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REPORT OF ONE DAY CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY LAWYERS ALERT UNDER THE THEME “IMPUNITY, JUSTICE SECTOR AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA

21 Nov

Lawyers Alert as part of its activities in observing the International Day to End Impunity ( IDEI)  held  a public lecture on the 19th  day of November 2013 under the theme “ Impunity, Justice Sector and Democracy in Nigeria.

The international Day to end Impunity (IDEI) which falls in November is marked by  advocates of free expressions the world over. The overall goal  is to raise awareness of, and  demand for justice for the advocates who suffer persecution for exercising their fundamental right to free expression

Given the above therefore, Lawyers Alert which advocates for  free expressions organized the one day public lecture to sensitize stakeholders and players in the justice sector, and other the relevant actors.

Goal:

To contribute to the raising of awareness of, and demand for justice for the advocates who suffer persecution for exercising their fundamental right to free expression at all levels especially in Benue State and Nigeria.

The objectives of the event included the following:

  •  To mobilize anti impunity actors and other relevant stakeholders especially the Justice sector and the organized Civil Society and sensitize same on the issues of impunity as it affects the society at the global and level.
  •  To proffer solutions and proposed actions towards enhancing the campaign towards ending impunity at the local and global level.
  •  To join IFEX Global/Media Rights in raising awareness on the plight of the individuals been profiled in the 2013 global campaign.

The one day public lecture had over 63 participants in attendance cutting across the Non Governmental Organizations, Media, Justice Sector Actors, Students, Faith Based Organizations, Public Sector Officials, the Academia, and Traditional Rulers etc.

Speaking at the event, the guest lecturer, Professor Okpeh O Okpeh in his paper titled:  “Impunity, The Justice Sector and Democracy in Nigeria” in line with the theme of the event took a critical look at the issue of impunity at all the dominant sectors of the society including the practice of democracy, the delivery of justice and other underlying sectors where impunity hold sway at the detriment of growth and development in Nigeria and indeed the entire world.

Prof. Okpe, argued that the culture of impunity is a threat to democracy and the Judiciary. According to him, “impunity wherever and however it occurs represents a violation of fundamental freedoms of the people”. He cited individual and institutional acts of impunity, executive arbitrary exercise of power, rot in the judiciary and the intractable strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) etc to buttress his points. He also opined that “democracy and impunity cannot co-exist; in fact, the entrenchment of democratic values makes impunity impossible”.

BENGONET Chair, Barr Justin Gbagi, Prof Okpeh Okpeh and NBA Chair T Igba

BENGONET Chair, Barr Justin Gbagi, Prof Okpeh Okpeh and NBA Chair T Igba

The paper discussant, Barrister TT.Igbah, the Chairman of the Markurdi Bar Association agreed with the paper’s position as he argued that impunity stifles democracy as witnessed in the Anambra elections imbroglio and the death of Festus Iyayi.

There were questions, answers, comments and other interactive sessions during the event. Participants in their reactions express their concerns over the issues of impunity and its effects on the society in Nigeria especially as regards justice and democracy. The case of Rommy Mom and other individuals been profiled by IFEX Global was also discussed and participants enjoined to take action by signing the various petitions.

Makurdi-20131119-00091

In conclusion, the Prof Okeh opined that for impunity to end in Nigeria and indeed the entire world the judicial system must be strengthened, public officers must be accountable to the people, law enforcement agents should be properly enlightened on the fundamental freedoms of the people, CSOs should intensify campaigns against impunity amongst other recommendations.

The way forward:

The event rose with the following as action points:

  • The public should be sensitized about the dangers and evils of impunity at all levels in order to resist it whenever and wherever it occurs
  • Impunity occurs at levels as such everyone should do something against impunity no matter little.
  • Perpetrators of impunity should be exposed and sanctioned including naming and shaming.
  • There should be enhanced networking amongst organizations towards challenging impunity
  • The legislature should pass anti impunity legislations in a bid to enhance the end of impunity in the world.
  • Participants should to take action by signing the various petitions of the individuals profiled by IFEX like Rommy Mom esq. 

Conclusion:

The one day interactive session was a huge success. The aims and objectives of creating awareness on the issues of impunity achieved, stakeholders across sectors brought together to discuss impunity and charting a way forward for the cause of ending impunity in Benue and Nigeria.

We all must fight against impunity at all levels. The alternative to come to terms with a lawless society.

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