The Justice system in Nigeria is constitutionally flawed and outdated; over eighty per cent of prisoners are awaiting trial. The style of policing and correctional services is barbaric warehouses for people considered ‘innocent’ by the very law of the society that imprisons them.
The Nigerian government has neglected to update and design a suitable criminal policy, access to justice initiatives are traditional and do not meet needs of millennials who averagely spends a considerable time on social media. They are often victims of rape, police brutality, domestic violence and emerging trends.
Gavel has positioned itself as a civil tech organization aimed at improving the pace of justice delivery through innovation and technology in Nigeria.
Gavel has over a hundred lawyers across fifteen states in the country and provides legal support for numerous victims of police brutality, extortion and extra judicial killings within the country free of charge.
During a chat with the founder of Gavel, Nelson Olanipekun, he stated that Gavel is funded majorly through grants and third-party-pays; a tripartite payment model where a third party pays for legal representation of an indigent person.
Mr. Olanipekun added “the huge demand for our services is making these sources insufficient and stimulates us to keep seeking more funding sources”.
Gavel is barely two years old but has had a lot of impact through its involvement with EndSARS movement, (SARS is special anti-robbery squad, however, they are notorious for several incidences of brutality, extortion and extra judicial killings).
Mr. Olanipekun said “alongside other members of the EndSARS team, our constant engagement with relevant authorities including the presidency to ensure a stop to the atrocities committed by this police unit”.
“I also engaged with the National Human Rights Commission on the need to create a nationwide public inquiry to the activities of the said unit, which they have concluded”, he added.
According Mr. Olanipekun, he developed the urge to provide legal aid regardless of economic constraints because of a significant experience he had when he was much younger.
“My father had taken a loan from the bank to run a grocery distribution company that went bad. Despite the fact that we had paid the loan money in full, the bank came knocking and wanted to sell our family house, which was used as collateral. It was with the aid of a pro bono lawyer that we were able to get justice and retain our house,” he said.
Gavel intends to change the way justice is delivered in Nigeria and to help create a justice sector that is fast and accessible to all.
Mr. Olanipekun concluded, “justice delayed is justice denied; but it is not uncommon to see pre-trial detainees that spend five years behind bars. This is the scenario we want to fix. We intend to reduce the rate of pre-trial detention”.