Social services and access to quality education will help bridge inequalities gap – Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International
The World Day of Social Justice for the year 2020 holds on Thursday, 20th February. According to the United Nations, the theme for the year is: “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice”.
Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous co-existence within and among nations. And through the promotion of gender equality and the rights of indigenous people and migrant, the principles of social justice are upheld.
Country Director Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, in a recent interview with Lex Community, spoke about the problems affecting the promotion of social justice, the roles of lawyers in the movement and how the Nigerian government can help bridge the inequalities gap.
Speaking about the roles of lawyers in the social justice movement, Ms. Ojigho emphasized on their importance, stating that they are part of the actors in the justice system hence making their roles critical.
According to her, lawyers who are interested in impacting on their society positively, often take on pro-bono cases. She further stated that since they are knowledgeable in the area of the law, they should be able to use the law in order to show how the constitution, legislation and government can act in a more humane manner.
In her words: “Lawyers occupy a very unique position in the justice system, and It is always beneficial when lawyers can use their skills to improve society.”
Using Legal aid, Criminal law and Violence against Persons (Prohibition)Act as examples, Ms. Ojigho also spoke about the need for laws to be ameliorated.
According to her, many laws in Nigeria need to be improved upon and more importantly, implemented. She also urged the government to provide the necessary resources for these laws to succeed.
When asked about the root causes that underpin the current unjust system in the country, Ms Ojigho mentioned poverty, discrimination and inequality.
Ms. Ojigho stated that in countries like Nigeria where people are living below the poverty line, those who can afford a lawyer and can bribe officials of the state, will tend to be able to afford justice in their favor.
On discrimination and inequality, she had this to say: “We have income inequality which manifests itself in poverty and we also have inequality in terms of status in society. How people are believed in terms of when there is a conflict, depends on whether you’re a big man or big woman. So, you’ll find that if you are an elder or you hold a position in society, people are most likely going to believe your own version of the story. And in patriarchal society like Nigeria, if a woman was supposed to bring up an issue against a man, she’ll struggle because women are considered lower than men.”
With regards to the theme of the 2020 World Day of Social Justice, Ms. Ojigho stated that closing the gap between the rich and the poor is one of the steps to bridging the inequality gap . And one way to do this is through social services and easy access to affordable and good quality education for all. She stated that If everyone regardless of financial status, can access health care and can also access low income houses at a rate they can afford, it will play a great role in bridging the inequality gap.
“Education is going to be the greatest leveler for class wars all over the world. If quality education is made expensive, that means people at the poorest of poor will never be able to pull themselves out of poverty. The quality of education also matters.”
We are now in the digital economy and everybody knows what will make sense in the future is how we are able to use data, science and technology in order to transform society to be more efficient and more effective. This is only going to happen if people have the right tools, and education is one way, we can transform society to improve itself.” she said.
A message from Amnesty International Nigeria on World Social Justice Day
“At Amnesty International Nigerian, we want the governments of the world to stand for human rights and to ensure that everyone has access to justice and that lawyers are supported in their work and do not get victimize as a result of providing essential legal services to vulnerable, marginalized and neglected people in or society.”