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About lawyersalert

Lawyers Alert is a Human Rights NGO into capacity building, legal assistance, good governance and documentation of rights abuses, especially of women and other vulnerable groups.

One Day Strategic Planning Meeting On Reducing Human Trafficking In Benue State

Introduction

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On the 24th of September 2018, a case of human trafficking was reported to us at Lawyers Alert for legal advice and possible assistance. That a certain man named Saviour Daboor was placed under arrest and detained by the police at the State Criminal Investigation Intelligence Department (SCIID) Makurdi for an alleged case of human trafficking. That Saviour Daboor an indigene of Benue State on the 4th of September, 2018 took five (5) girls to Lagos State under the guise and pretence that he will make life better for them, by giving them jobs in Lagos. On arriving Lagos, he handed over the girls to an unknown woman who is still at large and surreptitiously left the vicinity. The girls were then taken out of Nigeria to BURKINA FASO, obviously for prostitution and Sex Slavery rather than a conventional job as promised by Saviour. Upon realising their situation, the girls resisted but at that point they are handicapped both financially and emotionally. As part of the job requirements, a medical test was conducted on the girls and it was discovered that one of the girls was pregnant and another sick and this isn’t good for the job. Thus the two were sent back home. Following the arrest of Saviour and the pressure that followed, the third girl was eventually returned. However, two of the victims of the trafficking are still held up with the trafficking gang in Burkina Faso. Saviour is under arrest and in detention and will be due in Court on the 21th November, 2018. The other members of the syndicate are still at large and two of the victims are still under their grips in a foreign land. This is a clear case of human trafficking and women rights violation. These girls undoubtedly have been sold into slavery and from all indication will be made to serve as sex toys.

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Given the above therefore Lawyers Alert held a one day strategy building meeting with partners and stakeholders with a view towards charting out a work plan that will lead to the release of the trafficked girls and the prosecution of the culprits involved. The meeting was also intended to necessitate the building of a movement and a formidable fight that will lead to the release of the girls and subsequent arrest and prosecution of the suspects in Court to account for their actions.

Goal

The goal of this intervention is to enhance the promotion and protection of Women Human Rights in Benue State and Nigeria and to secure the return of the trafficked girls back home and the punishment of the suspected culprit.

Objectives

  • To form a mass movement through collaboration with 5 identified stakeholders towards synergising on the release of the two girls and compensation for all the 5 Victims
  • To design and implement an effective action plan that will lead to the achievement of the project goal.

Expected outputs

  • A copy of the work plan
  • Secure the arrest and prosecution of all the suspected culprits.

Expected outcome

  • A reduction in the incidence of human trafficking.
  • The promotion and protection of women human rights in Benue state.

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The meeting was held at Lawyers Alert’ conference hall.  A total of 28 participants attended the meeting cutting across different organizations and groups. Participating Organizations comprised of State Actors, Non State Actors including the Civil Society, Media and Professional groups.

The meeting commenced with self introduction of participants. This was followed by a welcome address by the Progams Director of Lawyers Alert’ head Office Mr. Lazarus Ahangba. In the address he appreciated their time and commitment to the cause of the project. He briefly introduced the purpose of the meeting and its expected outcome. He urged the participants to be active and make quality contributions. Goodwill messages from NBA, NAPTIP and Ministry of Women Affairs were also delivered. NBA expressed delight to be part of this project and offered their hand of solidarity with pledges of support in any capacity and at any moment the need arises. NAPTIP thanked Lawyers Alert for organizing this meeting and said that the meeting could not have come up at any better time than now. They said human trafficking is becoming more rampant in Benue and equally pledged their support to this project and in any other way possible. The Ministry of Women Affairs equally thanked Lawyers Alert for putting the meeting together and expressed willingness to work with Lawyers Alert in any way and manner as required. After tea break, R.A Hwande Esq, the Legal Officer at Lawyers Alert unpacked the project. In his presentation, he attempted the definition of Human trafficking, traced its history and prevalence level from the federal level to the State, the legal frameworks that criminalizes Human trafficking both local and international. He concluded the presentation with focus on the case at hand outlining its beginning, goal, objectives, expected outputs, outcomes and the progress made so far. After his presentation, one of the victims, Ms Helen narrated in details what happened to them and how some of her friends are still held back in Burkina Faso. This was followed by questions, answers, comments and the development of a work plan and way forward.

