The Place of Youth in Security, Justice and Social development in Changing World- being a paper presented by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Lagos State-Mr Ade Ipaye on the occasion of 5th Graduation/6th Matriculation Ceremony of the Life Recovery Pre- release Empowerment Programme(Onesimus Project) at Freedom Chapel, Medium Security Prison, Kirikiri on 26 September 2014.
Good afternoon, the Chairman, Representatives of the Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Vice Chancellor of Covenant University and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEDAN), ladies and Gentle.
It gives me pleasure to be invited by the Prison Fellowship of Nigeria to give this lecture, as it commemorate the graduation of inmates in this essential empowerment course organised in conjunction with Covenant University to prepare the inmates for life after imprisonment. It epitomise the ideal, which Non-Governmental Organisation is meant to achieve towards making our society a better place, and one hope that ultimately, this will achieve a reduction in crime as part of an effective Criminal Justice Administration.
In this paper, I will divide the lecture into three sections, the first; will deal with the theme of Justice, from the perspective of Criminal Justice and Social Justice. The second part will discuss the causes of insecurity, injustice and how to ensure social development. The last part will discuss the roles of the state in promoting Justice and what are the roles of Youths in promoting security, Justice and social development in our society.
Criminal Justice- The role of the youth in prevention of crimes and insecurity in our society is premised on their importance as largest group of citizens in Nigeria. The Youth are those citizens who are below 35 and they are about 55% of the Population.
The energy and dynamism of the youth is to be explored in ensuring that their role is enhanced in the promotion of security and social development. In this regard, the participation of the youth in commission of crimes must be minimised. The youth should be diverted from criminal activities and if they find themselves in the Criminal justice system, to be robustly dealt with and given an opportunity to be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into the society.
Insecurity will be caused, if youth are largely involved in crimes and if they are involved in terrorism and other security-breach offences. The role expected of youth is to be loyal to the state and avert insecurity by placing vital information that will prevent the commission of insecurity offences before the law enforcement agencies.
What is expected of the state is to process youths that are involved in criminal justice in a sensitive manner and deal with them swiftly and fairly in ensuring justice to them both as victims of crimes and offenders.
The issue of cultism and public order offences is another area causing insecurity in Nigeria, there is need for the youths to be proactive in shunning cultism and communal clashes. It is pertinent, to mention that, in view of the imminent election next year, the youth should be more vigilant, not to be used for electoral violence and rigging.
Insecurity is not only attributable to public institutions, insecurity is also caused when youths and other citizens are involved in terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, violent disorder, burglary, theft and sexual offences etc.
In terms of rehabilitation of youths and treating of youths as witnesses and offenders, we as the state will continue to work with other stakeholders in the Criminal Justice Sector, to ensure swift justice and fairness to all our youths. This is where the Nigerian Prison Fellowship’s role as an NGO cannot be over emphasized as an entity empowering the youth and other inmates to prepare them for live after Prison.
The pursuit of Social Justice in our society is predicated on the need for ensuring that all citizens are given the opportunity to be empowered in the actualization of their potential. The Society in which we live is stratified along socio-economic lines; hence the government must strive to ensure a level of empowerment that will assist the citizens in achieving their aspirations and goals by provision of capacity building and other infrastructure that will assist in the development of the individual’s aspirations.
The major hurdle to this objective is the non justiciability of the Fundamental Objectives and Directives Principles of State Policy. The way forward is to amend the constitution to ensure that, these Fundamental objectives are justiciable and the state has obligations to realise the objectives for the citizens.
Nigeria, as a signatory to the International Treaty on covenant on Economic, Social and cultural rights is obliged to put measures in place to provide the benefits of the treaty to Nigerians in accordance with provision of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. The minimum core content principle obliges Nigeria as a Signatory to adopt measures to ‘localize’ the objectives and benefits of the treaty.
