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Category Archives: access to justice

ANNOUNCEMENT: Lawyers Alert Mourns Barrister Moses Udam

ANNOUNCEMENT: Lawyers Alert Mourns Barrister Moses Udam

It is with heavy hearts that the members, staff, and management of Lawyers Alert formally announce the passing of our one-time President, Barrister Moses Udam, who served as President between 2010 to 2012. Moses Udam was murdered on the night of Tuesday, December 15, 2020, in his home in Makurdi, Benue State, alongside his wife by assailants, yet to be tracked and arrested.

The unfortunate incident has come to Lawyers Alert as a total shock given Moses was a good-natured person with a peaceful disposition and total commitment to the plight of the underprivileged, especially prisoners. He facilitated the release of hundreds of detainees at detention centers and was a human rights activist of repute, especially in Benue and North Central Nigeria.

During his time at Lawyers Alert, Moses was noted for selfless service, always looking out for the weak, humane disposition and hard work amidst a deep conviction that free legal services are key to access to justice. He served as the North Central Coordinator of the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, over two terms.

Upon leaving Lawyers Alert he made an unsuccessful bid to win elections to serve as Chairman of the Makurdi Local Government. He was running a very successful law practice, with a leaning to free legal services for the downtrodden before his murder alongside his wife.

Lawyers Alert mourns Moses and regrets the poor state of security where Nigerians lose lives to assailants and men of the underworld at a rate that is presently worrisome. The ability to get away with these crimes, as in the present case, is a strong motivation for men of the underworld.

We call on the government to enhance internal security across the country as this is key in the respect to life and property, the primary function of government. We equally call for the apprehension and trial of the killers of Moses Udam and his wife.

Lawyers Alert will be organizing a colloquium “Security, Access to justice and Right to Life” on the 4th of February 2021 at Benue Hotels, Makurdi in honor of Moses Udam.

Management,
Lawyers Alert.

 

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The Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Lawyers Alert and the International Commission of Jurists supporting the judicial panels of inquiry to strengthen their capacity to conduct the inquiries more effectively

Following the #EndSARS protests on human rights violations alleged to have been committed by the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), judicial panels of inquiry have been established at national and state levels. Their mandates include receiving and investigating complaints of human rights violations; evaluating evidence presented, drawing conclusions in respect of the complaint(s) and making recommendations on remedies and reparation. These inquiries will be conducted and concluded within a specified period ranging from one month to six months.

The Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Lawyers Alert and the International Commission of Jurists will be supporting the work of the judicial panels of inquiry to strengthen their capacity to conduct the inquiries more effectively.

To that end, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Lawyers Alert and ICJ will be conducting a one-day induction seminar for the members of the Panels of inquiry. This will be run virtually on the 2 December 2020.

The eminent presenters at the induction seminar are as follows: Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima JSC (rtd), Chairman of the Independent Investigative Panel on SARS, Professor Christof Heyns, Director, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA); former United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Rommy Mom ESQ, President Lawyers Alert & Hon. Commissioner, Human Rights, Police Service Commission; Hon. Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill, JCA; Prof Solomon Ebobra, Dean Faculty of Law, Niger Delta University.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2020 in access to justice

 

ONLINE VIOLENCE AND ITS IMPACT ON WOMEN AND GIRLS

ONLINE VIOLENCE AND ITS IMPACT ON WOMEN AND GIRLS

Isabella cries out loud as she saw her nude pictures and other personal information posted on social media by her ex-husband. Her friend Aurora rushed into the room with towel on her chest to inquire on what the situation is, Isabella looked at her with a sad face and said, you can’t believe what I saw on social media, Isabella gave her the phone and she saw the nude pictures and other personal information the Ex-husband posted, OMG! She screamed. How can your ex-husband be so cruel?

According to Global Fund for Women, Online violence against women is an overt expression of the gender discrimination and inequality that exists offline. In 2015, the UN Broadband Commission warned that cyber VAWG had become “a global problem with serious implications for societies and economies around the world.” It noted that 73% of women and girls had encountered some form of online violence; that women were 27 times more likely to be abused online than men; that 61% of online harassers were male; and that women aged between 18 and 24 were at particular risk.