In order to develop a more cogent work plan, the meeting broke into two working groups. A technical working group made up of Lawyers and the officials of NAPTIP and a Civil Society/ Media working group. At the end of their deliberations, each group presented their proposed action plan and persons responsible.

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Civil Society/ Media Work Plan:

  • Create a Social Media platform that will serve as an interactive forum that will keep all the project participants together and the conversations alive.
  • Report the meeting and its outcome and also write features periodically on the issue to harvest public support and also sensitize People on the issues of Human trafficking.
  • Monitor Court proceedings regularly.
  • Carry out Advocacy visit to key State Actors and other public institutions including DG Radio Benue, Commissioner of Women Affairs, Wife of the Governor, Commissioner of Justice, NAPTIP and the General Manager the Voice newspapers.
  • Push for the rehabilitation of the victims of trafficking.
  • Create a coalition that will work on this project and other related issues in the State.

Technical Working Group Action Plan

  • The other victims should write a letter of complaint to NAPTIP in order to commence the arrest and possible prosecution of the suspect at the Federal High Court.
  • Explore the possibility of including Kidnap among the charges against the victim.
  • Monitor the progress of the case at the State High Court and explore the possibility of filing a fresh case at the Federal High Court and withdrawing the other case at the lower court.
  • Work closely with NAPTIP, FIDA and the NBA to ensure justice for the victims of the trafficking case.
  • NAPTIP to explore the possibilities of rehabilitating the victims of the case.
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2019 ELECTIONS: As the Clock Ticks …

By Laz Ahangba

politics

The loud music blares out in the quiet night. Tarkule, a middle aged Man of about 43 is awakened from his hard narrow bed. He stands up and peers out of his small window. He sees a number of cars parked at Chief’s residence across the road. Chief is a political godfather and a Party Chieftain of note. All political aspirants pay him homage to smoothen their path to victory.  Tonight, scores of aspirants have come to do him obeisance as usual. Tarkule hisses, looks at the time on his wall clock to discover it is past 2.00 am. He slowly walks back to bed and lies down to endure the noise and nuisance.

These are the days of politicking. Scenarios like the one described above are common place. Politicians are busy crisscrossing every nook and cranny of Nigeria soliciting for votes. They are selling their candidatures under the auspices of the different political parties. The political aspirants have different slogans, different songs, but same nothingness, full of promises but short of issues.

Elections in Nigeria and their processes have been this way from time immemorial. Political party structures are hijacked by godfathers and moneybags made of all shades of people, usually deficient in civility and accountability. These ones manipulate the party systems to throw up candidates of their choice. The chosen candidates are forced on the electorate into office. Once elected, the apparatus of government becomes the joystick of the godfathers and moneybags.  They play around the system to milk out their investments in terms of contracts, appointments and other compensations. This system plays out at all levels of governance. The consequences of this age-long tradition is poverty, lack of accountability, impunity, gross corruption, violations of the rights of citizens and worst of all, loss of democratic values. Political aspirants, rather than sell themselves to the electorate, mortgage themselves to the political godfathers knowing that without them, their victories at the polls are not guaranteed. How wrong!

The electoral process is likened to two-parallel lines but arriving at the same destination. It is between the election candidate on one line soliciting for votes from the electorate and the electorate demanding that his issues be addressed by the candidate on the other line, thereby leading all to the same destination called good governance. This process is only made possible through issue-based campaigns and issue-based voting. The election candidates should strictly carry out campaigns based on issues while the electorate vote based on the issues, quid pro quo.

The quality of electoral campaigns is a forerunner to the quality of governance after a winner has emerged and vice versa.  As the 2019 general elections draws near, has there been any issue-based campaigns from any of the candidates across political parties yet? Has the electorate positioned itself for issue-based voting across Nigeria? Have there been any tangible moves by citizen-groups to begin to engage elections candidates on issues bothering them and their communities? A brief environmental scan on the political Eco-system at all levels of governance across Nigeria shows little or no active issue-based campaigns from the candidates and there has not been strong body language from the electorate towards making demands for same. At the national level, for example, of the over 75 presidential candidates, only very few have plans that could culminate into issue-based campaigns. What has dominated the media (especially the social media) space is mudslinging and gutter-language campaigns. The same scenario is playing out at the sub national levels. Rather than base their campaigns on issues, most governorship candidates across the country are busy mudslinging one another while also employing unsavory propaganda.

