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SUSAN OKPE: OPEN LETTER TO THE DIRECTOR GENERAL NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL

SUSAN OKPE: OPEN LETTER TO THE DIRECTOR GENERAL NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL

 

The Director-General,

National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC),

Plot 801, Ebitu Ukiwe Street,

Jabi,

Abuja.

 

Dear Sir,

 

RE- SUSAN OKPE: BENUE STATE COVID-19 INDEX CASE

Lawyers Alert is a Rights-Based Civil Society Organization made up of principally Lawyers and other professionals committed to the cause of Human Rights and access to justice.  Our vision is a developed Nigeria where Women and other vulnerable groups, are free from injustice. Our mission is the empowerment of women and other vulnerable groups on the knowledge of their rights and the means of enforcing same in a secure environment.

 

We write in regard to one Mrs. Susan Okpe, a female, Nigerian who has been under your care in the isolation centre, Abuja for over 50 days as at the time of writing this letter. We as other Nigerians are concerned about the continued detention of Mrs. Okpe in the isolation centre with very little information from the NCDC about the circumstances surrounding her case and the reason for her continuous detention. We refer to this as detention owing to her several videos stating so and her calls to Nigerians to intervene in her case.

 

Sir, kindly recall that on the 28th day of March 2020, the Benue State Government made public the case of one Mrs. Susan Okpe, as the index COVID-19 case in the State. Upon the announcement of the case, she was subsequently handed over to the National Centre for Disease Control and then transferred to the National Isolation centre in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The Woman has been under isolation and supposed treatment.

 

Since then, it has been over 50 days and Mrs. Okpe is still under the care of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to the concern of Lawyers Alert and other Nigerians. Though we are not a health or medical-based organization, our modest knowledge suggests that patients with COVID-19 either get better or worse under treatment after 2-3 weeks, subsequent upon which they are discharged, or in the worst-case scenario they are pronounced dead. Mrs. Okpe’s case is getting protracted and a little overdue. She has been under treatment for over 50 days without any formal updates to her family and relations. Worse still, videos have been circulating on social media handles in which she has expressed strong displeasure over her protracted detention and refusal of the concerned persons to avail her of results and, or even offer her modest treatment.

The management of Mrs. Susan Okpe’s case by the NCDC leaves much to be desired with grave consequences.  This is not about Mrs. Susan Okpe alone but the messages the NCDC is sending out there to the members of the public on their treatment and management of COVID-19 in Nigeria. This situation has a lot of negative implications which includes but not limited to the following:

  • It will erode public confidence in the ability of the NCDC to effectively and efficiently manage COVID -19 thereby jeopardizing all the gains that have been made over the period.
  • It will instill fear, doubts, and disbelief in other Nigerians who may feel reluctant to come out for tests even when they have a need to.
  • It will also feed and embolden the merchants of conspiracy theories and fake news regarding COVID-19 in Nigeria in the justification of their claims
  • It will send a wrong signal to the international community about our approach to the pandemic in the country
  • It also indicates a violation of the rights of the Patient as she has expressed strong displeasure over her protracted stay at the isolation centre.

Based on the above, therefore, Lawyers Alert hereby demands that the NCDC within 7 days of the publication of this letter:

  • Disclose the true state of Mrs. Susan Okpes’ condition and the reason for her protracted detention at the centre. We concede that the issues of her health are confidential, however; this right is deemed waived as she has challenged the appropriate authorities through her videos on several social media platforms, on the authenticity of her detention with particular reference to her supposed Covid-19 status and the full disclosure of the findings of the NCDC.
  • Disclose the measures that NCDC is taking in the course of her treatment and the issues hindering her release from the Isolation centre. We equally concede that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is by law empowered to isolate a confirmed case until they are fully satisfied with the recovery status. However, information to the patient, her relations, and other stakeholders are also very fundamental as a matter of right.
  • Put in place machinery to relocate Mrs. Susan Okpe to her Family as soon as possible.