Online violence against women has become a common experience especially for lesbians, bisexual or trans women or any combination, women in politics, journalism and women with disabilities. This creates an environment with the intention of raising alarm, body shaming, intimidating or humiliating and pushing women/girls offline. This is usually directed towards those who are trying to amplify their voices on the issues faced by women/girls online. Online abuse against women/girls is also increasingly being used as a tactic to publicly use power over women, thereby preventing them from expressing themselves freely, which is a fundamental right of everyone regardless of gender identification and/or orientation. Sometimes, Men are also harassed online, but women are the target, online harassment quickly descends into sexualized hate or threats.

The greatest impact on women and girls when they experience violence online is self-restriction, and that is what the abusers want. Most times only physical violence is taken seriously, but as it stands online violence is equally harmful. As it is the case with most women, they turn to avoid social media platforms after being harassed. Online violence is a public health issue and the effects are very harmful; it results in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm, and erodes self-esteem.

Internet access is growing across all continents. With the advent of COVID-19 that has impacted the way of lives of the people, every attention has tilted more to internet usage than ever before and offline violence has extended to online, which makes it easier for people to commit violence without consequences. Women are the main targets of online violence, especially women with voices, like female journalists and politicians. Online harassment can include bullying, trolling, cyber stalking, defamation and hate speech, public shaming, and identity theft and hacking amongst other offences.

Online protection is an urgent priority every single day, billions of people around the world use social media to connect, report abuses that happened offline, learn and share as well as for everyday communications. Social media platforms can help give a voice to the voiceless by raising the profile of some of the most marginalized women and girls in the society.

Many women/girls around the world are experiencing attacks on their websites and social media pages, a host of attackers have succeeded in hacking into and gaining control over women’s and activists’ accounts just to cause alarm, intimidate and harass them and also use their personal images and details to scam their followers.

Online violence against women and girls is real with attendant effects and sometimes it moves from online to offline. Women/girls are learning to expect and accept abuse as a normal part of their daily life experience. Most women/girls have reduced the usage of social media owing to abuse and harassment, while those who are still active on these platforms are forced to change how they express themselves to avoid harassment, which has driven most of them to depression. 

Girls around the world have written an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, the world’s most influential social media platforms, to create ways to report abuses and harassment in order to be free and secure when online.

COVID-19 has move more of our lives online, it’s vital that social media space is safe for women and girls.

Isabella’s ex-husband was arrested and detained by the police officers for violating his ex-wife’s right to privacy.

Recommendations

  • Government should create effective and accessible reporting mechanisms that target gender-based violence online
  • Government should hold perpetrators of rights violations to accountable
  • Social media platforms should also create a safe reporting mechanism that will be safe for women and girls.

SAY NO ANY FORM OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

BY YUA MIRIAM

 

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NIGERIA #ENDSARS PROTESTS AND THE AFTERMATH

NIGERIA #ENDSARS PROTESTS AND THE AFTERMATH

Position of Lawyers Alert

Lawyers Alert condemns in the strongest terms the use of live ammunition on protesters who were only armed with national flags and the national anthem and the consequent loss of lives of innocent and defenseless Nigerians in their prime. No lawful and democratic society condones extrajudicial killings in any form. Every person has a right to live and such a right cannot be taken away by anyone except in accordance with the law.

Lawyers Alert acknowledges the Constitutional Rights of citizens to embark on peaceful protests and it is in this light that we also strongly condemn the use of military personnel under any guise to quell protests within the civic space. The result can only be and has been fatalities.


We also condemn the degeneration of the protest into rioting. In Abuja alone, no fewer than 50 vehicles were razed. The same goes for Lagos where Media Houses, a Traditional Ruler’s Palace, Police Stations, a warehouse, and shopping malls were vandalized and in some instances burned. A number of Police Officers were also lynched. In Edo, there was the incident of a jailbreak where inmates were set free while Kano and Jos witnessed misguided reprisal attacks with a number of churches burned.
We acknowledge the rights of the citizenry to move freely and own property. These are fundamental rights that are inalienable.


We note the genesis of the unfortunate happenings. Citizens, mainly the Youth commenced protests owing to killings and various human rights abuses against them by the men of the Police Force, particularly the special unit of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. Their demands were the disbandment of SARS, identification and sanctioning of rogue officers, the release of the illegally detained, and compensation to victims or their families amongst others.


The government did yield to these requests by disbanding SARS, setting up
Judicial Panels of Inquiry, and calling for negotiations. Owing to previous unkept promises by the government and the consequent lack of trust, youths shunned these measures, and continued the protest, leading to the present situation.