The often cited excuse for not implementing the provisions of this treaty is lack of resources; it cannot be a sustainable argument, especially in view of recent re-evaluation of Nigerian economy and availability of resources from oil. The Nigerian society need to be more egalitarian to ensure social justice. It is pertinent to reiterate that a society that does not provide for the unemployed, elderly, disabled and vulnerable members of her society is fostering environment for discontent and anarchy.
The Nigerian society in fighting poverty and ensuring social justice must embark on a re-evaluation of its social objectives and national ethics to accommodate the disadvantaged members of the society to empower them to actualise their potential, and in doing this; there is likelihood of reduction in crimes especially among the youths.
I will now move on to discuss what the state need to do to promote an effective Administration of Criminal Justice, I must first, at this stage acknowledge the support and leadership of the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN for supporting the Criminal and Civil Justice Sector Reform, in the delivering justice in resolving all legal disputes and Criminal Justice Administration, this role of His Excellency cannot be over emphasized.
The government must keep working with other stakeholders in the Criminal Justice sector to reduce the number of awaiting trials and ensuring that offenders are promptly brought before courts and their cases promptly resolved.
We have established a Witness Support Unit within the Ministry of Justice to assist our witnesses in meeting the challenges of attending court as witnesses. This will go a long way in reducing adjournment as a result of non- attendance of witnesses. The Police Authority must also assist in ensuring that where Police Officers are involved in ongoing trials, they should not be arbitrarily transferred out of the state. When, this becomes inevitable, the Police Authority should assist in ensuring their attendance in court during the trial. The need for state Police cannot be over emphasized, in view of the operational challenges in dealing with the Police in its present formation as a Federal Agency.
However, the role of the Police, Judiciary and Prison must be enhanced towards the goals of achieving an effective criminal justice system.
The state must drive reforms aimed at achieving swift and robust justice for the youths, and I must mention, the enactment of the Child Rights Law 2007 aimed to improve the regime of welfare rights for our young people and provide remedies that made the interest of children as the primary consideration in dealing with welfare issues in relation to children and young persons.
The state need to provide Young Offenders’ Institutions for our young people who are to be dealt with in the course of criminal justice administration, this would prevent young people from been incarcerated in adult prisons. The Prison Authority needs to make concerted efforts to achieve this in order to minimise the risks of recidivism and over criminalization of our youths.
The Lagos state government is very keen in adopting alternative to imprisonment in disposal of criminal cases involving youths and other offenders in Nigeria. We are working with the Nigeria Prison Fellowship towards the inculcation of restorative justice in dealing with offenders.
We need a lot of sensitization for our youths in order to divert them from criminal activities and provide Skills Acquisition Centre to empower them in acquiring the necessary skills that can make them employable and more importantly self- employed. The Government need to assist through the relevant agencies like SMEDAN in providing funding and entrepreneurial skills for youths to start-up businesses.
The government need to intensify efforts and work more collaboratively with the private sector and NGOs to ensure that corporate social responsibilities of companies are geared towards empowering the youths and creating opportunities for training and skills acquisitions for the youths. The state must create an enabling environment to achieve this. The realities now are that no government can create employment for all the citizens and empower the citizens without creating an enabling environment for the private sectors to thrive and creates employment.
The instrument of taxation can also be used to encourage the private sector to create employment by continuing to create incentives for companies and individuals that strive and make concerted efforts in achieving corporate social responsibilities.
There is also the need for our local government authorities to have more roles towards the protection of our youths, empowerment and creation of youth skills acquisition centres in all the local governments in Nigeria.
Finally, I would now talk about the role of youths in preventing insecurity and injustice in our society. The paramount role of youths is the need for obedience to the law, by using your time and resources wisely to empower your selves and avoid criminal activities. The youth must also play a pivotal role in administration of criminal justice sector by actively providing confidential information in the detection and prosecution of crimes, especially during this period of insurgency in Nigeria.
The youths must also actively seek opportunities that will enhance their skills and more importantly to live law abiding lives, bearing in mind that crimes does not pay!
Thank you for your attention.