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Strategic Impact Litigation Training Workshop

Towards getting Nigerian Lawyers to commence active Strategic Litigation cases that offers legal support to resource constrain citizens, Lawyers Alert will be conducting a strategic litigation training for Nigerian Lawyers on the 21st – 22nd of August 2018. Venue will be at Reiz Intercontinental Hotel Abuja. There will be Live streaming of the training on our Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/lawyersalert/ and YouTube page. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmeNqfhl9uNCVSmYs_E1_CA?view_as=subscriber You can also follow highlights of the training on our twitter page @lawyersalertNG.

 

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Combating Insecurity in Nigeria: Call for Restructuring the Nigeria Police

By Sunday Adaji Esq.

It would seem the current security situation in Nigeria calls for a complete overhaul of our security apparatus, to wit, our law enforcement agencies, especially the Nigeria Police. This overhaul goes beyond removing the executive officers of our law enforcement agencies. The overhaul has to do with restructuring.

We have talked about community policing in the past, but the fact that citizens are not trained and well-armed for this limits our ability to make any significant headway in our resolve to maintain law and order in Nigeria.

We have also been talking about restructuring. Perhaps, this is the right time to restructure. The current security situation in Nigeria calls for restructuring. We have the Boko Haram insurgencies in the North East of Nigeria. We also have the herdsmen ravaging most parts of the North, destroying lives and property with impunity. There seems to be no end in sight.

The police force seems helpless. In fact, a significant number of policemen have been killed by these insurgent groups. Unless drastic measures are taken to grapple with the insurgencies in the country, we may be heading towards the state of anarchy.

The primary duty of the government is the maintenance of law and order. To this end, section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN), 1999, as amended, states: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Although our law enforcement agents are trying, their effort is not yet good enough, for as long as these insurgencies continue, they have to redouble their effort to ensure that law and order is restored.

Call for State Police

Many people who call for restructuring have advocated for entrenchment of true federalism. Although Nigeria is a federal state, we cannot say that Nigeria is practicing true federalism. In a true federalism, power resides with the component units of the states which form the federation. Nigeria is made up of 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Nigeria’s style of federalism operates a three-tier government, which is the federal government, the state governments and the local governments. However, power does not reside in the 36 states, but in the central government, otherwise known as the federal government.

The implication is that the central government is over bloated with the power that should reside in the 36 states. All the assets that should belong to the component states (natural and material resources) are taken over by the central government to be utilized for the benefit of the component states.

With power concentrated at the Centre, all 36 component states are forced to rely on the Centre for their monthly statutory allocation. Further, the Centre is in control and seen as the highest authority from which orders emanate. This is actually not the representation of a true federalism. In a true federalism, the component states are meant to be as, if not more powerful than the Centre.

One of the major shortcomings of Nigeria’s type of federalism is that until orders come from the Centre, the component states remain practically at a standstill. Everything depends on the Centre.

As a result of this major shortcoming, many have advocated for restructuring, calling for the  establishment of a state police. Proponents of this restructuring are of the view that if each component state has her own police, they would be able to handle security situations in their territory.

The Federal Government seems to be toeing the line of restructuring the police as there is, before the National Assembly, the agitation for the amendment of the Nigerian Constitution to reflect restructuring. By this restructuring, each of the 36 states of Nigeria would have its own police while the Federal (Central) Government would have her own separate.

This is a welcome development. It is our hope that when the constitution is finally amended to restructure the Nigeria police, and the 36 state governments now establish their police, this restructuring will go a long way to curtail the problem of insecurity in Nigeria.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Benue Political Logjam and the Fate of the Electorate

By Richard A Hwande Esq.

