Following on the heels of the Patrick Obinna Okoroafor saga in Imo state, a fledgling situation is emerging in Lagos, of the detention of a minor for over 4years in police custody. Miss. Blessing Effiong was 16 when she was taken into police custody following disagreements, arising from the purchase of a mobile phone transaction that had gone awry. She claimed she was 16, but the police would have none of that. Not that they had any proof, or evidence to the contrary. Still, they proceeded to keep her in detention despite entreaties, pleadings and complaints from her guardian. She was never charged to court. She is awaiting trial. Read report here
This speaks volume about the nature of the workings of the Nigerian police force; but I am more worried about the involvement and the role played by the ministry of justice, and indeed, the Office of the Lagos state Public Defender. The Lagos state Office of the Public Defender is reputed to be doing a good job, supplementing at the state level, the work of the Nigerian legal aid council. For both arms of the justice delivery system to have simultaneously failed Miss. Blessing Effiong leaves no one in doubt about the accuracy and veracity of the numerous independent reports, of the state of decay within the system of administration of justice in Nigeria. In the Patrick Obinna Okoroafor case, it was the concerted efforts of Amnesty International, along with some local NGOs that finally ensured justice was done.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Ade Ipaye is a well respected Lagos lawyer and academician. His office, working in tandem with the Office of the Lagos state Public Defender should do the needful and ensure Miss Blessing Effiong does not remain in detention a day longer than necessary. That, of course, should be followed by an apology and a serious impact assessment of the ministry, and the Office of the Lagos state Public Defender. It is also about time that Lagos state begin to engender and implement legal reforms that will truly deliver justice. I trust the Attorney General will take the lead and prioritise this, within his tenure of office.