By Sunday Aikulola
Stakeholders at a summit on Criminal Justice Reform and Human Rights have condemned continued detention of juveniles with adults. They made this known in a summit organized by Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Nigeria) in conjunction with the National Human Rights Commission, South West Zone, Lagos State and the office of Public Defender, Lagos.
With the theme: ‘Reforming juvenile justice administration, ending the detention of juveniles with adults.’ The stakeholders also canvass reform of juvenile justice administration.
In his speech, the Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Lagos State office, Lucas Koyejo stated that the phenomenon of finding children detained with adults as is presently the case in many of our prisons especially in Lagos State need to be urgently and effectively addressed.
“Juvenile justice basically emphasizes rehabilitation of the child instead of punishment, on prevention rather than retribution. A criminal justice system that fails to reform the youths is a danger both to itself and the unborn generations.
The criminal justice system must be restructured and reformed to rehabilitate both the young and all and sundry,” Koyejo said. Executive Director, CURE-Nigeria, Sylvester Uhaa noted that my message is that we need to deemphasize incarceration and imprisonment of children. We must invest in education and creating jobs and enhancing the earnings of their parents and guardians so that our children are taken care of.
“What we are asking government to do is to invest in welfare programmes that can improve the lives of children and that will reduce the numbers of children compelled by circumstances to resort to crimes. Most of the children arrested by Task force or police are arrested because they are on the street. Most of them are children who are out of school,” he explained.
In her remarks, Director Lagos State office of the Public Defender, Mrs. Olayinka Adeyemi stated that children are the future of tomorrow, adding that the rights of the children must be taken into cognizance during rehabilitation.
She stated that Lagos State government is doing a commendable job to ensure that the rights of the juveniles are protected, adding that one of the challenges they face is that some of the juveniles’ parents are not even residing in Lagos.
According to her some of them reside in neighboring country like Benin Republic. So it is difficult reaching their families, she said.
However, the Comptroller of Prisons, Lagos State, Mr. Tunde Ladipo stated that there are no juveniles in Lagos prisons adding that inmates are now properly taken care of and are living in good condition. He added that workshops, football competitions are also organized for inmates. In her speech, Justice M.O Obadina who represented Justice Opeyemi Oke, the Chief Judge of Lagos State stated that juveniles are not expected to be kept in prison.
She said the Lagos state judiciary is committed to protecting the rights of children. She added that the chief judge of Lagos in conjunction with the Attorney General of the state visit prison regularly to decongest the prion of juveniles.
A challenge faced in the state, according to her, is data in connection with the number of children in the prison and those that have overstayed in approved institutions.
She added that judges and magistrates in the family courts in Lagos are also being trained regularly, by way of capacity in international best practices.