Preamble

Political upheavals and recalibrations are not new on election eve years. In Nigeria, this is characterized by party defections and counter defections by political gladiators.  This obtains at all levels of the political class. Back in 2014, a political eve year, this scenario played out with mass defections from the then PDP to the APC. Four years later, its déjà vu. This high level Political scheming and machination cannot go without its effect on the polity. The current political intrigues as obtained have cascaded down to the grassroots across Nigeria in varying magnitudes.  The political environment and dynamics in States across Nigeria have been recalibrated in quantum leaps with the fate of the common man and electorate hanging in the balance.

The Confusing Benue Episode

Benue Politics has always had an interesting narrative. From time immemorial, political alignments and counter alignments have rocked the State with attendant effects both negative and positive including the current episode.

The current Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom has been locked in a tense face-off with his erstwhile god-father, Senator George Akume, the de facto APC leader in the State. The reason for the face off cannot be emphatically established as this, like other political issues, is shrouded in secrecy leaving room for rumored and assumed reasons to swirl around.

The effects of the face-off are however not rumored or assumed. They are real and staring right at us, the biggest being the defection of the Governor, his deputy, 13 local government chairmen, and 22 Assembly men from the APC to the PDP, the closest choice. This has opened up a gamut of political swings and up swings in the State with each action birthing a reaction.

On the 24th day of July, 2018, the speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly Hon. Terkimbir Ikyange and his deputy, Hon. James Okefe, were impeached unanimously by about 22 members present at a reconvened session of the house. Recall that a week earlier the House had proceeded on a month’s recess to resume plenary on the 15th of August, 2018 only to reconvene abruptly against its standard practice to impeach the speaker, his deputy and other principal officers of the House in curious and suspicious circumstances. The 22 members of the House elected a new speaker and a deputy on the same date.

The following timeline captures the unfolding political quagmire:

  • On the 24th day of July, 2018, the speaker, Benue State House of Assembly and deputy are impeached by 22 members present at a reconvened session.
  • On the 25th of July, 2018, the Benue state Governor decamps from the APC to the PDP.
  • On the 26th July, 2018, heavily armed Police squad cordones off the State Assembly preventing members and staff from accessing the Assembly complex. This move is believed to have been orchestrated by the impeached Speaker in tandem with the APC leadership in the State.
  • On the 27th July, the chief Judge of Benue State issues an order restraining Hon. Terkimbir Ikyange and others from parading themselves as leaders of the State Assembly while a pending suit they had filed before another High Court of Justice in Makurdi challenging the impeachment was yet to be determined.

In another twist, another State High Court issued yet another order restraining the police from occupying the State Assembly Complex and preventing the 22 Assembly members loyal to the Governor from gaining access to the Benue State House of Assembly Complex to carry out  their official duties. The Police have since vacated the complex but the house is yet to resume sitting as it is currently on recess.

As it stands:

Currently, in Benue State, things are falling apart and the centre is not holding. The political logjam is taking its toll on Governance leaving the common man in the street in limbo. For instance, 9 of the 13 State Exco members loyal to the erstwhile god father have been sacked with no replacements made so far not mentioning heads of Parastatals and agencies including the Benue State Internal Revenue Service.

The Implications

The implications of the political logjam are multiple and burdensome. The first implication is that the issues of core governance, which are service delivery to the is neglected and has been sacrificed on the altar of ego and the political interests of the gladiators.

Another implication is the deepening of poverty and misery on the already impoverished Benue Citizen. Since the beginning of 2018, Benue has been engulfed in a vicious orgy of bloodletting by killer herdsmen with attendant consequences. Going by the reports of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency, it had registered more than 180, 000 displaced persons which it has been catering for in eight camps while over 500 000 IDPs are taking shelter wherever they find space. Mercifully, the attacks are beginning to decline with slender peace appearing on the horizon in the State. The least the State needs at the moment is another round of disharmony from its leaders. Political affiliations are normal and legal but the acrimony and tension being witnessed in the State at the moment is least desired. This will no doubt deepen the poverty level of the already impoverished Benue Citizenry especially Women and Children.

