How will inmates of Lagos largest prison create justice?






Rehearsals & preparations

The Informal Justice Court Project started with several visits to Lagos and its prisons since 2018, researching the justice and prison situation in Lagos. To get an understanding of the Lagos’ justice and prison situation preliminary research was conducted and a network of stakeholders was built during this first two-week visit in January 2018. In collaboration with the African Artists’ Foundation and the Dutch Embassy in Nigeria this first stage resulted in a first multidisciplinary exhibition in Lagos.

In August - September 2018 Aardschap Foundation came back to Lagos for a 5-week period to gather additional perspectives. Seminars were organized with scholars, artists and professionals from the justice and prison system and extensive fieldwork was done. Besides a workshop with students and interviews and visits to courts and prisons took place. The results of this research have been brought together in the exhibition “Informal Justice Court Room”, hosted by the African Artists’ Foundation in Lagos in 2018.

Meanwhile, together with government agencies, experienced an local NGO’s and universities the project was further developed.

After a period of further research in the Netherlands and putting a lot of energy in strengthening the network, a third visit was made in May 2019. During a three-week period a second exhibition was held at the African Artists’ Foundation, showcasing the progress of the project.

These seminars, workshops and exhibitions created an alternative meeting point to gain insights for professionals and a room for reflection about their work.

Meanwhile, through partnership with the Public Interest Law Partnership (LPILP), Aardschap Foundation secured the permission of nine Nigerian Correctional Services to conduct the project in Ikoyi Prison.

During a fourth visit in February 2020 a two-day workshop program was organized with all the participants in the project: the Nigerian Correctional Services, the theatre makers, the pro bono lawyers and representatives from our partners LPILP and the African Artists Foundation. At the workshop detailed working plan and timetable for the project were finalized. The start was scheduled in July 2020 but had to be postponed because of covid-19.

In september-november the selection of inmates was carried out. In September -December 2020 a group of 80 inmates was drawn from the Lagos criminal information system. These inmates were then interviewed by a projectteam with the aim to see whether they would be willing to voluntary participate and to ask them about their pre-trial detention situation, background and theater skills. From this group the participating partners selected 15 inmates and the 15 reserve inmates, that represent the larger Ikoyi prison population. To select the convicted inmates, the team reached out to the Nigerian prison service to identify potential candidates, who were then interviewed.

Everything seemed ready for the Infomal Justice Court to call its first case!

The seminars, workshops and exhibitions created an alternative meeting point to gain insights for professionals and a room for reflection about their work.