The electorate, especially the youth are also culpable. Rather than engage the election candidates on common issues bedeviling their communities, they resort to real and cyber thuggery. Social media platforms which should ordinarily serve as a useful resource for the youths and other electorate have become a battle ground of some sorts. Any question, or comment directed at any election candidate is viewed by his supporters as an attack worthy of reprisal often in very harsh and derogatory language. This attitude is denying the electorate the opportunity to objectively engage the election candidates on issue-based campaigns which this election cycle desperately needs.

As we approach the 2019 general elections, the following are recommended as measures we should endeavor to put in place in order to bring about the change Nigeria desperately needs:

  • Profile all our election candidates across all political parties at all levels of governance
  • Undertake a study of the most pressing issues confronting our communities, state and country in general
  • Demand for issue-based campaigns from election candidates and vote candidates whose campaigns issues resonate with those of our communities, states and country
  • Present to electoral candidates citizens’ charter of demands based on the prevailing issues across communities, states and country with monitoring and evaluation indicators
  • Vote based on issues contained in the citizens’ charter of demand
  • Monitor and implement evaluation indicators.

As Tarkule finally drifts into sleep, the campaign vehicles begin to drive away. Again, he startles out of sleep and hisses in anger. He could hear the singer praise singing the candidate. He calls him the sun, the moon and star of his community. “What rubbish!” He thinks out loud. As the sound of the campaign songs fades away, Tarkule wonders if the singer and his ilk bother about improvement in power supply, job creation, heath care system, infrastructural development, agriculture and all the other challenges bedeviling the society. With these thoughts, he slowly drifts back into sleep

 

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Bringing Hope to Prisoners in Nigeria

By Sunday Adaji Esq

prisoners

One fact about prisoners is that one after the other, virtually all of them will be out of prison and back into the society, breathing the air of freedom. What is therefore worthy of consideration is the life they live in prison and the life they will be living when they return to the society.

As it were, prisons are built not just to incarcerate and punish criminals but to reform them. “Reform” here implies putting facilities in place which will help to bring out the best in the prisoners and make them responsible citizens, so that instead of becoming hardened criminals; they become law abiding citizens. This way, the society becomes the better for it.

Although prisons are meant to reform prisoners, the ones in Nigeria rarely serve this function. Experience has shown that prisoners return from prisons in Nigeria to become hardened criminals. In this country, available statistics point to the fact that many prisoners who have completed their prison terms go back to the same acts of criminalities that took them to prison in the first place, and may even become worse than ever.

Perhaps, one of the reasons prisoners are hardly reformed is that the government has not put proper structures in place for the desired reformation and rehabilitation. Visits to our prisons will reveal that the conditions in them are deplorable. Apart from the fact that our prisons are congested, there are no adequate social amenities. There is poor ventilation, poor medical facilities and little or no sports facilities. The inadequacy or complete absence of these facilities make life unbearable to prisoners and even defeat the whole essence of the exercise.

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It is important we remind ourselves that prisoners have rights and are entitled to enjoy these rights even while in prison. In the United States and other civilized societies, prisoners enjoy their rights to education, to medical treatment, to conducive accommodation and to good ventilation. In such climes, prisoners come out of prisons to become better citizens, principally because of the quality of facilities in place. In the U.S, it is easy to recall the likes of great motivational blogger, Steve Pavlina and the former world heavy weight boxing champions, Sony Liston and Mike Tyson. These men were jailed at different times for some offences they committed and while in prison developed their talents that eventually made them become better American citizens. If these were Nigerians and kept in Nigerian prisons, they would have ended up as hardened criminals.

 Bettering the Lots of Prisoners in Nigeria

Within every human being is the capacity to be good and to be better. The first step to bringing the best out of prisoners and making them responsible citizens is to put in place frameworks, structures and facilities required for their reformation and rehabilitation. If all a prisoners is required to do is to serve his prison terms, then, we are far from making him a better citizen. The secret to reforming and rehabilitating prisoners is to invest in them. And to do this, we must stop seeing them as criminals who are not fit to live in society; and start seeing them as citizens who need reorientation and reformation. It is when we start doing this that we will be prepared to put in place frameworks and facilities that will enable them become better citizens. It is interesting to note that a Bill on prison reforms is already before the current National Assembly, waiting to be passed into law. When and if passed, the law will go a long way to solving most of the problems bedeviling this institution.

