Friday, 12 August 2011

From The Press: Fashola Signs Three Bills Into Law, Says Crime Can’t Be Fought With Old, Inefficient Laws

Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Monday signed three bills into law, stating that they represent the ethos of the forward looking nature of the present administration and its commitment to building strong institutions.
Speaking at the signing ceremony of the law to Amend the State Emergency Management Agency Law, Provide rules on criminal conduct, regulate public order as well as a law on Criminal Justice Administration in the High and Magistrates Courts in the state at the Lagos House, Alausa, the Governor said the amendment to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency law with its provision for the establishment of an advisory committee for LASEMA will assist the organization to improve its capacity to save life and property.
The Governor also directed the Commissioner for Special Duties to as a matter of urgency constitute the new advisory committee so that they can hit the ground running.
On the two other laws aimed at strengthening law and order, the Governor expressed surprise that a country like Nigeria which is mouthing its determination to fight corruption is still making do with a law enacted over a century ago in its administration of criminal conducts.
Said he: “I wonder how we intend to fight corruption effectively without institutionalizing the process of law and order, when you have a criminal code that is almost 100 years old. It has lost touch with the development of today and become inefficient to respond to the complexities of modern crime
“It is our contention that crime has become a business and those who profit from it continue to reinvent and therefore the Government must continue to be ahead of those businessmen by outspending and outrunning them and to mount a campaign against corruption without creating new laws and without challenging the frontiers of existing thinking is really to pay lip services to idea of enforcement of law and order”.
Governor Fashola said the new law on rules for criminal conduct that would also regulate public order will give Lagos a contemporary criminal law in the sense that not only does it protect the rights of women and children, it also lends credence to the Yoruba recognition of the post partum psychosis.
He added that with the new law, the Government is also challenging all of the academics especially in the field of criminal law to go back to the research board and create new annotations, stating that the new law also recognizes new offences which may be committed through computer and electronic means and cheating in examinations among other offences captured in the law.
The Governor explained that the new law has also brought about a recognition now of the need to pursue non custodial offences which clearly approximates with the State Government’s concept for African jurisprudence.
“In some instances, in the past where we asked members of the community who commit offences to perform community services which are beamed into prominence by the Television stations, they would rather prefer to be dealt with through custodial way rather than either cutting grass or sweeping the streets. This is one of the ways by which deterrence in sociology really works”, Governor Fashola stated.
He also said the new law will help to protect the weak and the vulnerable in the society just as it will also give teeth to the commitment to decongest the prisons because not every offender will end up in prison.
Governor Fashola added that the new law on Criminal Justice Administration in the High Courts and Magistrates Courts includes some very innovative provisions such as the inclusion of the plea bargaining which is a clear demonstration that the members of the State House of Assembly also connect with the people.
While speaking, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice , Mr Ade Ipaiye who gave very detailed insights into the new laws said the criminal bill of Lagos State 2011 in terms of significance is hard to beat because it is the first of its kind in Southern Nigeria after the first law made by the British colonialists in 1914.
He added that the new law which is a total departure from the present Criminal Code law which provides for custodial sentences on offenders and for the first time non-custodial sentences as forms of punishments like compensation, restitution, community service and probation are provided for.
Mr Ipaiye explained that the new law also provides for Courts in addition to custodial provisions to order offenders arraigned and convicted for minor offences to be useful to the society because part of the reason for sentencing an accused is to useful to the society and not merely to be thrown into jail.
“Part of the highlights of the Criminal law of Lagos State is that it is a substantive law which is standing on its own and has a simplified use of language adopted as well as statement of purpose and guiding principle which is intended to assist judges and Magistrates on the application”, the Attorney General added.
He also informed that the law also has new provisions such as defence of diminishing responsibility which is provided in section 226 and excusable ignorance of the law which may be admission of ignorance as a defensive excuse especially in cases where diligent efforts have been made to ascertain the state of the law and an accused was misled.
The Attorney General also said the law also gives opportunities to women who have just given birth but may have mental disturbance which leads them to commit crime in what is biologically known as post partum psychosis.
He added that some of the new offences created under the law are terrorism, immaturity which has seen the minimum age of criminal responsibility raised from seven to 10 years while all sexual offences against children has been brought together into a chapter.
The Commissioner for Justice also informed that all computer and electronic data misuse, cheating at examinations, money laundering/allied offences, unlawful conversion of public property/interference with property, desertion of pregnant women, unlawful harassment of debtors and special aggravated offences all constitute crimes under the new law.
Mr Ipaiye also said the Principle of Corporate Criminal Liability has been clearly defined in section 20 of the new law for the first time and could lead to the conviction of a corporate organization if found guilty.
The Attorney General explained that the law on Criminal Justice Administration in the High Courts and Magistrates Courts was first passed in 2007 but is being reviewed in the aftermath of a stakeholders forum held in June 2008 which threw up a lot of suggestions that has now been incorporated.
He said section 58 provides for venue for trial of offences which has been amended to determine the divisions where offences can be tried while section 76 spells out procedural rules for plea bargaining principally to protect the rights of defendants in plea bargaining and ensure that the process is not misused.
On the amendment to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency law, the Attorney General said it will strengthen the agency and its corporate management with the new law providing for the establishment of an advisory council for the management as provided in section two of the law.
Mr Ipaiye added that the advisory council will consist of a chairman and four members with proven integrity and cognate but relevant experience while section three provides for a management committee to assist the advisory council in carrying out the day to day running of the affairs of the agency.
The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Governor, Princess Adejoke Orelope -Adefulire and many members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed, his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr Lateef Ibirogba and other senior government functionaries.

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