The Government of Ekiti State has announced two important developments that advances access to justice for all those living in Ekiti State, without discrimination based on their economic status, gender, faith, or any other social markers. This was contained in a statement released to the press on Friday, January 7, 2022, by the Office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.
First, the Government of Ekiti State announced the completion of payment of compensation awarded to victims of historical incidences of human rights violations, and those affected by the violence that broke out during the “Endsars” protests.
In total, the sum of N21,250,000.00 (Twenty One Million, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira has been paid out, being the full amount awarded by the Ekiti State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Allegations of Human Rights Violations by Police Officers including Officers of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Other Persons (Endsars Panel).
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda, SAN, on behalf of the Government of Ekiti State, tendered an unreserved apology to all victims of human rights violations in the state, as well as those affected by the violence that broke out during the ‘Endsars’ protests in the state. He further assured of the government’s resolve to continue to strengthen the culture of good governance and respect for human rights in Ekiti State.
The Government of Ekiti State acknowledged that compensation is only one component of the several recommendations of the panel, which included equally important recommendations such as the need to review the administration of justice system in a manner that priorities the needs of all those who come into conflict with the law while at the same time recognizing victims of crime as important stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
Fapohunda said: “we have taken a number of important steps in this regard. My office has implemented Mr. Governor’s directive on the development of a Victim’s Charter that spells out in simple words the rights, the obligations, and the duties of state institutions to victims of crime. We have further implemented Mr. Governor’s directive for a holistic review of the Criminal Law of Ekiti State with emphasis on legal protection of victims of crime.”
Fapohunda further informed that the Ministry of Justice had taken concrete steps in establishing functional ‘Access to Justice’ offices across the state and were reviewing the status of the Department of Citizens Rights (DCR) and the Office of the Public Defender (OPD). These measures, he explained, were in response to the agitations of citizens for an easily accessible office where citizens’ complaints can be heard and dealt with promptly. This, he said, was what informed the establishment of the Citizens’ Complaints Center at the Ojaoba market, Ado Ekiti, which was designed to complement the mandates of the DCR and OPD in providing professional legal advice and representation for persons whose rights are violated.
The Government of Ekiti State also noted the recommendation of the ‘Endsars panel on the issue of police reform and the urgent need to improve the conditions of service including salaries and allowances of police officers serving in Ekiti State, and clarified that implementation of this recommendation was not exclusively within the powers of the Government of Ekiti State, but that H.E. Governor Kayode Fayemi remains committed to making this issue an agenda item during meetings of the Nigeria Governors Forum and that of the Police Council. It should be recalled that some of the beneficiaries of the awarded compensation were police officers who incurred physical and material loss in the course of their duties during the ‘Endsars’ protests.
The Government of Ekiti State further expressed concern about recent reported cases of physical attacks on policemen, and informed that Mr. Governor had directed the Ministry of Justice to immediately investigate these cases with a view to ensuring that perpetrators are swiftly and effectively prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed under our laws and reiterated the zero tolerance policy of assault on security officers.
Second, in a related development, the Government of Ekiti State announced the publication of Practice Directions on Virtual Court Hearings by the Chief Judge of Ekiti State, describing it as an important milestone in the delivery of speedy justice to the people of Ekiti State. By the provisions of the practice directions, it is envisaged that matters that are not contentious in nature including the delivery of judgements can be disposed of virtually.
In addition to speedy delivery of justice and the strengthening of citizens confidence in the justice system, this development became expedient due to the Covid 19 pandemic which necessitated the adoption of virtual court hearings as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of the virus.
“I congratulate my Lord the Chief Judge of Ekiti State for his vision and commitment to removing obstacles to speedy delivery of justice in Ekiti State.”, Fapohunda said.
Olawale Fapohunda, SAN
Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice
Government of Ekiti State
Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State | Friday, January 7, 2022