Failure to respond to these issues, Lawyers Alert will have no choice but to approach the Courts towards the enforcement of the fundamental rights of Mrs. Susan Okpe.

 

We look forward to your swift response.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

VICTOR EBOH

Legal Officer.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Workers Day and Rights of Vulnerable Workers in Nigeria.

Workers Day and Rights of Vulnerable Workers in Nigeria

 

By Roseline Oghenebrume

There is a connection between human rights and employment: human rights will only be functional when a person’s source of livelihood is unhindered as this impact on rights to life, movement, peaceful assembly and association, privacy, and human dignity, liberty, property, etc. Even at this, an unhealthy working environment and poor terms of employment can and often undermine worker’s rights.

 

May 1st of every year is set aside as International Workers’ Day, also known as Workers’ Day or Labour Day to celebrate workers. This is commendable as it not only infuses dignity in labour but also emphasizes the need for best practices and enhances workers’ rights. While this is commendable, the question is, where is the place of the vulnerable worker in these celebrations? Someone will ask, who are Vulnerable Workers?

 

According to Lawrence Jeff Johnson of the International Labour Organization: Vulnerable employment is often characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity, and difficult conditions of work that undermine workers’ fundamental rights.

HSE also defines vulnerable workers as those who are at risk of having their workplace entitlements denied, or who lack the capacity or means to secure them. Health and safety should not be used as an excuse to justify discriminating against certain groups of workers. From these definitions, one can safely relate vulnerability to Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), Women, Workers displaced by insurgencies/crisis, etc. If the above is true, are these groups of workers also part of the celebrations or a footnote?

Over time, it can be argued that vulnerable workers are at best a footnote in the celebrations and unseen. Workers’ rights, however, do also apply to them, including the dignity of labour, given their contributions at their various places of work. Workers Day celebration must, therefore, celebrate these sets of workers and employers of labour (Organized Private Sector and Government) must also in celebrating the Workers Day put in frameworks to protect the rights of the vulnerable workers.

Lawyers Alert in September 2018 using the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 in the National Industrial Court of Nigeria got a groundbreaking judgment that specifically addressed the issue of termination of employment of vulnerable workers owing to their HIV status. The court held that workers cannot be terminated on account of their HIV status. The court also gave vulnerable workers the right to approach courts without disclosing their identity in the likely event of stigma and discrimination (Anonymity Order). This was in the case of Mr. X. vs Brinks. Mr. X. was terminated based on his HIV status and approached Lawyers Alert for the determination of his matter.

The judgment more than anything else calls for reflections on the place of the vulnerable worker in Nigeria today and the world at large. The 2020 May Day celebration presents a unique opportunity to celebrate the vulnerable worker focusing on this judgment, state of the law, compliance with these laws, including awareness creation on rights.

Nigeria has signed most of the United Nations treaties, obligations, in addition to ratifying most of International Labour Organization conventions, recommendations, etc. The majority of these provisions have either been domesticated in our various laws, policies, or enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. The questions are; What are the positive implications on or for vulnerable workers and human rights in Nigeria? Are these provisions being practically implemented or observed? what are the measures, sanctions, or enforcement mechanisms against non-implementation or infractions?

 

Vulnerable workers have over time suffered a lot of injustice by way of unfair labour practices including outright dismissal for no just cause. Their situation is worsened given that the labour union themselves are not particularly focused on the plight of their vulnerable members. Laws to protect vulnerable workers are hardly complied with even when they exist. The HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 in Nigeria for example, was passed to protect the vulnerable worker through the adoption of workplace policies by employers but has largely not been complied with. Another example is the Discrimination of Persons With Disability Act, 2018. This Act provides for the full integration of persons with disabilities into the society, this also has largely not been complied with.

