The observance of the 2014 International Human Rights Day at the Ikoyi Prison facility by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, has provided hope for ‘Awaiting trial’ inmates who could not afford and did not have legal representation and therefore, languishing in prison custody.
Responding to inmates’ recount of challenges of long stay in prison custody due to lack of legal representation, a Chief Magistrate in the Lagos State Judiciary, Mrs Eniola Fabanwo, urged affected inmates to use the services of the Office of Public Defender (OPD) which has the responsibility to provide them with legal representation.
The Chief Magistrate also called on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the justice sector to be more active on issues related to access to justice especially as concerned ‘Awaiting Trial’ prison inmates.
In a special message delivered by the Snr. Pub;lic Information Officer of UNIC Lagos, Ms. Envera Selimovic on the occasion, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, declared that ‘human rights are for all of us, all the time: whoever we are and wherever we are from; no matter our class, our opinions, our sexual orientation’ He called on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year; and on people to hold their governments to account.
Speaking earlier, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Oluwafunmilayo Atilade, represented by the Deputy Chief Registrar (Legal), Mr Emmanuel Ogundare, explained that the Lagos State Judiciary observed the sanctity of Human Rights principles and practice which he said was a daily procedure.
‘This year’s theme, ‘Human Rights 365’, he added, ‘aligned with the vision of the State Judiciary that observance of human rights should be an everyday affairs.’
In his welcome address, the Deputy Controller of Prison, Ikoyi Prison, Mr Emmanuel Bamidele, disclosed that over 80% of inmates at the Ikoyi Prison were those awaiting trials, many of whom have been in custody for years. He stressed the urgent need for the prison to be de-congested.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Human Rights 365’, the National Information Officer of UNIC Lagos, Oluseyi Soremekun, explained that it ‘encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day’, he noted that the theme ‘underescores the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to human rights,’ and that ‘human rights belong equally to each of us.’
The Director of the National Human Rights Commission, South West Zone, Mr Lucas Koyejo, reiterated the commitment of the Commission to monitor, report and protect human rights of all citizens.
The 2014 International Human Rights Day was organized by UNIC Lagos in collaboration with the Lagos State Judiciary, the Nigerian Prisons Service and the National Human Rights Commission.