Recommendations
In light of the foregoing, Lawyers Alert recommends the following:

▪ The Federal Government should keep open its earlier invitation to the
Protesters to the negotiation table. The Protesters should accept the
government invitation to dialogue towards the realization of the demands
of the protesters and suspend the protests. Lawyers Alert recognizes the
lack of trust for government promises by the youth, which is justifiable
given past experiences. We however advise that timelines be set for the
delivery of every demand with responsible agency clearly defined. There is
no better time to do this than now.


▪ The National Assembly should conduct a hearing/investigation into what
transpired at the Lekki toll gate on 20/10/2020 that led to the loss of lives
owing to killings allegedly carried out by soldiers. This hearing should
unravel questions like who ordered soldiers to Lekki Toll Gate, the actual
number of lives lost, the identity of victims, and comprehensive sanctions
of any individual directly or indirectly connected to the incident.

▪ Lawyers Alert urges groups and persons to approach the Judicial Panels
of Inquiry to lay their grievance towards the identification of culpable SARS
officers for appropriate sanctions and the compensation of victims.


▪ The government should embark on comprehensive reform of the police,
with emphasis on oversight functions, tethering oversight to citizens
groups, the National Assembly, Internal Police oversight, the National
Human Rights Commission, and most importantly, the Police Service
Commission which is the constitutional body with the mandate of
oversight.

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


Lawyers Alert

 

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SARS EPIDEMIC AND NIGERIAN YOUTHS

SARS EPIDEMIC AND NIGERIAN YOUTHS

BY OMOTOLA EUNICE OMOTAYO

Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was founded in 1992 by a former Commissioner of Police, Simeon Danladi Midenda. SARS was established as a result of an increase in violent crimes in Nigeria following a dispute between the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Army which made officers of the Nigerian Police Force desert their duty posts. The responsibility of the Special Unit is to investigate, arrest, detain and prosecute persons involved in violent crimes like armed robbery and kidnapping, etc.

In the early 2000s, internet fraud and cultism were on the increase across the country, and to curb the menace, SARS operatives infiltrated institutions, made several arrests. This special squad recorded tremendous successes in the reduction of armed robbery, kidnapping, and cultism, etc.  

This is no longer the story, as SARS operatives are now known for extortion, torturing, framing up innocent citizens, blackmailing, and killing of Nigerian youths. The unit has today metamorphosed into an oppressor of the Nigerian masses, especially youths.  

Due to several incidents of SARS officers killing, extorting, and brutalizing Nigerian youths, there have been several campaigns to end SARS since its transformation from an agent of protection to that of oppression. Patriotic Nigerians across the country led by Segun Awosanya started an online advocacy campaign to end SARS brutality in December 2016. He started the online campaign with a hashtag, #EndSARS. In the year 2018, 14th of August to be precise, Yemi Osinbajo as the Acting President of Nigeria ordered the overhaul of the controversial police unit, SARS following an uproar of human rights violation of citizens by the Unit. On the 21st day of January, 2019 an order was also made by IGP Mohammed Adamu to immediately decentralize the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.

None of the above-listed attempts to stop or reform SARS was implemented. The nemesis continued to prevail as SARS officials are constantly alleged of extortion, humiliation, and abuse of human rights especially the incessant killing of youths in Lagos, Ogun, Benin, Delta, and other States. 

Recently, the youths of Nigeria took to the internet (Twitter) to clamor for an outright end to the brutality perpetrated by the Special Unit, using the hashtag #EndSARS, which also got international recognitions. While the ‘peaceful’ protest was ongoing in several States across Nigeria, it was recorded that police attacked the protesters with tear gas and water-canons. It was also recorded that some of these protesters lost their lives in this act. Resulting from this was an announcement made on the 11th day of October, 2020 by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu that the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force, alongside its Units across other States of the country is thereby disbanded. He further stated that the operatives will be redeployed to other police formations and commands.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. We call on the government to look into SARS departments and carryout the much needed reformation of same.
  2. Training of Police officials to be human rights compliant in their delivery of duties.
  3. Policing is all about protecting, respecting, and valuing the lives of citizens. The bedrock of the country’s current challenges is the lack of transparency and accountability in the Security Sector. Proper implementation of the new Police Act, 2020 as a new legislation will aid the restoration of the people’s lost confidence. 
  4. The Nigerian Communications Commission should create a 3-digit emergency number that will be used to report any form of violence. The essence of applying this medium is to give the receiver access to the caller’s location in emergency situations without necessarily picking the call.

