The Edo State government has threatened litigation against continuous sale of soft copy of the State laws; on the State Ministry of Justice website particularly where there is no hard cover copy in public libraries and places.
A public interest lawyer, President Aigbokhan gave the warning in a letter dated 27th December 2023 and served on the Governor of the State same date.
Aigbokhan admonished the State Government not to charge any fee for accessing e-copy of the laws of the State.
“The practice tends to envelop these laws thereby encumbering free access to same and by extension; justice”.
Continuing, he noted; “Government’s duty extends beyond mere legislation. The legislature passes the law, the executive executes the law by promotion and the judiciary interprets the law.
“While the three arms of Government collectively enforces compliance.
“The exercise of the above-mentioned powers by these arms without citizens been able to access the laws, is only tantamount to a world of fools.”
Aigbokhan stressed, that laws serves as instruments of social change and control; and unrestricted access encourages voluntary compliance and active civic participation.
As well-informed citizens are more likely to engage in civic activities, contributing positively to the community.
Hence access to laws by payment of fees undermines democracy and its tenents, he added.
Reiterating the need for the Government not to charge any fee for accessing e-copy of the laws of the State, Aigbokhan said payment of fee in any guise introduces an unwarranted impediment, which particularly affects the poor.
As it also contradicts an inclusive approach that underlays the thrust of the administration, he continued.
The Government should also consider the legal landscape which thrives on innovation and progressive research; and the negative impact of limited access to electronic laws will have on legal professionals, scholars and researchers, he urged.
Aigbokhan further urged the State Government to immediately reverse the policy threatening, that failure will lead to challenging its closed law policy both in the national and international courts.