DEPARTMENT OF PEOPLE’S RIGHTS IN THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE.

It is worthy of note that before the passage of the Multi-door Courthouse Law 2012, in the year 2000, the Government through the Ministry of Justice in its effort to carry out one of its cardinal responsibilities of facilitating just, peaceful and speedy resolution of disputes between persons or between Government or authority and persons with respect to all matters in the State, set up the Department of Peoples Rights vide an EXCO Conclusion E.C. (2000) 22. The Department is to provide an alternative to the traditional Court System for dispute resolution.

The hitherto wholesale reliance only on the conventional court-based litigation system with its attendant limitations of technicality, high costs, delays and its unpredictability had in no small measure made the option less attractive to litigants and persons with one grouse or the other with their fellow individuals or with government or its institutions. In addition the court-based litigation option does not admit of all types of grievances being limited to justiciable grievances and disputes arising from a breach of right or duty that is legally recognizable and enforceable.

          There was no place for non-justiciable grievances/ which by our recent experience in the Niger Delta forms the bulk of dispute between individuals and Host communities, Companies and Government. This lacuna only promoted recourse to violence and self-help as a ready means for the settlement of disputes. As is obvious most of these conflicts are economic related and as such generate a lot of tension and emotion which impedes communication and fruitful dialogue. The alternative dispute resolution option will provide a forum for aggrieved persons to ventilate these grievances unhindered. Expense and cost will also be saved and most importantly previous relationships and trust between the parties are maintained.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution centre in the State Ministry of Justice called the Department of Peoples Rights has the authority to use alternative dispute resolution in the following areas:

          (i)      Disputes between Companies and host Communities:

To provide a rational basis for resolving this category of dispute every major company shall be required to negotiate and execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its host community or communities. The MoU shall set out the social responsibilities of the respective parties as negotiated by them. The MoU shall be attested to by the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice by franking and a copy shall be deposited with the Department for the purpose of monitoring its implementation and settling any disputes that may arise therefrom between the parties.

          (ii)     Common dispute between Landlords and Tenants:

This category of disputes usually creates insecurity of tenure with its attendant social problems for the tenant and his family. Security of tenure is a necessary ingredient of social stability, required for peaceful disposition in any society.

          (iii)    Cases of Violation of Human Rights:   

One of the constitutional responsibilities of the government is the protection of the human rights of the individual. The responsibility is carried out by the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Peoples Rights is to help the Ministry become more rights sensitive and responsive to the legal needs of the disadvantaged in particular.

          (iv)    Dispute between Employers and Employees

There is a need to create industrial harmony in the State and the Department employs every method of dispute resolution to maintain industrial peace.

(v)     Any Other Dispute:

Any other type of dispute that may be referred to the Department by the Governor or any Commissioner from time to time.

          (vi)    Public Enlightenment Campaigns:

The Department is also authorized to undertake public enlightenment campaigns to educate our people on the criminality of the prevalent anti-social conducts such as extortion, kidnapping, riots, youth hooliganism, mob action with their attendant criminal undertone.

In the discharge of its functions the department is to collaborate with relevant civil society groups such as non-governmental organizations, the private bar and other interested parties to provide greater efficiency and access to justice for all particularly the disadvantaged. The Department, within the period under review, received 452 (four hundred and fifty-two) cases, resolved 150 (one hundred and fifty) of the cases, 50 (fifty) were abandoned by the complainants while 215 (Two hundred and fifteen) are still pending.

This administration has invested massively in capacity building initiatives so as to ensure that the Department of People’s Rights perform its duties, particularly in the area of ensuring that Companies that invest in our State are provided a conducive environment to carry out their businesses without disturbance from Host Communities. A conducive environment to do business is a great incentive for investors to do business in Delta State. These initiatives include:-

Training of lawyers in the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms. Over 60 Mediators and 15 Arbitration Experts have been trained by this administration.