Yet another grave implication of the current situation in Benue State is the derailment of democratic structures and values in the State. For example, it was widely reported that a battalion of heavily armed Police men invaded the State Assembly more than once to prevent the assembly from sitting to carry out its legislative functions. At any rate, it is most undemocratic and absurd for the Police and other Security agents to invade a legislative complex to prevent lawmakers and their aides from carrying out their duties. Furthermore, the Assembly is divided between two factions. A 22 member faction loyal to the Governor and another 8 member faction loyal to Senator George  Akume. Things got uglier when the 8 man Assembly faction attempted to impeach the Governor in a counter move against the 22 man group. The 22 Assembly members now sit at the Banquet Hall of the Government House to carry out their legislative duties.

We can go on and on reeling out the implications as negative as they are. Going forward however, we recommend the following as measures to save our State and its future from imminent danger.

Recommendations:

  • We call on all warring factions to sheath their daggers and dialogue over their differences for the interest of the common man.
  • Security agencies including the Police should not be allowed to be used as hatchet men in the hands of Politicians to settle scores with disregard to democratic norms and the rule of law in Benue State and Nigeria.
  • Peace and harmony are the most important resources the State and its Citizenry need as we emerge from herdsmen crises in the State.
  • The various interest groups should note that the citizen is paramount and should be prioritised above everything else including political interest especially the rights of Women, Children and the most vulnerable in our society.

In conclusion, we can only say that though conflicts, disagreements and realignments are common decimals in party politics, these can, however, be managed in an effective and  efficient manner without losing sight of the bigger picture which is the growth and development of our State and the Nation as  a whole.

In conclusion, we aver that this Benue logjam will provide the electorate an opportunity to know who has their interest at heart as we go to the polls come 2019.

R.A. Hwande Esq is a Legal Officer with Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

A ONE DAY SENSITIZATION WITH KABUSA MARKET WOMEN ASSOCIATION ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)

Dated 12Th June 2018.

The problem of gender-based violence (GBV) is an age-long problem in our communities which has led to loss of lives, emotional disorder, psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses.  These violations happen more in rural areas than the urban areas due to poor access to information, inadequate exposure and anti-human rights cultural practices, leading to an anti-social environment for women and children. Market women who ordinarily carry the burden for over 70% of the Nigerian families and are the economic main- stay of most homes suffer the most. It shows in several ways and not necessarily violent – owing to Market women often non awareness of this, it gradually ebb their sense of dignity and consequent inability to raise citizens who fully appreciate their beings in our homes.

Lawyers Alert as a human rights Organization has identified the gap which has put the lives of many women at the risk of suffering violations and other human rights abuses, and is now engaging market women associations across the country to sensitize them on Gender based violence.

The first of this training held with the kabusa market women – Abuja sorboses. The training which started at about 2:30 PM with over fourty women in attendance was held at the market square and it started with an opening prayer by a delegate of the Market Women Leader, after which a welcome address was taken by the Market Women Leader herself. All the participants briefly introduced themselves. Mr. Yemi Agoro took time to introduce Lawyers Alert as an Organization to the women and also talked about the Objectives of the meeting. Ellen Onugha who is our legal officer took time to talk about legal literacy and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Mr Yemi Agoro and Elvis Torkuma took few minutes to summarize everything in local English in other for the women to understand it better. After the session on legal literacy and Sexual reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we gave room for comments and questions. The women were excited with our services and many threw questions which we were able to respond to with the rights answers.

One woman stood up and said, she would take it upon herself to educate those who were not present at the meeting. Another woman said initially she thought it was money we came to share to them but what she learnt from us is much more than money. After the feedback session, emphases were made on Lawyers Alert’s pro bono services, mediation, where and how they can access our free legal services and what to do when their rights are violated. This topic was even more exciting and overwhelming to them because even before we could finish this session, we had over six women reporting violations to us at the spot. It was a successful program because from their comments, questions, recommendations and openness to discuss their problems with us at the training ground, we could see that we exceeded their expectations.

