By Sunday Ani, Lagos
The bill for a law to provide for the rights and entitlements of victims and protection of witnesses on Monday, June 7, passed through the second reading at the Lagos State House of Assembly after legislators deliberated on the merits and demerits of during plenary.
Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Petition, Human Rights and Lasiec, Victor Akande, who set the ball rolling noted that the bill would help to protect victims, as well as provide assistance to them in the face of disaster.
Also, the member representing Somolu Constituency 1, Rotimi Olowo, said so many persons have suffered various kinds of victimisation in the state without any form of compensation, hence the need to protect them.
He noted that the bill would provide for the establishment of an agency that would address the rights of victims and witnesses and at the same time protect them.
He said the bill is for the poor who seek justice, even as those whose property had been seized would equally get justice through the bill.
‘If we look at what is happening in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular, it shows that there is a need to protect victims of disaster. The bill is to protect the rights of those that suffer injustice. The bill is for every stratum of society. A lot of people have suffered from different victimisations. Some people’s property have been unjustly acquired; so, it is certain the bill will address all those issues. I will urge my colleagues to support it,’ he said.
For Abiodun Tobun ( Epe 2), the bill takes care of witnesses, who would testify in the court of law. He lamented that most often witnesses scared of testifying for fear of victimisation.
Tobun called the attention of the House to the Board appointment clause in the bill, suggesting that appointment into the Board should be subjected to the ratification of the House.
The Majority Leader, Sanai Agunbiade, said the bill is responsive, as there has been clamour over time by lawyers to ensure that justice should not be for the society alone but also for the victims.
‘This bill is to recognise the right of the victims. The bill is to close the gap of waiting for police report before attending to the victim of an accident. The bill will allow witnesses to freely go to court without fear to testify. This bill will attend to several lapses in the administration of criminal justice in Lagos State.”
Some of the lawmakers who contributed spoke in support of the bill, after which the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, noted that apart from strengthening the administration of criminal justice, it would also build confidence in witnesses who want to testify before the court,’ he said.
Obasa added: ‘This bill is for society. It will give assurance to witness that they are protected while testifying before the court. The bill will also protect traffic victims.’
The Speaker, however, committed the bill to the House Committee On Judiciary to report back in two weeks.
In a related development, the Lagos State Pension Reform ( Amendment) Law 2021 also scaled second reading as it was committed to the House Committee on Training and Establishment after extensive debate by the lawmakers.