The value for the Labour Force in Nigeria as of 2019 is about 70 million. According to ILO, the percentage of value for vulnerable women&men in workplaces are 84.98% and 72.54% respectively. Addressing issues of vulnerability in workplaces is critical as the percentage of each gender is above half i.e. above 50% each. Denying vulnerable Workers work-based rights is denying them their human rights because work-based rights are intended to ensure that all categories of employees regardless of social, sexual, age, racial, economic political, religious, cultural, and ethnic status are treated equally. They are not discriminated against, have equal opportunities and access to these opportunities. In essence, nobody is excluded from optimizing or accessing any of these rights either in the work environment or in outer society.

With the fast-rising value of the Labour Force in Nigeria, there is a heightened need for awareness creation on the rights of vulnerable workers towards enforcing their rights. The general public and employers of labours should be sensitized on an adequate understanding of the rights of the vulnerable workers in the workplace. Equally, employers of labour and government need to be sensitized on their roles in the fulfillment of these rights. There is also a need to engage Labour Unions, workers Advocates, and other Institutions/MDAs associated with enforcing employment rights to compel employers of labour and government institutions to have workplace policies that promote and respect the rights of vulnerable workers and to comply with existing Laws and Policies.

The UN Declaration on human rights and the ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work contain provisions to engender and advance human rights and workers’ rights, enhance equality between both male and female gender and guarantee equality for disadvantaged groups like women, disabled and minorities. Therefore, the celebration of May Day can only be inclusive if/when there is enhanced visibility of vulnerable workers’ rights especially to employers (Government and Organized Private Sector); there is Respect of vulnerable workers’ rights in Nigeria; and a strong Compliance with extant laws with regard to vulnerable workers’ rights in Nigeria.

Vulnerable Workers Rights are Human Rights!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

COVID-19 NATIONAL RESPONSE: THE NEED FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS TO RESPECT CITIZENS’ RIGHTS

Coronavirus: Security forces kill more Nigerians than Covid-19 ...

COVID-19 NATIONAL RESPONSE: THE NEED FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS TO RESPECT CITIZENS’ RIGHTS

By BLESSING MASE

 

Introduction

At a time when national security and the cooperation of all citizens are vital, situation reports show that the law enforcement agents who were instructed to enforce the stay-at-home order of the Federal Government are violating the rights of citizens in various parts of Nigeria.

The stay-at-home order of President Muhammadu Buhari came in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and as it were, law enforcement agents were instructed to enforce the President’s Order.

Recall that in 2019, the first case of Corona Virus (COVID-19) was confirmed in the Chinese city of Wuhan and it was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO). On 27 February 2020, here in Nigeria, an Italian national who came into the country was tested positive to the virus in Lagos State. Also, another case was confirmed in Ogun state when a Nigerian citizen who had contact with the Italian national contracted COVID-19. As a result of the high rise of the pandemic, the Federal Government decided to lockdown three states in the federation, namely Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja on the 23rd of March 2020. Many other states were locked down by their Governors. As at the time of writing this article, 305 Nigerians had been tested positive of COVID-19.

Human Rights Violation by Law Enforcement Agents

While the 14 days’ stay-at-home order continues, it was gathered authoritatively that law enforcement agents were very brutal in the course of discharging their duties. On the 9th of April 2020, a group of soldiers was seen chasing errant Abuja residents with rods because they defied the stay-at-home order. Three days later, some people were caught violating the stay at home. In another place, some young men that were caught violating the stay at home order were beaten mercilessly, inflicting injuries on all parts of their body. Women that came to sell food items, their food were destroyed and thrown away. These are people that come from poor homes and their means of livelihood depend on the petty business they do to survive. This is contrary to President Buhari’s order that food sellers and others whose services are indispensable should go about their normal businesses.

