A democracy consists of three vital organs of government namely; the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The legislative arm formulates policy and enacts it as law, the executive carries out policy in action while the judiciary applies the law according to rules of procedural justice and resolves disputes. To guarantee freedom, which is the hallmark of democracy, these three arms must be separated as much as possible and balanced against each other. For a successful democracy, the existence of a free and fair judiciary is a must.
It is in view of the significance of the judiciary in a democracy that the Ambode administration has embarked on critical reforms geared towards oiling the wheel of justice in the State. One of such is the establishment of mobile courts. The introduction of the courts is one way the State Government planned to ensure preservation of civility and peace in the society. 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.
The courts have since been operating in line with the constitution, thus dispelling residents’ fear about transparency and lack of bias in the prosecution of offenders. Consequently, justice is being dispensed at mobile courts with respect to the fundamental human rights of defendants arraigned in the courts. Starting with five vans, prosecution of offenders is being 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.
To further underscore the fact that Lagos is in the lead in Legislation and Law Reform initiatives in Nigeria, the Ambode administration launched the ‘Revised Laws of Lagos State. The need for legislation to be up to date and relevant cannot be over-emphasised in ensuring the necessary legal infrastructure for socio-economic transformation. Lagos as the commercial capital of Nigeria faces enormous challenges in ensuring the security and economic well-being of its residents.
The publication of the 2015 Laws of the State, marks the beginning of the process of continually making the Laws accessible to the general public not only in Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole, but also beyond its borders globally.
It highlights the resolve of the Ambode administration to make the Laws of Lagos State available online and accessible from any part of the world. To this end, Lagos State Law Reform Commission is at an advanced stage of developing an online platform for accessing the Laws of the State and downloading such laws. The online platform will also provide access to all the Laws that have operated in the State since inception in 1967. This will fulfill the obligation of the Lagos State Government to create easy access to the Laws of Lagos, thereby promoting a platform for accountability and responsibility.
More importantly, creating an online access to the Laws of Lagos State will be of a great service and benefit to investors and would-be investors in the State. Not only will such a platform enable investors to make informed decisions about investing in the State, but it will also help them to appreciate the various legal protections available for their persons and investment.
Furthermore, the publication of the Laws of Lagos State is a step in the direction of the justice and security sector reforms which the present administration promised it will pursue in order to strengthen the rule of law in Lagos State.
Another decisive judicial reform of the Ambode administration is the availability of all Lagos State Laws online. Hence, lawyers, investors and the public can now have access to all the laws of the State. This is a reflection of the commitment of the Administration to drive governance and Administration of Justice in the State through Innovation and Technology.
This innovative digital platform is the first of its kind, and another expressive proof to the tradition of excellence which Lagos is known for. Lawyers and the entire public could, therefore, now visit the site at www.laws.lagosstate.gov.ng
Having the Lagos State Laws available online offers everybody access to search, view and download the Laws anywhere in the world by just the click of a button. The online platform is set to fulfil the obligation of the State Government to create easy access to the Laws, thereby promoting accountability and responsibility, and to enable investors to make informed decisions about their investments in the State.
As a further way to integrate judicial reforms in the State, a plan to establish a DNA forensic centre, which will be the first of its kind in the country and will be located in a public health facility on Lagos Island, has been unveiled.
The centre, which is to address the sophisticated nature of crimes in the state, is being initiated to step up crime fighting in the state. Despite current efforts at fighting crimes, Lagos has continued to face more sophisticated crimes.
Consequently, crime fighting efforts in the state has to become more precise and intensive, especially in terms of deployment of technology that makes investigation and prosecution and adjudication more effective. The DNA centre will, thus, fulfil an unmet need for DNA profiling, a forensic technique that is now used worldwide.
DNA profiling involves the extraction of DNA from body fluids, semen, nails, hair and other DNA generic sources. This will invalidate proof of alibi and validate physical presence of the suspect at the scene of the crime and the origin of DNA to the suspect. Though the role of DNA in the justice sector is globally acknowledged, a high-capacity DNA analysis centre is unavailable in Nigeria.
Thus almost all the DNA testing requirements are done outside Nigeria. This leads to longer times and higher cost of concluding investigation and prosecution of crimes.
Interestingly, the centre would not only fulfill the growing DNA profiling needs of the judicial process, but could also become a revenue generating centre for the state by serving the public, other states and neighbouring countries. To ensure this goal is met, the centre is to be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to support all levels of DNA collection from people and objects, evidence examination, DNA analysis and provide evidential DNA storage.
Plato and Aristotle were Greek philosophers who both developed important ideas about the rule of law. According to them, chaos occurs when people are allowed to become lawless in a given society. It is in order to guide against chaos in Lagos, that the Ambode administration has initiated decisive reforms in the State’s judicial sector.