By Andrew Orolua
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) on Thursday tasked participants at a conference organized by the National Association of Women Judges to ensure they provide practical and meaningful ideas that would facilitate justice delivery without sacrificing the well-being of vulnerable witnesses in the process.
Osinbajo gave the charge on Thursday in Abuja in a good will message delivered on his behalf by Senior Special Adviser on Research, Legal and Compliance Matters, Prof. Bulkisu Saidu at the hybrid virtual conference on “Protection of Child and Vulnerable witnesses in Nigeria.”
He said that such protection must not only address the overwhelming cultural and social norms and barriers to exposing criminals, but must also assess and address the problems that the witnesses may face before trial, during trial and after trial.
According to him, at all times “the protection of their privacy and their identities should be paramount.
It is not enough to pass laws for the protection of the child and other vulnerable witnesses, there is the need to have in place clear implementation and enforcement mechanisms aimed at actualising the intendment of the law.”
Osinbajo also stressed the need for appropriate protective measures for children, adding that the prevalence of sexual and gender-based offences against children has further brought to the fore the imperative of designing appropriate protective measures for the children, who are sometimes the only witnesses to the offences.
While declaring the conference open, a justice of the Supreme Court and the President of the National Association of Women Judges in Nigeria (NAWJN), Justice Mary Peter Odili explained that the essence of the conference is on child and vulnerable witnesses’ protection.
She said that it was meant to create awareness, cross fertilize ideas and congregate experiences that would chart a new course for child and vulnerable witnesses in the country.
She said this is essential because “it has been shown that Nigeria is behind in the protection of child and vulnerable witnesses compared to her Commonwealth counterparts.
According to her, “no single legislation in Nigeria provides for the protection of child and vulnerable witnesses in the country.
The situation is further compounded by the challenge of defining who is a child under the Nigerian law,” insisting that though the Child Rights Act has been passed by the Federal Government, some states are yet to domesticate the legislation.
Justice Odili charged the participants to drive discussion in the conference that would provoke lawmakers, legal practitioners and judges toward having a deliberate legal framework for child and vulnerable witness protection in Nigeria.