Recently, doctors working for Federal Medical Centres in Delta State have gone on an indefinite strike as a result of police molestation. Also, 4 people have been killed by police officers in Trikania community in Kaduna for violating Kaduna State’s stay at home order. To stop the spread of COVID-19, the Kaduna state government ordered a shutdown of social and economic activities last month. The joint task force enforcing the order had a confrontation with some of the youths in Trikania community in Kaduna on the 6Th of April 2020 in a market area. According to an eye witness, when things started getting out of hand, the joint task force invited the police for reinforcements. When they came and saw the situation, they have to shoot teargas canister to disperse the crowd. They were pelted with stones in retaliation. To calm the situation, the police later started using live bullets. That led to four people been killed and 10 critically injured. The angry youths have vowed to launch a reprisal against the Police. One of the victims who was shot in front of his house came out to know what the commotion was all about. When he rushed out of his house, a stray bullet pierced into his chest and he died instantly.

Conclusion

Sure, the Nigeria Police Force which is the principal law enforcement agency of the government is aware that molestation of any individual amounts to Human rights violation, especially if there is no reasonable justification for that. The police are aware that they are not expected to subject any citizen to degrading and inhuman treatment. Policemen are law-keepers and are not expected to violate the law. Ever since the outbreak of this deadly COVID-19, the medical personnel have been working tirelessly treating the affected victims and are permitted to move around to help reduce the spread.

We understand the difficult nature of the work of our law enforcement agents. Maintaining law and order is not easy. Sometimes their lives are in danger. Again, some Nigerians are non-compliant and will never comply with any law, regulation, or order. This can be frustrating. But as well-trained and highly disciplined professionals, policemen are expected to always be on top of situations. They should know when to shoot life bullets and when not to. They should know when to apply force and when not to. They should learn to be civil when enforcing the law. They should know when a person is breaking the law and when he is not. They should also be conversant with the instruction given to them.

The government needs to sensitize these law enforcement agencies on how to handle this lockdown situation. The police and soldiers who are supposed to be protecting the citizens are the ones killing the citizens. While we appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement agents in enforcing the stay at home order, we cannot lose sight of the fact that they ought to discharge their duties lawfully and at the same time respect the fundamental human rights of citizens. This is professionalism and we cannot expect anything less.

God bless Nigeria!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

THE EFFECTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

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THE EFFECTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

By Yua Miriam

It was on a Monday afternoon, when Agatha and Isaac returned from the farm. Isaac took his bath and fell on the bed to rest, Agatha was so exhausted and wanted to rest but she could not because she needed to prepare lunch. Her 7months old baby was crying seriously and in need of attention. As she was attending to her, Isaac stood up from where he was laying and started yelling at her stating that he is hungry and she is busy attending to the baby. Before Agatha could say a word Isaac grabbed one of her hands and jerked her out of their bed. It was at this point that his verbal abuse moved from her not preparing lunch at the time he wanted, to her incompetence as a wife. When Isaac started beating her with his fists, she used her arms to protect her 7months old baby from getting hurt by her husband she quickly dropped the baby on bed and ran to the sitting room where she fell and dislocated one of her arms. She experienced this violent attack by her husband in the fifth year of her eighth years in marriage. It was one of many incidences that occurred during their marriage and it is typical of violence that is referred to as Violence against Women.

According to the United Nations, Violence Against Women is any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Population-level surveys based on reports from victims provide the most accurate estimates of the prevalence of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. A 2013 analysis conduct by WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the South Africa Medical Research Council, used existing data from over 80 countries and found that worldwide, 1 in 3, or 35% of women have experienced physical and or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence. Globally, as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. In addition to intimate partner violence, globally 7% of women report having been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, although data for non-partner sexual violence are more limited. Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women.

