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Category Archives: Justice

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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A CALL TO PENITENCE FOR NIGERIA @ 60

BY OMOTOLA EUNICE OMOTAYO

NIGERIA @ 60

Nigeria! Our great nation blessed with lots of both human and natural resources: home to significant deposits of coal, iron ore, lead, limestone, tin, and zinc; not to mention oil and gas. Importantly, our dear country has rich land and water resources that are ripe for agricultural exploitations. What about the ever-resilient, gifted, talented, entrepreneurial, richly cultured, and religious citizens of our dear country. The fabulous lifestyles and rich sense of humor of the millions of the sons and daughters of Nigeria are amazing. Indeed, a blessed and great country was given birth to sixty years ago!

As this great nation celebrates its 60th birthday anniversary (Golden Jubilee), putting in mind all we are blessed with; can we be happier? Can we boldly say we are together? Don’t we still suffer in the hands of our merely mouthed democracy? Can we proudly say things are getting better? How is our education sector? Are the leaders of tomorrow being prepared for and given the opportunity to take over leadership? What has become of all the resources we are blessed with? Today, can a concerned citizen of our dear nation speak his/her mind freely on what he believes in?

At 60, insecurity and other social vices are at their peaks in the history of Nigeria. Arguably, Nigerians have always known better yesterdays. Citizens are at their lows economically. The poor apparently get poorer and even punished for being poor just as the marginalized could barely eke out a living. What a journey!

Do we see little/nothing to celebrate on this day? Let us do a proper reflection, honest meditation. There is actually a little achievement for the birthday ‘boy’ to celebrate. In truth, there is a need for serious sober reflections on the part of both the drivers of the affairs of the celebrant and even the driven. There is much to do on the part of each and every one of us. The concern for each Nigerian should constantly be what positive part he/she plays to move the country forward and bequeath future happy birthday celebrations on it. The age-long order of seeing collective resources of the celebrant as national cake must stop. Laws must be there for all rather than being treated as being for the poor alone. The country must strive to build strong institutions instead of strong individuals. The celebrant must be a home to children that are treated with dignity.  This is the least expectation.

 

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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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El-zakzaky, Human Rights and the Imbroglio Surrounding his Detention.

By Sunday Adaji Esq.

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Sometime ago, President Muhammadu Buhari declared that national security should supercede the rule of law, a statement that attracted lambasting from some quarters. Perhaps, President Buhari’s statement is being played out in El-zakzaky’s case.

It would be recalled that in December 2014, Sheikh Ibrahim Yaqoub El-Zakzaky was arrested alongside his wife and others over his group’s clash with some members of the Nigerian Army.  And on May 15, 2015, the outspoken and foremost Shi’a Muslim cleric in Nigeria, who doubles as the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria – IMN – (a group he formed when he was in the school), was first arraigned before the Kaduna State High Court. The court did not grant him bail, but the Federal High Court, Abuja, did, declaring his continuous detention as unlawful and unconstitutional. Despite being granted bail, the DSS (Department of State Security) still continues to detain him. They did not border to appeal against the decision of the Federal High Court which granted bail to El-zakzaky, which is what the DSS should have done instead of blatantly disobeying the court’s order.

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El-zakzaky is being prosecuted on the allegation of Culpable Homicide, Unlawful Assembly, Disruption of the Public Peace and other charges filed against him alongside Zeenat, his wife.

It is said that El-zakzaky is being detained on grounds of national security. Since December 14 2015 till date, El-zakzaky’s devotees have continued to protest against his detention but it appears the Federal Government is adamant and does not see any reason why El-zakzaky and his wife should be released.

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On July 18, 2019, Femi Falana (SAN), lawyer to El-zakzaky brought application before the High Court of Justice, Kaduna, praying the court to grant El-zakzaky permission to travel abroad for medical treatment. In his application, Falana informed the court that El-zakzaky’s condition of health is getting worse by the day, that he lost one of his eyes while in DSS’s custody, that both he and his wife were not given adequate medical care since December 2015 when they were detained and that they needed medical attention. The prosecutor objected to the grant of the application on the grounds that Nigerian doctors have not yet confirmed if El-zakzaky should be treated in Nigeria or abroad. The Presiding Judge, Honourable Justice Darius Khobo, adjourned ruling on the application to July 29, 2019.

Meanwhile, El-zakzaky’s devotees are restive. In the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) recently, his devotees went on rampage, set ablaze two vehicles belonging to NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) and shot several persons, including a senior police officer and a female Corper with Channels TV.

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Law enforcement agents, including members of the Nigerian Army have positioned themselves at strategic places in the FCT to grapple with the rampaging devotees of the IMN.

Amnesty International has condemned the continuous detention of El-zakzaky and the manner the law enforcement agents are grappling with the situation, and urging Nigerian authorities to adhere to the rule of law and respect the right to peaceful protest when policing these events.

Professor Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), whom critics have lambasted that he was always passive in criticising Buhari’s administration, has advised the Federal Government to obey court orders and release El-zakzaky.