Nigerians want to be protected!

Nigerians want to be able to walk freely without the fear of being shot dead at any encounter with SARS.

Remember, we have the right to live, to express ourselves, and to be treated with dignity!

 

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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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THE PLIGHT OF INDIGENT INMATES IN NIGERIA.

BY: SOLUMTOCHUKWU .P. OZOBULU ESQ

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Natasha(not real name) gazing at the blue sky inhales deeply as she steps out of the Makurdi medium security prison where she has been incarcerated for close to ten (10) months awaiting trial. She stood fixed tormented by the thoughts of her experiences in prison custody. Just like flashes of lighting her mind wandered from the beating she got both from fellow inmates and prison warders alike on different occasions, the apology called food, the odour that serves as air freshener to the air tight cell rooms that made her feel choked most times. She did not forget the moments without sanitary pads and underwear or the moments when she had to alternate between sleeping on the bedbug plagued mattress and the bare ground. At this point tears dropped like the rain and flowed down her chin as she remembers the few friends she made in custody who are not free from the hunting/inhumane treatments.

There has been an awakening to the quandary of inmates in our Nigerian prisons, the gross terrible condition they live in and the very harsh situation they have found themselves in. Over the years, there has been serious concern about the state of the Nigerian prisons, because of the dilapidated state of the buildings, the quality of health care received by the inmates, abuse of human rights and the congestion of the prisons. The Prison system in Nigeria ought to serve as an institution of correction, reformation and rehabilitation; geared towards disabling its inmates from further criminal pursuit but this is not the case.

There is an ill-conceived believe that prison inmates have no rights within the general population. Their rights may be limited; but they have a degree of human and civil rights that is guaranteed by the Constitution, by international conventions and the UN Declarations. For instance, the UN General Assembly adopted the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners otherwise known as the “Mandela Rule”, on December 14, 1990, which guarantees the basic human rights of prisoners. Therefore, prisoners cannot and should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment; they are to have full access to due process and equal protection and should not be discriminated against. Inmates are to be protected against discrimination and not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading punishment which borders on abuse of their rights. Furthermore, they are entitled to adequate medical and psychiatric care. And their physical safety must also be assured at all times.

Another primary concern surrounding the Nigeria Prison system is the congestion of the Nigeria prisons which, has been a major concern for almost a decade, among stakeholders in the country. Congestion constitutes a major problem creating a negative effect on the welfare of the inmates in the Nigeria prisons. On further investigation it was discovered, that an average Nigerian prison contains three times more persons than its capacity.  For example, the Makurdi Medium Security Prison has an Original capacity of 240 inmates however, as at March 2019; there were over 975 inmates in detention. Of this number, over 623 are still awaiting trial. Several writers have identified congestion as a major problem facing the Nigeria prisons which has exposed the inmates to improper health conditions, claimed the lives of some inmates and put enormous pressure on the prison infrastructure.

The genesis of this problem can be traced to poor administration of criminal justice in Nigeria and unethical activities of the Nigeria Police which has constantly threatened the physical, mental and social well-being of inmates. Consequently, the Nigeria prison has failed to achieve its major role of rehabilitation and reformation of inmates but rather the scenario has been that of dehumanizing situation and hardening of the inmates.  The congestion of the Nigeria Prisons lays a foundation for a whole bunch of other pressing issues that directly deal with the welfare of prisoners ranging from the quality and quantity of food they are served to the quality of water for drinking and domestic affairs, to mattresses they sleep on, and the list goes on and on.  This cause definitely comes along with its appalling effects which are not limited to but include; poor sanitation, poor medical services and increase in human right abuse. The congestion of the Nigeria prison is gradually leading to an apparent decay not just of the horrifying infrastructures but also of the institution as a whole. We can consequently say that the Nigeria Prison system is a walking corpse gradually edging it is way to an end, if no severe holistic intervention is put in place.

The Panacea to this nemesis of congestion of prisons and abuse of prisoners’ right in Nigeria includes but not limited to:

  • Establishment of more prisons.
  • Upgrading of existing prisons to meet with international standards in order to improve the welfare of prisoners.
  • Capacity building for prison officials in order to carry out their duties within the ambit of human rights.
  • Establishment of committee for monthly supervision of the prisons by the Minister of Interior.
  • Domestication and Effective implementation of Administration of criminal justice Act by states government.
  • Provide tools and access to education and skill acquisition for Inmates.s
 

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