In the meantime, for any reforms to achieve tangible results, adequate attention must be paid to the issues below:

  1. Provision of Adequate Social Amenities in Prisons

Currently, only few prisons in Nigeria can boast of any medical, housing and sports facilities. And even where these are available, they are in a state of comatose. If we are going to bring hope to prisoners, we must be ready to make their welfare and future a priority. Prisoners are human beings and not animals. Even animals have rights and in civilized societies, the rights being respected and enforced. It is instructive that under our Criminal and Penal Codes, it is an offence to maltreat animals, much more human beings. Government should take a cue from international best practices all over the world and do something urgent on the state of our prisons.

  1. Provision of Educational and Training Facilities in Prisons

It is pathetic and embarrassing that only few Nigerian prisons (Lagos, Onitsha and Jos) have educational facilities for prisoners. Education is, perhaps, the greatest investment we can make on the prisoners. If schools are built in prisons and prisoners are trained, their capacity to become better citizens is enhanced and the society at large will be better for it.

Conclusion

The recent report that 35 inmates in Jos prison would be participating in the November/December 2018 WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate of Education) examinations having been sponsored by the National Industrial Training Fund came as a big relief. More heart gladdening is also the disclosure that the prison in Onitsha has vocational training facilities for prisoners. It is hoped that these developments will be replicated in the other prisons in Nigeria so that inmates can start benefitting immensely from them.

 

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The Compulsory Treatment And Care For Victims Of Gunshots Act, 2017: An Analysis

By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha Esq

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One of the known characteristics of Laws is that it is dynamic and not static. An example is our Constitution which has been changed serially, with the current one being enacted on May 29, 1999. Even with that, the 1999 Constitution has also gone through a couple of amendments. Change in Laws is chiefly a direct consequence of developments within a given society. Of all the challenges confronting Nigeria, I am convinced that health problems are most discomforting, and therefore any attempt by the government to build solid foundations that suit each of the problems of the health sector is going to be a welcome one. Admittedly, the enactment of the COMPULSORY TREATMENT AND CARE FOR VICTIMS OF GUNSHOTS ACT 2017 is a direct attempt to underscore one of Nigeria’s problems with regards to health.

Nigeria has no doubt progressively changed and enacted Laws to take care of its ever-changing environments. One of the offshoots of such progressive changes has been the enactment of the COMPULSORY TREATMENT AND CARE FOR VICTIMS OF GUNSHOTS ACT, 2017.

Prior to December 20, 2017, lots of lives were being lost on a daily basis due to refusal to care and treat gunshot victims by hospitals, agencies of the government and even individuals. Before December 20, 2017; it was common to have people die of gunshot wounds simply because they could not provide either police reports or money for treatment. This is, indeed, careless on the parts of the hospitals, the governments, and individuals. The doctors, for one, appear to have forgotten the Oath they swear to at induction and had rather made money and other materials considerations the substance of their practice.

It is easy to see that the emergence of the Act in question is a complete game changer with regards to the abnormalities associated with the usual refusal to treat gunshot victims. The Act has taken care of thorny issues ranging from police procedures, hospital/hospital personnel’s involvements to that of the public involvement. Its provisions are far reaching, at least, to the extent of gunshot wounds and its victims.

The fourteen provisions of the Act alongside their sections are as follows:

  1. Right to treatment
  2. Duty to assist
  3. Notification of police
  4. Certificate of fitness
  5. Offense
  6. Relations to make statement
  7. Withholding information
  8. Protection of volunteers
  9. Persons guilty of the offense
  10. Duty to notify victim relations
  11. Offense of standing by
  12. Records
  13. Trial of a corporate body
  14. Restitution

Far reaching and beautiful as the provisions of this Act are, citizens who the law is meant to protect may not be able to take maximum benefits of same unless those shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing the law are alive to their various responsibilities. It is easy for this same law to go the way of others before it in terms of implementation.

Unlike the previous instance where the whole burden of safety was on a victim of gunshot wounds, the Act withdraws this burden and places them on the police and the hospital/hospital personnel. The Act also goes ahead to make provisions for restitution at the instance of a High Court to be made by a corporate body or a person convicted of an offense under this Act to a victim of the offense.

Similarly, issues relating to police reports and deposits before treatment of gunshot victims have been taken care of by the new law. We expect better results in that regards, as we encourage citizens to hold on to their rights. That is all we have got.

