Lawyers, Court Officials Say Mother Tongue Permissible In Court

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A Lagos lawyer, Mr Folorunsho Ogunekun, said in Lagos on Tuesday that speaking the mother tongue in courts was permissible by the constitution, especially in preferring a charge against an accused.

Ogunekun spoke with newsmen while reacting to the World Mother Tongue Day celebration.

He said that the law provides in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution that when an accused person is arraigned, the charge must be read to him in the language he understands.

“This is called the right to an interpreter and this is essentially the duty of the court which is enshrined in the constitution,” he said.

According to Ogunekun, if mother tongue is not recognised by the courts, it will amount to injustice since the accused will be pleading to a charge he does not understand.

He commended the celebration of the day worldwide and urged all Nigerians to take advantage of their native dialects by incorporating them holistically in schools curriculum.

Another lawyer, Mr Yusuf Zakari, said that although mother tongue was not the official language of the court, they provide accused persons with interpreters.

Zakari said speaking the local language in the courts could not be over emphasised, adding that the customary and area courts predominantly used the local language for offenders.

“What benefit will the purpose of justice be to an old woman who does not understand English but is made to stand trial without any interpreter to translate what is been said to her” he said.

Mrs Yemi Kolawole, an interpreter and registrar, said the task of interpreting charges to accused person was very pleasant.

Kolawole said speaking the local language gives her a sense of belonging and also offers succor to an accused.

She said that if an accused was guilty of an offence, when he hears his language spoken to him, it would give him a soothing effect that he is before a people that understands him.

Another interpreter and registrar, Mr Patrick Bolu, said that judges have no option but to translate certain sentences into local dialects to facilitate cases.

Bolu said the mother tongue was applicable in all sectors and ministries since persons in some offices could be heard communicating in their dialects.

He expressed satisfaction at the celebration of the world mother tongue day, adding that this would assist families to intensify efforts in educating their children on the benefits of the mother tongue.

Ahman Makama
Author: Ahman Makama

In : Lagos

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