University don, Professor John Omale has said that restorative justice system is the only way to achieving a crime- free society now and in the future. He made this known at the Incorporated Trustees of Attorney Mediators Association (ATMA) training held yesterday at the LCCI Exhibition & Conference Center, Alausa, Ikeja.
The Professor of Criminology who spoke extensively on the concept of restorative justice enjoined the practitioners present to identify the opportunities and possibilities of career advancement via the practice of restorative justice. He said, “If you want to be a holistic lawyer then the knowledge of restorative justice makes you complete. It gives a sense of fulfillment as a practitioner because both the victim and the offender would be happy with the outcome of a successful mediation”. He assured them that there might be difficulties in the processes of mediation between an offender and the victim but the ability to negotiate and convince both parties to opt for mediation is very key.
Speaking further, Omale stated that the restorative justice system as a holistic justice is a problem solving approach to crime and conflict, which involves the partners themselves and the community generally. He added that conflicts would always exist but restorative justice would help to manage them appropriately.
“In restorative justice, there is a sense of altruism. It looks at the case from a restorative point of view to restore relationships between both parties. It provides the answer to the reasons behind the crime especially to questions raised in he minds of the victims as to why he/she was attacked and not other persons.
“Also, the failure of the criminal justice system makes restorative justice as an alternative paradigm that can restore the criminal justice system. The theory of prison bringing about Reformation has not been effective. Criminal justice in Nigeria practise justice as it should be not as it ought to be while restorative justice allows for the child of a nobody to get justice”
Participants were encouraged to adopt methods of restorative justice which include: victim-offender mediation, restorative conferencing, healing circles, restorative panels among others to help bring about restoration in relationships. They were also encouraged to develop the characteristics of a good mediator facilitator which include but not limited to active listening skills, good communication, ability to keep secret information, impartiality and non-judgmental attitude.
The Professor established that restorative justice system is not foreign to African indigenous laws considering the Ubuntu philosophy which translates as “I am because you are and you are because I am”. This philosophy, he stated is gradually dying because of the imposition of the ruler’s law, which overrides the people’s law. Other countries where restorative system has been practiced over the years include Israel, Australia, Germany and others.
Speaking with Saturday Sun, Mrs. Maria Igiewe, who owns her private practice at Arepo, Ogun state said that the conference provides a wider perspective to the idea of restorative Justice for practitioners especially on how to handle some cases.
Another participant, Chief Mike Enendu, a legal practitioner for over 30 years stated that the programme couldn’t have come at a better time especially now that the courts are congested.