HiiL Confab: Ezekwesili Urges Judicial Disruption, as Innovators Emerge

Transparency International co-founder and Nigeria’s former Education Minister, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili has opted for “judicial disruption” instead of reforms as a way out of the myriad of challenges facing Africa’s justice sector.

Speaking yesterday at the “Lagos Innovating Justice Conference” hosted by The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), Ezekwesili said judicial reforms are seemingly unending and “have assumed a pejorative meaning.” The event which held at Landmark Event Centre, Lagos also witnessed the unveiling of winners of the HiiL “Innovating Justice Challenge 2018” for West Africa.

The fiery activist, who presented a keynote address, stated that “the biggest problem of our time is inequality,” adding that while innovation is at the heart of disruption,” stakeholders must begin to engage in “judicially specific innovation.” She commended HiiL for the parley, adding that “the best thing we can do for the poor of this country is to ensure that justice is democratized.”

In a welcome address, Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu SAN said that “All players in the justice sector have contributed to delay in justice delivery,” adding that there have been innovations to curb the malaise. He said that the maxim that justice delayed is justice denied remained true till date, urging stakeholders to “find ways to dispense justice efficiently and effectively.”

In an address, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN observed that access to justice is hampered by poverty, traditional and cultural practices among others.

Osinbajo, in the address delivered by the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Dr. Yemi Shipeolu, noted that the Federal Government had set up an Advisory Group on Innovation & Creativity, adding that several APPs among others have been developed to deal with many public sector challenges while a Nigerian company had won the HiiL award for its innovation on access to justice.

Former Lagos State Attorney General, Mr. Olasupo Shasore SAN said that the wealth of nations is tied to their intangible asset, namely the justice sector, noting that “if you don’t deal with petty crimes in a megapolis like Lagos, you would soon deal with bigger crimes.” He noted that the ecosystem must be considered in devising any innovation for the justice sector, saying: “Technology will always make the change but will it be sustainable?”

While the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Laure Beaufils was a panelist on the plenary session on gender and sexual violence, previous HiiL justice innovation winners who shared their experiences at the event included Mr. Babatunde Ibidapo-Obe of Law Padi, Mr. Vincent Okeke of LEGIT Car and Ms. Odun Longe of DIY Law.

Presenting the HiiL survey titled “Justice needs and satisfaction in Nigeria 2018,” Dr. Rodrigo Nunez, its Justice sector advisor, said: “We went to the homes of 6,130 randomly selected Nigerians across all geopolitical regions. Their voices represent the experiences of more than 180 million fellow citizens. We knocked at their doors to ask them whether they had experienced one or more of the 102 specific legal problems on our list.” Nunez said HiiL collaborated with Nigeria’s Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) on the survey.

According to him, “Nigerians suffer most from neighbor-related disputes, crime, money, land and employment issues. Seven out of ten Nigerians report at least one problem.”

The ground-breaking survey showed that around 70% of Nigerians sought legal information and advice mostly through people they know in trying to resolve their legal problems while “lawyers are accessible only to those who can afford them.” While many people get their problems resolved, “sometimes fairness is missing.”

Also, about 70% of the people acted to resolve their legal problems by approaching the other party directly, even as “resolution usually happens outside of courts and without lawyers.”

Meanwhile, only four out of 10 legal processes reach complete resolution, showing that “majority of Nigerians do not get a fair resolution, particularly in cases related to employment.” Also, women and poor people suffer the most in trying to resolve their legal problems, the survey stated.

HiiL recommended investment in justice innovation, use of data for evidence-based interventions, creative use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, design of hybrid justice chains “to deliver inclusive justice journeys” as well as strengthening of the role of the police in resolving non-criminal legal problems.

Meanwhile, winners have emerged in the Lagos Innovating Justice challenge. While Mr. Cham Semanou of Benin Republic took home the first prize with his innovation titled HeLawyer, the second prize went to Nigeria’s Ireti Bakare-Yusuf for the #NoMore APP which targets domestic and sexual violence. Sierra Leone’s Sorieba Daffae carted away the third prize with the CrimeSync App. Other finalists that competed for the coveted HiiL justice innovation prizes were GAVEL, In4Justice, FarmWorkerzApp and LegalSupportLite applications.

Commending the winners, HiiL Chief Executive Sam Muller restated the organisation’s commitment to finding solutions to the problems that beset the justice sector globally, adding that HiiL “plans to ensure that 150 million people will be able to prevent or resolve their most pressing justice problems by 2030.” HiiL also targets justice that is affordable, accessible and easy to understand.

The conference was attended by many stakeholders in Nigeria’s justice sector and supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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