Lagos State governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday reiterated the commitment of his administration to the provision of qualitative and free legal services to the poor, the less- privileged and the vulnerable people in the state.
The governor gave the pledge while speaking during the swearing-in and inauguration of the newly constituted Governing Council for Office of the Public Defender (OPD) at the Conference Room of Lagos House, Ikeja, saying offering such service was important in order to ensure that the rights of every individual were not only guaranteed but also vigorously defended.
The members of the Governing Council for the Office of the Public Defender are; Mrs Bola Tinubu (Chairman), Mr Ayo Olusanwo, Ms Busola Akinbiyi, Ms Olayinka Shittabey, Mr Babajide Badmos and Dr Babajide Martins
This was just as he assured that his administration, in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda for “Greater Lagos” would ensure that every resident of the state had equal and unfettered access to justice irrespective of means, race, age or gender, and with particular emphasis on the rights of women, children and people living with a disability.
Governor Sanwo-Olu, therefore, urged the newly inaugurated Governing Council members to be guided by justice in performing their duties, even as he promised continued support for OPD and all other agencies charged with the mandate of ensuring access to justice for all citizens regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds and vulnerabilities.
“In order to give effect to our administration’s commitment to the rule of law as part of the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda under the security and governance pillar, we will continue to support the Office of Public Defender and all other agencies charged with the mandate of ensuring access to justice for all citizens regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds and vulnerabilities.
“In constituting this Council, we have taken care to ensure the selection of people of proven character and competence, who can deliver on the mandate of the Office.
“I charge you, therefore, to see this appointment as a challenge to service. You are the voice and the hope of multitudes of disadvantaged people across Lagos State. You must let this guide you in all that you do, and inspire you to dedicated service.
“The people of Lagos deserve a State in which the rights of every individual are not only guaranteed but also vigorously defended,” the governor said.
Speaking on the importance of the Office of the Public Defender, Governor, Sanwo-Olu said the office remained one of the pillars of the justice system in the state.
Sanwo-Olu, while enjoining members of the Governing Council to deliver on the functions of the Council as spelt out in the OPD Law, noted that the success of the Council was the government’s success.
“On account of the dedication and hard work of its staff over the years, OPD has come to be recognised as an institution that embodies the enduring virtues of justice, fairness, and equality.
“It goes without saying, given the public stature of the OPD, that this newly inaugurated Governing Council has the responsibility of living up to the stellar reputation of the Office, and of taking it to even greater heights.
“The Governing Council is responsible for the development of a strategic plan to give the Office of Public Defender direction,” he said.
Giving a vote of assurance on behalf of the Governing Council, Mrs Tinubu said the Council members would undertake the responsibility given to them with a high sense of purpose and professionalism.
“My colleagues and I are extremely honoured not only to have been invited to be on this Governing Council but also to undertake the responsibility and the trust the Governor reposes in us. I am extremely overwhelmed by the calibre of people in the Governing Council.
“This Governing Council will be in charge of an institution that has been in existence for 20 years; 20 years of not only providing much-needed services for children, women, the indigents members of our society, but also the less privileged. So we understand the vision of the OPD.
“We do take this responsibility with every sense of purpose and professionalism. We assure you, your Excellency, that the confidence you repose in us is well placed. The governance of this wonderful institution is in good hands.”
The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Moyo Onigbanjo (SAN), in his earlier remark, said the inauguration of the Governing Council was in fulfilment of Section 3 of the OPD Law 2015, which provides that the Office of the Public Defence should have a Governing Council.
Onigbanjo, who was represented by the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mrs Titilayo Shitta-Bay, said the members of the Governing Council were carefully selected based on their achievements, backgrounds and history.
She recalled that the office was established in 2000 to provide qualitative and free legal services to the less- privileged and the vulnerable in the society, stressing that OPD council members mainly focuses on the fundamental rights of the people, dealing with indigent and the less privileged people, among others.
“The Office mainly focuses on the fundamental rights of the people, dealing with indigent and the less privileged people, particularly people who belong to what we call disadvantaged group and this includes gender-based violence, women and children, irrespective of their gender, age, sex, tribe, class or religion,” she said.
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by the Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat; Secretary to the Lagos State Government (SSG), Mrs Folasade Jaji and Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola, among other members of the state cabinet and top government officials.