The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) has promised continued support for Nigeria and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the quest for accountable and transparent justice in the country.

Speaking at a special workshop session organised by UNODC in conjunction with the NBA at its recently concluded national conference held in Lagos, Cristina Albertin, the UNODC Country Representative in Nigeria said, “Accountable and transparent justice is key to any society and without any doubt the aim and desire of each and every citizen in any part of the world. We all can relate to what justice means for ourselves and others. Good Governance can only happen when it is grounded in accountable and fair justice systems.”

She lauded the NBA for championing some legal reforms in the country and asked the body to do more. She averred that public officials will be judged by citizens for their commitment to fair and effective justice delivery. According to her, the role of the legal profession in shaping the legal frameworks, policies, administrative and accountability/oversight structures of the justice system cannot be ignored, and appealed to lawyers to use their training and expertise to ensure justice is carried out fairly.

Albertin while stressing the importance of good and effective justice system noted that worldwide, “It is only two years ago that the importance of good justice systems was recognized as one of the 16 Sustainable Development Goals focusing on the -rule-of-law, justice and strong institutions. Your role (as lawyers), is how you assume it and how you make others comply with these in Nigeria is key to achieving this goal in Nigeria.”

 

She emphasised that in her about two years stay in Nigeria, she has witnessed the tremendous efforts that have been undertaken to implement justice reform in a comprehensive and holistic way involving all stakeholders. She specifically mentioned the entry into force of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which she described as a major breakthrough which allows justice officials to expedite justice and work towards overcoming the appalling situation of 75 per cent of remand prisoners found in the country.

She said, “I also wish to congratulate the Nigeria Bar Association for providing the platform for an NBA-UN Forum and Strategic Technical Working Group/Session. This is a big plus for Nigeria as it has the potential for fast tracking several reforms on the justice, security and development sphere in the country. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) is very happy to play a key role in fostering and supporting this initiative.”

The UNODC Country Representative congratulated the executive, legislative and judiciary for what she called “their persistence in pursuing justice reform in Nigeria” and lauded the roles of civil society organisations and private persons including lawyers who have been at the forefront of identifying, initiating, advocating and implementing required reforms and services.

She pledged her agency’s further supports to such programmes adding, “We will continue to do so in the future. Our core mandates and programmes on countering organised crime, terrorism and corruption have never been more relevant today. However, we will only be successful when our efforts are grounded in efficient and effective justice systems with each and every criminal justice official being committed and equipped on a daily basis to deliver speedily justice in their own role and area of responsibility.”

Speaking at the special session workshop, the Project Coordinator, Dr. Uju Agomoh, said the major components of the project were to support the justice system by helping to develop laws and policy initiatives under the programme, ensure access to justice, building capacity of all those involved in the justice system and ensure child access to justice and compliance with international standards.

She observed that the objectives of all the interventions would have been achieved if there was increased awareness among NBA members on activities of UNODC and other UN agencies in the country.

Source: The Nation

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