Violence against women occurs on a daily basis, at home, workplace, school even on the street. This violence most at times causes long term physical and mental health problems to the survivors of the abuse and it does not just affects the women involved but also their children, families and even communities. Many women are forced to leave their homes because of violence from their partners. Most women and children become homeless because of violence from their intimate partners.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, humans are forced to stay at home as a precautionary measure. It is speculated that more violence against women will be perpetrated this period. Therefore, government agencies and civil societies intervening in Violence against Women should double efforts in curbing the peril.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Government should create awareness or educate citizens on the dangers/consequences of violence against women.
  2. Women should be educated on what to do when the need arises.
  3. Machinery and systems should developed towards the monitoring and documentation of violence against Women
  4. All Sub National Governments in Nigeria should domesticate and fully implement the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act in their various States
  5. Offenders of the VAPP Act at both National and Sub National should be punished to the full extent of the law to serve as deterrent to others.

Suddenly, Isaac heard a knock on the door when he opened it he saw three Police Officers. Isaac you are under arrest for violence against your wife and you are to remain silent or anything you say will be used against you in the court of law. As he is towed away by the Cops, Agatha looks with relief on her face.

 

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

WHAT IS DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT WOMEN INCLUSIVITY??

QUESTION: WHAT IS DEVELOPMENT WITHOUT WOMEN INCLUSIVITY??

BY: ELLEN ONUGHA ESQ

BACKGROUND

Women are mothers of nations and generations. To groom a woman is to build a nation. Women are great influencers of positive changes. A nation that neglects women is a fallen nation.

If a woman can take charge of a position as vital and sensitive as home caretaking, there is no doubt that she would do as good in society management/societal issues, hence women are better positioned for decision making. The participation of women in governance has been hindered by cultural barriers that cannot be addressed in any way other than through cultural reorientation. These barriers have caused sexual harassment of women at workplaces, and have also instilled a sense of insufficiency and incapability in women.

 

MAIN BODY

In Nigeria, women constitute nearly half of the population of the country. Also in Nigeria, 51% of women are involved in voting during elections. Despite these, women are greatly underrepresented in both elective and appointive positions. In line with the declaration made at the Fourth World Conference on women in Beijing which advocated 30% AffirmativeAction, the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) of Nigeria, recommended 35% AffirmativeAction instead and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.

Statistics show that overall women’s political representation in government of Nigeria is less than 7%, showing that Nigeria has not attained 30% affirmative action as prescribed by the Beijing Platform action, not to mention her personal undertaking to exceed the world AffirmativeAction by 5%.

The under-representation of women in political participation gained root due to the patriarchal practice inherent in our society, much of which was obvious from the pre-colonial era to date.

In the last election, out of 22 female vice-presidential candidates, 232 female senatorial and 532 female House of Representative’s standard-bearers, who contested, only 7 made it to the senate and 22 to the House of Representatives. Comparing this to the U.S.A and China, the positions are disparate.

Globally, it has been recognized that inclusivity in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democracy. Improved representation of women has been shown to have benefits such as improved policy changes, economic growth, enhanced peacebuilding, and a more egalitarian society.

One can see that countries, where women are part of the decision-making process, are more prone to succeed.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Cultural beliefs from justifying domestic violence, to considering it unacceptable for women to work outside the home need to shift for women to improve their statuses.
  2. The suggestion above has not the intention of recognizing the need for continuous awareness of young women who they are and what they can achieve.
  3. Women who have political experience or are in politics should see it as a duty to groom young women while integrating them into their political spaces.

 

CONCLUSION

For a proper understanding of the word “Development”, one needs to think “Inclusivity”. We cannot pretend to not understand what is evident as a solution to our problem as a nation.

The disenfranchisement of women in politics is intentional, and it must be with intentions too that we make amends.

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Social Justice and Human Rights

By Kyenpya Katkuk Esq

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Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, social rights and opportunities.

It may be broadly understood as fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.

Social justice refers to:
1. Equal rights
2. Equal opportunities
3. Equal treatment.

Bearing in mind the theme of this year’s Social Justice Day ” Closing the Inequalities Gap ” I would be sharing some interesting facts that would be gender specific to women and how to close the inequality gap.