 

In conclusion, we recommend more of this sensitization program for market women in other locations because many women do not know their rights and they do not know that these rights can be protected and enhanced. This will lead to more enlightened women in the society and reduction or total eradication of gender-based violence in Nigeria.

 

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LAWYERS ALERT CONTINUES ITS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS ENGAGEMENT

In continuation of our project which seeks to reduce and eliminate violence against women and girls, Lawyers alert has added 5 states to its already existing 8, making it a total of 13 states.

As in other states, Lawyers Alert in these new states will meet and create partnership with community women groups, the media and human rights lawyers in each state. The essence is to create rights awareness for women so they can report violations of their rights when it occurs and to recognize violations around them. It is also necessary that the media is sensitized on how best to report gender based violence through the lens of human rights. The last objective is to link these women with lawyers who will provide them with free legal services and where the services required are not legal, to refer them to other service providers.

 

In the last 6 weeks, Lawyers Alert has created partnership with key groups in these 5 states and we are currently liaising with several community women groups who report violations and access free legal services.

 

In Osun state, we are liaising with Community Advancement Initiative for Self-Reliance while in Plateau the partnering is with Center for the Advocacy for Justice and Rights (CAJR). In Niger, the Sisters Closet Counseling Volunteers (SCCV) are our partners as Girls Power Initiative (GPI) work with us in Edo State. Rahama Women Development Programme (RWDP) is our partners in Bauchi State.

Even though the project is halfway implemented, we have recorded an estimated 59 reported violations, with free legal services now being offered to over 42 women.

We have a vision of bringing justice home to women and girls who suffer violations and to also create enough publicity around these harmful practices. The analyzed data will soon be released and this will reveal the number of violations in Nigeria. Someday, we hope that these violations will become a thing of the past.

 

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FACILITATION OF EFFECTIVE SRHR MOVEMENT IN NIGERIA BEGINS.

Lawyers Alert on the 14th and 15th of May 2018 organised a meeting with Lawyers representing the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria towards the start of a project where the lawyers will act as the hub for start of a SRHR movement n Nigeria. The Lawyers under the aegis of Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights, COLaHR, will partner with small and medium size CSOs at community levels towards massive organisational capacity building, legal literacy, free legal representation and strategic litigation.

Some pictures at the meeting

Key agreements and next points from the meeting includes but is not limited to:

  • Capacity assessment for COLaHR and other small & medium size CSOs in the zones for the purpose of a capacity building plan.
  • Monitoring and documentation of SRHR violations in Nigeria across the six zones.
  • Free legal representation to victims of SRHR violations
  • Capacity building for COLaHR and small & medium CSOs to commence.
  • Road map for public impact litigation agreed.

 

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Human Rights

 

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LAWYERS ALERT RELEASES REPORT ON MILITARY INVASION OF NAKA, BENUE STATE, NIGERIA.

Following the invasion and razing down of the Naka, a town in Benue state by the Nigeria military on the 19th day of April, 2018, Lawyers Alert has released a report detailing the violations that ensued thereof. In the 2 hours of this operation, more than 250 houses and other property worth millions of naira including foodstuffs and other household items had been destroyed. This is sadly within the context of herdsmen killings within the same community.

The invasion is said to be in reprisal for the alleged killing of a soldier by some residents of the town.

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Lawyers Alert within the report recommended the immediate release of the arrested suspects from military detention facilities and handing over of same to the Nigeria Police Force for necessary investigation and possible trial in a civil court; setting up of a judicial commission of Inquiry with the aim of identifying all those culpable in these acts and bringing them to trial; the compensation and rehabilitation of the victims of this invasion amongst several other recommendations.

The report is available at:

http://lawyersalertng.org/activities/Nigeria%20Military%20Invasion%20of%20Naka%20%20Town%20in%20Benue%20State.pdf

 

 

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