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The Informal Justice Court Project

Every year nearly 15 million people around the world end up in prison cells and detention centers awaiting trial. Many will spend months or even years behind bars, without ever seeing a judge.

Unfortunately, many inmates in Lagos’ prisons face a similar situation and may have to stay in pre-trial detention in prison for a long time. This situation creates legal uncertainty for the inmates and it leads to congestion in prisons. It also negatively affects the well-being of the inmates, the social and economic status of their families, and at the end the Nigerian society, as virtually all inmates will return to society at one point.

In close collaboration with a broad network of NGO’s and universities from Nigeria and the Netherlands, Aardschap Foundation – an action-research organization from the Netherlands - is conducting a multidisciplinary research project in Lagos: The Informal Justice Court Project.

Combining methods from arts and academics and building on the work of NGO’s and institutions from both Nigeria and the Netherlands, the ultimate goal of the project is to explore ways to improve and accelerate justice for awaiting trial inmates in Lagos’ prisons.

The research project started in January 2018, leading to a first exhibition at the African Artist’s Foundation in August 2018. The next exhibition in May 2019 shows the latest work from this ongoing research project, including drawings and texts about the current prison situation, inspirations and best-practices from around the world, and infographics depicting the crime and prison situation in Lagos and Nigeria in comparison to other countries.

Building on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King “Justice too long delayed, is justice denied”, the exhibition is also a place for interaction, discussion and research into the question how a court of and for inmates (informal justice court) may be a way to sensitize awaiting trial inmates about their legal position and to find ways to create justice.

Concept and research: Melle Smets & Joost van Onna
Graphic design: Golnar Abbasi
Exhibition coordination: Nguveren Ahau, Olayinka Last Name


Funded by: Netherlands Embassy in Nigeria
Hosted by: African Artists’ Foundation
Supported by: Lagos State University (Lagos, Nigeria), University of Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria), Lagos Public Interest Law Partnership, (Lagos, Nigeria), Foundation for Moral Value Reorientation (Lagos, Nigeria), African Artists’ Foundation (Lagos, Nigeria),VU University (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (The Hague, The Netherlands), Stroom HCBK (The Hague, The Netherlands)

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