 

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Election Primaries through the Lenses of the Law

Compiled by Mr Lazarus M.A, Miss Jerum Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Oobulu Esq

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Nigeria’s democracy is nascent and oscillates on a 4-year election cycle. As the present administration draws close to the end of its tenure, various political parties have conducted primaries across the Federation as stipulated by the legal framework regulating the conduct of elections in Nigeria. Political parties are legally saddled with the responsibilities of sponsoring their candidates’ campaigns for every political position for election.

The law perhaps is apt regarding the conduct of party primary elections regarding how a candidate can be elected. On this point, section 87 of the Electoral (Amendment) act, 2015 clearly lays down the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties which could either be by direct or indirect voting. The spirit of this section is in line with provision of section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria which guaranteed fair hearing. By direct election, aspirants are given the opportunity of being voted for by all members of the party present at the election venue, while in indirect primaries aspirants are voted for by delegates (the number is usually determined by the position contested for). Whichever procedure (direct or indirect) a political party decides to adopt, the aspirant with the highest votes becomes the representative of the party.

Despite this injunction, the Media, Civil Society and other stakeholders report that the recently held primaries fell short of the provisions of the ELECTORAL (Amendment) ACT 2015. All the major Political parties failed to adhere strictly to the provisions of the subsisting legal framework as shown in a range of malpractices that shadowed the primaries across the country.

The APC (All Progressive Congress) adopted the indirect primary election procedure in Benue State. This system as earlier mentioned makes use of delegates who elect candidates on behalf of the party congress. However, it is alleged that the procedure was not strictly followed in practical reality. For instance, it was reported that during the House of Representatives election for Kwande/Ushongo Federal Constituency, violence ensued because of protests from delegates who alleged that they were being impersonated. Allegations of vote buying and tampering with the delegates list were also rife and thrown at 2 of the aspirants.

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The PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) which also adopted the indirect election procedure also failed to comply with the provision of section 87 of the ELECTORAL (Amendment) ACT 2015. It is alleged that the PDP primary elections at all levels and stages in Benue state were marred by violence, supplanting of candidates, vote buying and clear case of God-fatherism. In Otukpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency for election for example, candidates were alleged to have been substituted.

From the above it is clear that the spirit and tenet of the above section of the Electoral Act was violated in its entirety. In any case, elections, be they at primary or general stage require strict compliance with the provision of the electoral act to ensure peaceful, orderly and smooth conduct. Any deviation from these provisions is punishable under the Act if found guilty by the court of law. For instance, section 122 of the Electoral Act provides for the offence of impersonation and criminalizing same. The punishment paragraph under sub section (1) of the above section stipulates that, if found guilty the person shall be liable for a maximum fine of 500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) or 12-months imprisonment.

 

Other alleged offences also took place. For example, it is widely reported that the All Progressives Congress (APC) failed to conduct the required primary elections for the State House of Assembly; instead, party big wigs selected candidates of their choice for the elections over those desired by the electorate. This is a clear violation of the subsisting electoral law.

The above stated violations have their consequences in varying degrees and dimensions including the following:

The rights of both the delegates and aspirants who have the mandate to vote or be voted for have been fundamentally denied and breached by leaders of the various political parties.

Another serious consequence is the potency of derailing the forthcoming general elections and its credibility.

Another consequence is the breeding of grounds for violence and unrest in the political ecosystem.

Based on the foregoing therefore, the following are recommended:

  • That the Independent National Electoral Commission intensify its monitoring of Party Primaries, investigate allegations and sanction erring Parties accordingly.
  • Sensitize political parties and their officials on the need to adhere strictly to the provisions of the subsisting legal framework regulating the conduct of elections
  • The justice system actors including the Police, the Judiciary and other stakeholders should be sensitized on the need to closely monitor, investigate and sanction erring individuals and parties accordingly.
  • Power brokers should be told of the need to ensure peaceful elections by midwifing a free and fair process thereby providing a level playing field for all.

Leaders of thought such as the traditional and religious leaders should be encouraged to preach against the culture of vote-selling as it inhibits community development subsequently.

 

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Women Participation in Politics: 2018 Primaries in Focus

Compiled by Mr Lazarus M.A, Miss Jerum Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Oobulu Esq.

women in politics

Women are an integral part of the political process anywhere in the world including Nigeria and Benue State. Comprising of over 49% of the population of the Country, Women are a force in both number and impact in Nigeria. They have made remarkable contributions in all areas of our National life as exemplified by amazons like Dr. Dora Akunyili, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Mrs. Obi Ezekwesili, Prof. Grace Alele Williams etc. Closer home, women like Chief Elizabeth Ivase, Dr. Enyantu Ifene, Hon. Margaret Icheen etc. have contributed immensely in shaping the socio-political ecosystem in Benue State. Despite these recorded achievements, election of Women into key political positions remains at a very low level in the State. The 2018/19 general elections have not changed the narrative. In fact, things are getting worse going by the performance and conduct of the last primary elections in terms of Women participation.

