Victim Assistance and Witness Protection Bill scales second reading

The bill for a law to provide for the rights and entitlements of victims and protection of witnesses has scaled second reading at the Lagos State House of Assembly, as members debated the pros and cons of the bill during the plenary session on Monday.

Kick-starting the debate, the Chairman House Committee On Judiciary, Petition, Human Rights and Lasiec, Hon. Victor Akande, said that the bill would help to protect victims and as well provide assistance to them in the face of disaster.

Akande added the bill would provide for the entitlement of victims, adding that there is a need to come to the aid of victims as at when due.

While contributing, Hon. Rotimi Olowo (Somolu 1) said that there are a lot of people who suffer from different victimisation in the state, adding that nobody has compensated victims and so there is a need to protect them.

Olowo stated that the bill would provide for the establishment of an agency that would address the rights and protects victims and witnesses.

He said the bill is for the poor that are seeking justice, adding that those whose properties had been seized would get justice through the bill.

“If we look at what is happening in Nigeria and Lagos in particular, it shows that there is a need to protect victims of disaster. The bill is to protect the rights of those that suffer injustice. The bill is for every strata of the society. A lot of people have suffered from different victimisation, some people’s properties are taken over unjustly and so it is certain this bill will address all those issues. I will urge my colleagues to support it,” said Olowo.

Also, Hon. Abiodun Tobun (Epe 2), said the bill takes care of the protection of witnesses that would testify in the court of law, adding that most witnesses are always scared of testifying because of not being victimised.

Tobun called the attention of the House to the Board appointment clause in the bill, suggesting that appointment into the Board should be subjected to the ratification of the House.

The Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, said the bill is responsive and that over time there had been the clamour by lawyers that justices should not be for society alone but also for victims.

Agunbiade said: “This bill is to recognise the right of the victims. The bill is to close the gap of waiting for police report before attending to victims of accident. The bill will allow witnesses to freely go to court without fear to testify. This bill will attend to several lapses in the administration of criminal justice in Lagos state.”

The Speaker of the House, Rt (Hon) Mudashiru Obasa, said the bill will strengthen the administration of criminal justice, adding that it would build confidence in witnesses that would want to testify before the court.

Obasa added: “This bill is for the society. It will give assurance to witness that they are protected while testifying before the court. The bill will also protect traffic victims.”

The speaker, however, committed the bill to the House Committee On Judiciary to report back in two weeks.

In a related development, the Lagos State Pension Reform (Amendment) Law 2021 also scaled second reading as the bill was committed to the House Committee on Training and Establishment after extensive debate by the lawmakers.

 

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