Let justice be your guide, Sanwo-Olu urges newly inaugurated governing council members of OPD

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Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has reiterated his administration’s commitment to provision of qualitative and free legal services to the poor, the less privileged and the vulnerable people in the State.

The Governor said the services are important to ensure that the rights of every individual are not only guaranteed, but also vigorously defended.

Sanwo-Olu said his administration, in line with the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda for “Greater Lagos”, will ensure that every resident of the State has 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 disability.

Speaking on Tuesday during the swearing in and inauguration of the newly constituted Governing Council for Office of the Public Defender at the Conference Room of Lagos House, Ikeja, Governor Sanwo-Olu urged the Governing Council members to be guided by justice in performing their duties.

He said: “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.”

Speaking on the importance of the Office of the Public Defender, Governor, Sanwo-Olu said the Office remains one of the pillars of the justice system in Lagos State.

The Governor therefore implored members of the Governing Council to deliver on the functions of the Council as spelt out in the Office of Public Defender Law, noting that the success of the Council is the government’s success.

He said: “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.”

The members of the Governing Council for the Office of the Public Defender are; Mrs Bola Tinubu (Chairman), Ayo Olusanwo, Ms Busola Akinbiyi, Ms Olayinka Shittabey, Babajide Badmos and Dr Babajide Martins

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.

She said: “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 caliber 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.”

Speaking earlier, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr. Moyo Onigbanjo (SAN), said the inauguration of the Governing Council is in fulfillment of the 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 said the Office of the Public Defender was established in 2000 to provide qualitative and free legal services to the less privileged and the vulnerable in the society.

She stressed further that: “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.”

The functions of the Council as spelt out in the Office of Public Defender Law, are as follows:

(a) Be responsible for matters relating to Legal aid provided by OPD in Lagos state and shall ensure that the OPD performs the duties imposed upon it under the OPD law;

(b) Formulate and develop strategies to implement the OPD Law and other related policies of the Lagos state Government towards giving legal assistance to the poor;

(c) Promote measures to improve Legal Aid and Assistance to the poor covered by the OPD law;

(d) Monitor and evaluate the quality and timeliness of the service provided by OPD.”

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.

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