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All general elections are preceded by a primary election which throws up candidates for different positions across the contesting political parties. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, party primaries were held, across political parties, between mid-September and first week of October 2018. However, a plethora of complaints show that the exercise left much to be desired in terms of Women participation especially in Benue State. Though there was a good turnout of women vying for office, few were able to clinch their party tickets. The State Governorship primaries featured no female aspirant this time, not on any party platform.

The National Assembly elections particularly, did not favor Women. For example, the Senatorial Primary Elections produced 1 female from Zone A of the State while the House of Representatives had about 5 candidates across all the political parties, of this number, only 1 was nominated as at the time of writing this report.  These women and their constituencies are as follows:

Dorothy-Mato

Dorothy Mato – Vandeikya – APC – House of Representative

Mimi-Adzape-Orubibi

Mimi Orubibi – Kwande – APC – Senate

Other female aspirants lost out not because of lack of capacity but largely due to the age long discrimination against Women in party politics. For example, in the Kwande/ Ushongo Federal Constituency elections under the All Progressives Congress (APC), the only female candidate that was chosen by consensus vote due to the inconclusiveness of the elections owing to violence was substituted by the party big wigs because owing to gender considerations. That same situation obtained in Otukpo Federal Constituency Primary elections under the Peoples Democratic Party. The female candidate that was the choice of the delegates was supplanted by a male candidate that was the choice of Party chieftains at the top.

Female Aspirants to the State Assembly fared no better. Under some political parties, no election took place. The few that did were characterized by irregularities such as vote buying, violence, intimidation, hijacking and supplanting of party delegates, etc. In all these irregularities, Women were the worst hit. At the end of the day, only about 3 Women emerged as flag bearers for the State Assembly elections across the over 90 registered political parties that participated in the primary elections in Benue State and across Nigeria.

In view of the above therefore, one can say that, the 2019 general elections do not favor Women Human Rights judging from the precedents associated with the primaries. One strong point that resonates loudly is that Women Politicians are still being considered second class and subservient to their male colleagues. This is disappointing and sad because women are not being given the encouragement, opportunity and responsibility they deserve by their male counterparts. This is the situation even as global conversations and actions are again tilted towards Women Human Rights. The much-acclaimed affirmative action which cedes 35% of positions to Women of which Nigeria is a signatory to has been sidelined, to say the least.  This is true in that so many of these women willingly came forth as party card carriers, showed interest to contest but were not nominated mostly based on gender issues.

Given the above scenario, therefore, we recommend the following:

  • That all Women Politicians who feel discriminated against and hard done by their parties at the just concluded primaries can challenge the status quo in Courts of law
  • That political party structures should review their policies towards female politicians and begin to see them as equal partners in progress instead of just making up party numbers
  • That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should increase its monitoring of political Party primaries to protect vulnerable candidates, especially women
  • That Media and Civil Society should intensify their reportage and advocacy on Women Human rights with focus on the electoral process.

 

In conclusion one can truly state that the issue of Women Rights and political participation, rather than improve, seem to be waning. It’s been the same story since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999.  Despite their best efforts, very few women have been able to secure key elected posts in the country. According to LA research report on the last General Elections (2015), there was neither compliance with local, regional and international instruments aimed at promoting and protecting women’s rights and development nor an increase of women participation in the electoral process in comparison with the just concluded primary elections.

We believe that if women are carried along, they can act for themselves and influence development policies, actively participate in the political process and attempt to minimize factors in the justice system which negatively impact them.

 

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Concluded Party Primaries: A Perspective and Matters Arising

Compiled by: Mr Lazarus m., Miss Jerume Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Ozobulu Esq.

