The Lagos state House of Assembly on Friday, held a day public hearing on a Bill for a law to provide for the rights and entitlements of witnesses and for other connected purposes.
The public hearing which had in attendance prominent legal practitioner, Mr Femi Falana SAN, attracted other stakeholders like officials of the Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), and Ministry of Justice of the state.
While speaking, the Chairman, House Committee On Judiciary, Human Rights, Petitions and LASIEC, Hon. Victor Akande, said the bill is a pointer to explain that the House is passionate about the welfare of the citizenry.
“The proposed law under reference with 57 sections seeks to protect the victims who have suffered any injury, harm or disability whether physical, mental or emotional as a result of an act or omission which constitute an offence or infringement of fundamental human rights”, he said.
Akande said the protection also includes a person who suffers harm as a result of intervening to assist someone or to prevent the commission of an offence; including the parent or guardian of a child victim or any person of significance to the parent or guardian of a child victim.
Presenting the bill, the Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, said the bill if passed into law would take care of victim of accident.
According to him, somebody that sustains serious injuries and the management of the hospital is not willing to give he or she treatment, this bill addresses such with serious penalties. This is a bill that create fund to take care of both victims and witnesses so as to mitigate their peculiar status.
Agunbiade added that the bill establishes victim assistance Agency and it will have corporate status, saying person treating must do it in due regards without molestation.
” On the offences against victims and witnesses, the bill states that any person who threatens a victim or a witness, or any person connected to him with injury to his person or reputation or to damage to his property with the intention of causing such victim or witness to refrain from lodging a complaint with a law enforcement authority, testifying at any judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings or to compel such victim to withdraw a complaint, such person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one million naira or a term of imprisonment not exceed 2years or both”, said Agunbiade.
Clause 30 provides for Victim Assistance and Witness Protection Programme which shall take effective measures to assist and protect victims and witnesses from potential or existing threats, harm, reprisals, retaliation and Intimidation.
On protective measures for victims and witnesses, the bill in Clause 35, provides that security should be provided for them and their properties. Temporary accommodation including shelters, permanent re-location with the consent of the victim or witness, temporary or permanent employment and change of identity should be provided.
In his contribution, Falana condenmed the fine of One Million Naira (N1,000,000,00) as penalty, saying that an offender may not be able to afford it and that may further lead to congestion of the correctional centres, advising the committee to review the Clause.
Falana also advocated stiffer penalties for health care givers in a situation accident victims died in their care.
Earlier, in his welcome speech, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni who represented the Speaker, Rt (Hon) Mudashiru Obasa, said the bill is an advancement of criminal justice law of Lagos especially at its relates to victims and witnesses.
He stressed the motive is to protect both the victims and the witnesses, adding “The intension is to provide smooth running for criminal justice”.