Statement by Olawale Fapohunda, Attorney- General & Commissioner for Justice, Ekiti State
Opening Ceremony FIDA Law Week 2019
1) I thank the First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi for honouring us with her presence here today. I am sure Her Excellency’s acceptance of our several invitations is a vote of confidence in our efforts to bring justice to the Women, Men and Children in Ekiti State.
2) I should also congratulate FIDA for putting together this all-week programme. I am proud to be associated with FIDA Ekiti State. FIDA Ekiti State by any standard is one of the most progressive FIDA branches in the country.
3) May I also use this opportunity to congratulate the out-going executive officers of FIDA led by Mrs. Anoma for the sterling work they have done in ensuring that issues of domestic violence, rape and child defilement remain priority areas of government intervention.
4) I look forward to working with the new Executive Officers led by Seyi Ojo. My immediate advice to them is to work quickly towards the speedy resolution of all the interpersonal issues that arouse from the FIDA elections. Ekiti State needs a united and focused FIDA.
5) The theme of this year FIDA Law Week – Human Trafficking: A Menace to Socio-Economic Development of the Society is a call for reflection in many ways. It also tells a sad story. That despite the plethora of Rights provided in the 1999 Constitution as amended and those guaranteed by the very many regional and international human rights treaties, modern day slavery still persists in our country.
6) For us in Ekiti State Human Trafficking is no longer a theoretical concept. Human Trafficking in our State is a reality and we are now on the verge of being labeled a transit State for human traffickers. This has implications on how the world sees us. We cannot afford to be tagged with another of those regrettable aliases. The damage that ‘stomach infrastructure’ did to our collective sense of pride is still very fresh in our memories.
7) For us in the Ministry of Justice, our response to human trafficking is three-fold. It is about the law, the judicial institutions and working in partnership with relevant government and non-government organisations. In concrete terms, the Ministry of Justice has begun a holistic review of the Laws of Ekiti State. We are not reviewing our laws for the sake of doing so but to ensure that we have appropriate legislation that meets current realities.
This Review includes revisiting key provisions of the Ekiti State Criminal Code Law. It is the desire of the Fayemi Administration to enact laws that respond to emerging crimes in the State including human trafficking.
8) It is trite that without the appropriate enforcement of our laws, our law reform process will at best be an academic exercise with little impact on our population. The Fayemi Administration is committed to strengthening our judiciary. Our intervention is this area should not be misunderstood. The Executive is not in competition with the judiciary and we have no desire to subtly or overtly designate the judiciary as a department within the Ministry of Justice. Achieving independence of the Judiciary in all its ramifications is a key vision of the Administration.
9) Achieving independence of the judiciary however does not mean that we should play no role or have no ideas about the type of Judiciary we desire as a State. Effective prosecution of Human Trafficking and indeed all forms of criminality requires a vibrant and modern Judiciary that is well informed on all fronts, self- assured, confident and has the respect of justice sector stakeholders within and outside Ekiti State. It is for this reason that the administration recently provided additional resources to enable the Judiciary move to the new High Court Complex. We did not see this as an abandoned project.
10) Going forward, while we will continue to engage the Judiciary on the need for sustainable judicial reforms especially the type that will lead to the elevation our hardworking Judges to superior courts, we have identified the magistracy as an important area of future intervention. Next week, I will be presenting a memorandum to the State Executive Council on practical steps for the implementation of the Ekiti State Magistrates Court Law. Again may I use this opportunity to invite all justice sector stakeholders to contribute towards this process of achieving a Magistracy that will be our pride and that of the Country.
11) On the issue of partnerships, because our approach to human trafficking is not dogmatic and because this is an evolving area, the administration is collaborating with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). I am pleased to report that the Director-General of NAPTIP and her high level team will be visiting Ekiti State all next week. This visit will provide us with an opportunity to share perspectives on the situation of human trafficking in Ekiti State and more importantly establish concrete measures in fighting this scourge. One of the practical measures we have identified is the inauguration of the State Task Force on Human Trafficking with membership from government and non-governmental institutions.
12) May I in conclusion, wish FIDA a productive week and thank you all for listening.