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If democracy is the government of the people for them and by them, as the popular adage goes, then it is the nexus in the democratic process. Elections are central to the deepening and sustainability of the democratic system of Government anywhere in the world. It provides Citizens with the opportunity to vote in or out any leader of their choice at all levels of Governance. In the election sub-sector of Democracy and Good Governance, elections are not an event but a process. There are three phases in the electoral cycle. They are the pre-election, Election Day and the post-election.

elections numbr 1

Currently, we are in the pre-election phase for the 2019 general election and many activities have been carried out and are still being conducted by various stakeholders. The just concluded party primaries held between Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, October 7, 2018 were legally the responsibility of the different political parties to carry out under the supervision of INEC.  Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended makes it mandatory for political parties organizing congresses, conventions and nomination of candidates to give 21 days’ notice to INEC to enable the commission to observe the process.

election 3

So how did the Political parties fare in the conduct of the just concluded party primaries? Lawyers Alert will attempt to X ray the general conduct of political parties with focus on the major political parties from 3 basic perspectives. These will include adherence to deepening of democracy and its values in the electoral process in Nigeria, Gender equality and respect of Women Human Rights and respect of the electoral Act 2014 and other legal issues thereto.

Globally, elections are intended to deepen the culture and practice of democracy. Political parties are expected to abide by the norms of the electoral process in fielding aspirants by providing a level playing field, equal opportunity. They are expected to be transparent, accountable, provide a participatory process that will throw up the best candidates from which the electorate can then choose. Was this achieved in the recently held primaries?

elections numbr 2

In fact, the just concluded party primaries were colored by a range of malpractices as alleged by affected aspirants. Cases included vote buying, violence, intimidation and threats, tampering with the delegates’ list and candidates’ imposition among other forms of anti-democratic acts which were recorded across all parties in different states of the federation. The primaries became warfare, as the power brokers and aspirants seeking tickets turned venues of the intra-party poll to a theatre of war, with the attendant injuries, loss of lives and property and palpable tension. Internal democracy and lobbying were substituted with Machiavellian antics and the reign of impunity and terror.

In Zamfara State for example, the entire election was marred by violence and intra party crises with 2 sets of results brandished by two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Media reports suggest that the INEC has since barred the party from fielding any candidate for the forthcoming elections. So, what happens to all the Aspirants that spent time, money and other valuable resources? What happens to the wishes of the electorate willing to express their franchise under the APC in Zamfara? What will happen to the growth and deepening of democratic values in that State?

The People’s Democratic Party Presidential Primary Elections held in Port Harcourt is also alleged to have been characterized by vote-buying and intimidation. An aspirant purportedly flooded the venue of the party’s convention with so much foreign currency that local parallel market operators opened temporary offices at the venue. At the end did the winner get voted in or did he simply purchase his victory at a price? These are questions.

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APGA, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, was anything but “progressive” in the conduct of its primaries. News reports suggest that certificates handed over to the wrong aspirants are to be recalled. Indeed, the party chairman is said to have apologized to party members explaining that the sudden fame enjoyed by the party caused a rise in some of the confusion that unfolded.

The Social Democratic Party, SDP, had its own share of drama as young politicians who opted for the platform in hopes of avoiding the scheming associated with the big 2, APC and PDP, soon found themselves facing equally unsavory circumstances. In Benue state. the party is said to have allowed itself to be bought over by a certain big wig in who was not welcomed in the first party he defected to. The party has also been accused of not holding any ward congresses whatsoever and merely imposing officials on the party.

There was also the issue of imposition of candidates by Political Godfathers. For example, our investigations reveal that in Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), no primary election took place for the State Assembly. The party big wigs picked and chose the candidates dear to their hearts regardless of how the delegates or the electorate felt.

In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC), among others, the story was not too different as protests against the manner of primaries and alleged imposition continued to resonate across the states where the parties have strongholds. From Gombe to Benue to Oyo, stories of aspirants threatening fire and brimstone over the primaries abound, with some even already defecting to other parties.

elections.. nigeria

Aggrieved political actors across the six geopolitical zones are not giving up over the perceived high-handedness meted out by the top echelon of influential party elders, doing all they can to salvage “the situation.” Ironically, among the ranks of those involved in subdued anger and frustration in the party are a couple of state governors whose preferred choices as likely successors or anointed candidates for other levels of Grade A contests were frustrated by more powerful forces in Abuja.

As it stands, the questions political observers are now asking are: how do the dramatis personae intend to douse some of the ignited flames? What is the shape of the things to come ahead of the general elections? Considering the unnerving discontent at various levels of the power strata, will the general elections still be a battle of the 2 Titans, APC and PDP or will the discontentment in their ranks give the up-and-coming parties a much-needed boost?

The 2019 elections promise to be a thing of awe…though not necessarily in a good way.

 

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