Provision of laptop Computers fitted with professional legal software and internet connectivity for lawyers in the Ministry. This will ensure that our lawyers spread across the state are competent and well trained to address the needs of Investors across the State on any Community-Company challenges that may arise.

Creation of 25 Mediation Centers across the State by this administration. The Ministry of Justice presently has a Mediation Centre at Asaba, however in view of the several requests for our services across the State, it became imperative to increase the number of such Centres. This will ensure a rapid response time to the needs of investors or companies operating in the State who have issues with their Host Communities and their employees. The need to come to Asaba is therefore eliminated.

Creation of Zonal Offices across the State: In a bid to make justice accessible to all indigenes, residents and investors, the Ministry of Justice has established eleven (11) Zonal offices across the state to prosecute criminal matters, commercial disputes, civil claims, etc within the respective zones. The zones include:

Agbor Zone: This zone prosecutes matters in the twin local governments of Ika South and Ika North East. The zonal office is located at Agbor.

Ogwashi-Uku/Ibusa Zone was created under the period under review and it covers Aniocha South Local Government Area and part of Oshimili North Local Government Area. The office is situate at Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area.

Akukwu-Igbo/ Issele-Uku also created under this administration covers part of Oshimili North and the entire Aniocha North Local Government Area. The office is located at Issele-Uku, Aniocha North Local Government Area.

Kwale Zone: The three local government areas of Ukwuani, Ndokwa West and Ndokwa East are serviced by the staff of the Ministry of Justice in the Zone. The headquarters of the zone is located in Kwale.

Ozoro/Oleh Zone: This zone prosecutes matters in Isoko North and Isoko South Local Government Areas of Delta State. The office is located at Ozoro, Isoko North Local Government Area.

Ughelli Zone: This zone prosecutes matters from Ughelli North, Bomadi and Patani Local Government Areas. The office is located at Ughelli in Ughelli North Local Government Area.

Otu-Jeremi Zone covers Ughelli South and Udu Local Government Areas and the office is situated at Otu-Jeremi, Ughelli South Local Government Area.

Effurun Zone renders services to the people and investors in Uvwie Local Government Area.

Orerokpe Zone renders services to the people and investors in Okpe and Ethiope East Local Government Areas. The office is located at Orerokpe in Okpe Local Government Area.

Warri Zone: This zone encapsulates 3 local government areas viz: Burutu, Warri North, Warri South and Warri South- West. The office is at Warri in Warri North Local Government Area.

Sapele Zone: There are two local government areas in this zone viz: Sapele and Ethiope West Local Government Areas. The office is situated at Sapele in Sapele Local Government Area.

The creation of the various zonal offices has impacted hugely on the access to justice in the State.

The Policy of the Ministry of Justice to insert Dispute Resolution Clauses in all Commercial Contract agreements between the State and its Investors is aimed at ensuring that ADR is attempted as a first option in resolving disputes.

INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT

  • Renovation of Ministry of Justice Headquarter buildings
  • Provision of over 170 laptops equipped with e-library (Law Pavilion) for lawyers and non-legal Officers
  • Provision of modern office furniture
  • Provision of Internet Connectivity
  • Refurbishment of over 5 abandoned official vehicles
  • Provision of air conditioners
  • Provision of photocopiers

PUBLIC ENLIGHTENMENT CAMPAIGN

  • Within the period under review, the Ministry initiated a Public Enlightenment Programme on TV known as Justice Half Hour. The programme is aimed at creating public awareness for members of the public to respect the laws of the land and also to highlight the role of the Ministry of Justice in promoting peace and security, the rule of law and good governance in the State.
  • The 30 minutes educative programme is also aimed at promoting the spirit of patriotism and encourage our people to exercise their civic responsibilities of reporting activities of criminals as well as encourage witnesses in matters pending in Court to willingly come forward to give evidence during trials against accused person. It is also designed to create public confidence in the minds of our people to join hands with Government in fighting crime and the prosecution of offenders.
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