Press Release 23 March 2011: Yenagoa, Bayelsa State
BAYELSA STATE JUDICIARY PARTNERS WITH UNODC FOR TOWN HALL MEETING
Under the Dutch funded project "Partnership in the Bayelsa Expenditure and Income Transparency Initiative (BEITI) and the Judicial Integrity Action Programme (JIA) and with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Bayelsa State Judiciary held its first justice sector town-hall meeting On 23 March 2011. For over 3 hours more than 300 participants had the opportunity to interact with representatives of the judiciary, the police, the prison service, the Ministry of Justice, the Bar Association and other stakeholders. Some tough questions emerged and members of the public used the occasion to express their views on the current state of affairs. Issues raised included lengthy trial times, frequent adjournments, lack of legal aid, extra-judicial killings, the capacity of the justice sector system in general, and, the persisting vulnerability of the system to corruption and other forms of abuses.
Participants appreciated the exercise of applied democracy and felt encouraged by the steps that already have been taken as well as those yet to be carried out under the Bayelsa state justice sector reform action plan that was finalized under the leadership of Chief Judge of Bayelsa State, Hon. Kate Abiri, in 2010. The action plan provides a wide range of measures to enhance access to justice, increase timeliness and quality of justice delivery, strengthen transparency, accountability and integrity of the courts and improve coordination and cooperation among the courts, the Attorney General's office, the Police, the Prisons and the Bar. The action plan not only assigns clear responsibilities; it also establishes timelines, and provides for cost estimates, clear benchmarks and a baseline against which progress is to be monitored.
While acknowledging the support received from the Royal Dutch Government and the Bayelsa State Government, the Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Kate Abiri identified the purpose of the meeting as a way of "debunking the wrong perception or notion that the judiciary is an institution which lacks openness and sensitivity to public opinion." In her speech, she stated that the town hall meeting was organized to pave way for interaction between the different groups or stakeholders in the society which will ultimately form a working document for the effective and efficient coordination of the Bayelsa state justice sector.
UNODC's National Project Officer Mrs. Ugonna Ezekwem described the town hall meeting as providing court users with the confidence to hold the judiciary and other justice sector institutions accountable for the commitments made in the action plan. She declared that this town hall meeting was the first of at least three sessions scheduled to take place in Bayelsa State under the project. Mrs. Ezekwem revealed that the Bayelsa state judiciary and UNODC will shortly commence a survey on the integrity and capacity of the state justice sector. At the end of the meeting, the participants adopted a communique.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Sa'adetu .U. Yahaya
UNODC Communications Officer,