LAGOS DSVA HOLDS A ONE-DAYY ENGAGEMENT OF CRITICAL STAKEHOLDERS TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO LEGAL JUSTICE FOR SGBV SURVIVORS 

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, says the State’s judiciary is committed to working with all stakeholders to create a more responsive, effective and survivor-centred justice system. Alogba, who stated this at a one-day engagement of critical stakeholders on improving access to legal justice for survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV, which was held at the Marriott Hotel Ikeja yesterday, said the judiciary was critical in ensuring access to justice for SGBV survivors. Hon. Justice Alogba who was represented by the Lagos High Court judge, Justice Rahman Oshodi, said the challenges SGBV survivors face requires a collaborative efforts from all stakeholders adding that the judiciary can not do it alone.  His Lordship  said the Judiciary need the support and partnership of law enforcement agencies, civil society organisations and healthcare providers to create a holistic and integrated approach to justice and called on all stakeholders to work together to break down the silos that often impede the effective prosecution of SGBV cases to bridge the gaps, overcome the challenges, and seize the opportunities for reform. The First Lady of Lagos State, Dr. Mrs. Claudiana Ibijoke Sanwo Olu who was represented  by the Senior Special Assistant, (Special Duties) Mrs. Scholastica  Oyeniyi-Abas noted that  despite the awareness and support of these government agencies, offenders still continue to perpetuate SGBV, she therefore solicited support of the judiciary in ensuring that they walk the talk. According to her,  Her Excellency’ s stance  is to discourage the culture of silence and on this premise Her Office  has embarked on certain activities to further propagate the state’s mandate of zero tolerance to SGBV, for instance by inspecting the SGBV center in an effort to scale up the fight against SGBV.  Executive Secretary, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi in her welcome remarks said the purpose of the engagement was to identify and address systemic barriers and challenges hindering effective adjudication, stressing that it also focus on promoting survivor-centered approaches to justice and support systems and stated that this dialogue was important to identify & tackle challenges, review laws and probe processes, she urged participants to share their experiences which will help to increase the effectiveness of the processes in place.  Vivour-Adeniyi restated the agency’s commitment to ensure that legal system was accessible and upholds the dignity of every survivor of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, SGBV. Hon. Ladi Ajomale , Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Petitions, Human Rights and LASIEC gave his goodwill message and urged partners to a call for action and for stakeholders to be ambassadors against SGBV. He stated that participants should look for ways to be effective in the system by creating awareness, educating and advocacy for survivors reintegration into the society.  While delivering her good will message, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mrs Titilayo ShittaBey Jeje  who also represented the Hon. Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro, SAN commended the Agency for putting together the program. She noted the collaborative efforts of the Lagos DSVA with other MDAs which had ensured resourcefulness, which she stressed was quite commendable. She also highlighted the increase in the number of cases and convictions and said there was a need to keep improving the laws, processes, identify challenges and see to tackling the challenges.  The Commissioner of Police,  Lagos State Command, CP Adegoke Fayode  whilst delivering the first presentation on Challenges, Gaps and opportunities from the Police perspective encouraged proactive efforts to put protective measures in place.  He stated that SGBV extends beyond victims and addressing this issue can lead to healthier and more equitable communities.  The Managing Partner, Partnership for Justice, Mrs. Itoro Eze Anaba reminded participants that we all have a responsibility to listen and take actions in support of SGBV survivors. She encouraged survivors to speak out, be heard and stated that she understood that societal pressure stifles survivors to stay quiet and it is incumbent on stakeholders not to extinguish the hopes of survivors.   of survivors, that cultural norms contribute to the normalization of SGBV, that the police play a crucial role in reducing SGBV and they are tasked with not only upholding the law.  Dr. Oluwajimi Shodipo delivering the  second presentation noted  that there are poor research outputs and publications. Data should be documented, shared and reviewed to give medical experts sufficient information to analyze. He stated that there should be a clear policy on DNA and the National Guideline has prescribed certain forms of evidence that should suffice if DNA is inaccessible. He also stated that there should be regular training of healthcare workers due to the continued brain drain of talent relocating out of the country. In summary, he encouraged fostering more partnership & collaboration of law enforcement agencies, MDAs and civil society.  Dr. Martins gave his presentation on gaps, challenges and opportunities on accessing legal justice.  He stated that knowledge and advocacy from dialogues like this should be taken to the grassroots. Some of the gaps he listed include: investigation gaps, lack of prompt reporting, lack of prompt visit to the scene of the crime and post trial challenges affecting the DPP. Opportunities/solutions like collaboration, cooperation and coordination of partners and stakeholders. Finally he gave statistics of convictions obtained by the DPP: *in 2023 62 convictions were obtained, so far in 2024, 22 convictions have been secured  for SGBV cases and 2 decisions obtained by the DPP that were appealed have been confirmed be the confirmed by the Court of Appeal* Hon. Justice Rahman  Oshodi during his presentation placed emphasis on meeting the evidential standard of proof. Burden and presumption of proof being of great importance as provided under Section 139 of the Evidence Act. He urged the DPP and Police to have a stronger collaborative effort in establishing this burden of proof as there are impediments like eye witness testimony, hearsay evidence and corroboration in certain instances. He stated that loopholes like Section 9(3)(4) of the ACJL which have been cited severally by defense counsels are tools

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