Gender inequality in Nigeria is influenced by different cultures and beliefs. In some parts of Nigeria women are considered subordinate to their male counterparts. Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is not just a basic human right but it is crucial for a sustainable future.

Poor countries have a monopoly on gender inequality. There are significant disparities in health, education and bargaining powers within marriage in countries with low GDP per capita.

According to the World Economic Forum here are some interesting facts :

1. Women are 47% more likely to suffer car crashes in a car because car safety features are designed for men.

2. 33,000 girls become child brides everyday.
This vary between communities because girls are not valued as highly as boys and marrying them at a young age transfers the economic burden to another family.

3. Women in rural parts of Africa  spend more time collecting water to help their household. Due to the lack of infrastructure, combined with the expectations that women should meet up to their household duties and limited employment opportunities for women means that they shoulder unequal burden of gathering firewood and water for their families.

4. Only 6 countries give women equal legal working rights as men.

Belgium, Denmark, France,Luxembourg and Sweden.
A typical economy gives women three quater of the rights of men in measured areas.

5. 22% of all Professionals are women compared with 78% who are male. This accounts for the gender gap that reflects in the STEM skills gap.
Researchers say that “Women usually avoid scientific pursuits because of their self views”.

Inequality remains one of the biggest obstacles to shared prosperity. No country, no economy, no company, or community can meet today’s  challenges or achieve its potential until it’s people can achieve theirs.

According to the World Economic Forum, it would take about 108 years to close the gender gap. The biggest gaps to close are in the economic and political empowerment dimensions which would take 202 and 107 years to close.

Conclusively, when women and girls are valued as much as boys and men, when countries invest in their health, education and skills training, when they give women greater opportunities to participate in the economy, manage incomes, own and run businesses, give access to land and loan facilities. The benefits would cause a ripple effect to their children, families, communities and to the economy and thus the, issues of social justice such as equal rights, equal opportunities and equal treatment would would aid in closing the gap.

Recommendations:

1. More women should be empowered and have access to infrastructures like health and education.
2. More girls should be enrolled in schools to hinder child marriage.

3. More girls should be encouraged to take STEM related courses.

4. There should be an increase in women’s political participation.

5. Organizations and businesses should employ more women compared to men to close the gender gap.

6. Women should support other women.

7.  Family friendly policies should be put in place in organizations and businesses to optimize women’s productivity in the workplace.

8. Challenge stereotypes and gender norms.

Kyenpya Katkuk is the Executive Director of Girl to Woman Development Initiative.

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

 

 

 

 

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CONSTANCE NKWOCHA & 15 ORS V. THE FCT MINISTER & 5 ORS: JUDGEMENT IMPLICATIONS AND WAY FORWARD

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IMPLICATIONS

Following the recent judgement from the afore-stated case, it is without ambiguity or misunderstanding inconsistent with any law in Nigeria misinterpreting the criminality or otherwise of sex work in Nigeria.

Before judgement was given in the instant case, sex work was dragged by agencies of the Nigerian government as constituting an offence without any substantial legal backing.

Judgement from this case would do the following:

  1. Hopefully guide Nigerian government agencies in their operations against women whom they perceive as being sex workers
  2. Guide other Nigerian courts in delivering judgements in cases of similar nature
  3. Go a long way in assisting human rights defenders in taking up cases of similar nature, in Nigeria

WAY FORWARD

While Lawyers Alert is exploring the possibilities of going on appeal, it has met with Heartland Alliance International on the possible way forward for the above stated judgement and how best to execute possible plans. However, for enormous success to emerge from this development, all hands must be on deck. Stakeholders working on issues of this nature are encouraged to be part of this process.

Consequently, there is need for other International Development Actors to encourage the process by joining Lawyers Alert and Heartland Alliance International to maximize this rare opportunity in eradicating all forms of discrimination against sex workers, as well as prevent subsequent and foreseen mayhem which may arise.

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that all articles on this page are of the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 

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