National Association Of Women Judges, Nigeria (NAWJN) Hybrid Conference On “Protection Of Child & Vulnerable Witnesses In Nigeria
GOODWILL MESSAGE DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN JUDGES, NIGERIA (NAWJN) HYBRID CONFERENCE ON “PROTECTION OF CHILD AND VULNERABLE WITNESSES IN NIGERIA”, HELD ON THE 3RD OF DECEMBER 2020
It is my pleasure to be with you this morning to participate in discussion on the very important subject of protection of child and other vulnerable witnesses in Nigeria.
As may be the case with many of you; I, in the course of years of legal practice, have certainly had a fair share of interactions with some courageous, strong and brave young witnesses; whose determination and hunger for justice propelled them to overcome the risks and stigma that sometimes follow going public with certain allegations. As practitioners who have witnessed, first-hand, some of the difficulties encountered by these vulnerable groups of witnesses, we owe it a duty to humanity to find ways to lessen their agony by at least making the pathway to justice as smooth and painless as possible.
I am indeed delighted that the National Association of Women Judges has resolved to highlight this very important subject and work towards addressing some of the challenges being faced in this area. The prevalence of sexual and gender-based offences against children has further brought to the fore the imperative of designing appropriate protective measures for these children, who are sometimes the only witnesses to the offences.
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 these
witnesses may face before trial, during trial and after trial. At all times, the protection of their privacy and their identities should be paramount.
Through the passage of the Child Rights Act 2003, Nigeria has domesticated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which centralises “the best interest of the child” as being the primary consideration in any dealings that may affect him or her; opening up opportunity for passage of specific laws and introduction of Regulations and Protocols to further protect the interests of children. It is however 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.
I am confident that the deliberations of this Conference will come out with clear proposals on how to ensure justice to survivors without subjecting them to further trauma in the process of adjudication.
I commend My Lord, Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili and her team for this foresight of providing a platform for public discourse on the subject. I look forward to receiving the communique; which, with the calibre of resource persons assembled here, I am sure would provide practical and meaningful ideas that would facilitate justice delivery without sacrificing the well-being of vulnerable witnesses in the process. I am always available to engage with your association in the implementation of the recommendations of the Conference and the exploration of other avenues of improving the justice system in Nigeria.
I thank you for the invitation and wish you fruitful deliberations.