and misguided ”˜marriage at all costs’ mentality?

“NOPRIN hereby calls on the Lagos State Governor to order a review of the composition and procedures of these agencies,” the group said, adding that only professionals who understand the mission and vision of the government, and who are committed to the mandate of the agencies should be made to work there.”

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