Human Rights’ Perspective

The questions that readily come to mind regarding El-zakzaky’s detention and the imbroglio surrounding his detention are: Can an accused person be detained indefinitely without being tried in the court of law? Where a court grants an accused person bail, can the executive (Federal Government) disobey the order of the court? Should national security override the rule of law? Is it right for devotees of IMN to go on rampage in their demand for the release of their leader?

To start with, the constitution is explicit on citizens’ right to liberty, hence no person should be detained beyond 48 hours without being arraigned in court for trial. Where, in the case of El-zakzaky, he is detained for four years, it is a violation of his right to liberty. Where a court grants an accused person bail, the executive (Federal Government) must not and ought not to disobey the order of the court. Perhaps, there may be an Executive Order empowering the Executive to detain a citizen on grounds of national security. If there exists such an order, the order is inconsistent with the provision of Nigeria’s constitution and should be declared null and void. It is not right for devotees of IMN to go on rampage in their demand for the release of their leader. What the Nigeria’s constitution guarantees is the right to peaceful assembly.

Conclusion

In view of the foregoing, Lawyers Alert is of the view that the DSS should not continue to detain El-zakzaky and his wife indefinitely. They should obey the court’s order and release them forthwith. National security should not be the grounds for continuously detaining El-zakzaky. The solution is to release him UNCONDITIONALLY and if need be, he should be placed under surveillance. When this is done, it will go a long way in dousing the tension arising from the agitation of El-zakzaky’s devotees.

 
 

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THE CLASS ACT OF THE 8TH BENUE ASSEMBLY AND THE VAPP LAW

By Jerome Uneje

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“Hmmm…Torkwase my sister, so it’s true that everything about the domestication of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPPA) is finally done and dusted! Hah…the glory of the 8th Benue Assembly and the Governor will never be erased from the memory of the Benue people o! At least vulnerable and indigent women, children and even men will benefit greatly with this VAPP Act as assented to in Benue State. The two Women smile and lean their backs against the wall at the same time.

The most recently rattled and misconstrued Law has finally seen the limelight. Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill like other bills presented to the National Assembly became a Law in May, 2015 and it seems to have overshadowed all other instruments and laws in Nigeria regarding the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against persons regardless of their sex and/or gender. This instrument enshrines the concerns and needs of vulnerable and indigent women including men and other groups who often fall victims of violence in Nigeria.

The Law which is applicable only at the  Federal Capital Territory had left the option to States at the Sub National level to domesticate the law in their respective States or otherwise. However it became imperative for the Law to be domesticated at the sub-national level especially in States such as Benue where on a daily basis, newspaper headlines are awash with killings, rape or maiming, particularly of spouse and/or lovers by husbands or man-lover, or rape of even minors like the case of Ochanya, who died from a gradual torture of rape by her so-called uncle and his son in Ugbokolo, Benue State and that of a young woman that was strangled to death by her husband for denying him sex in Plateau State and every 1 out of 3 women and/or young girls who suffer violence daily. All of those necessitated the propagation of the campaigning and advocacy for the VAPP Act to be domesticated in the State.

Be that as it may, the VAPP Law among other things has strengthened advocacy against rape, Female Genital Mutilation, partner battery, stalking, harmful widowhood practices by State Actors while prohibiting all forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychosomatic, domestic, harmful traditional practices; discrimination against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.  In as much as this all powerful legislation instrument has provided for the above, it has also initiated positive innovations such as prohibiting persons from being forcefully isolated or separated from their family and friends and preventing widows from being subject to harmful traditional practices. It has even gone ahead to provide for a Commission of Violence Against Women which will be responsible for the general supervision of the Bill while a Victim of Violence Trust Fund will be established to provide and manage victims of violence. Under the Trust Fund, rehabilitation programmes, shelters and rape centers will be provided to cater for victims of violence. This indeed is a huge and robust fortification especially for victims of violence.

The positive effect of this Law is overwhelmingly amazing as prior to this law only women could be raped as approved in other legal materials and in the true definition of the word ‘rape’ as well as penetration of the vagina and for this sole reason, only women could be said to be raped. However, this Law now provides that a man can also fall victim of rape. VAPPA is the first piece of legislation in Nigeria which recognises that men are capable of being raped and also recognizes that not only penetration of the vagina is acceptable. All other criminal statutes delineate the offence in relation to women.  The VAPP acknowledging that unlawful anal and/or oral sex can be rape and not sexual assault is therefore ground-breaking.

The above has truly shown that the Benue people at this point will be thoroughly protected by the appropriate application of this Law and in secure environment notwithstanding the degree and/or pedigree of persons involved in violations.

In conclusion, we express our warmest gratitude to the out gone 8th Benue Assembly for a great job well done. This singular act has demonstrated beyond every reasonable doubt that their tenure was people oriented and has therefore purged it of all shortcomings while the House lasted. We also commend the Executive Governor of Benue State His Excellency Samuel Ortom for his speedy action towards signing the bill into law. We also commend the doggedness of the Civil Society including FIDA, Lawyers Alert, The Civil Society Coalition in Benue, The Media and all other actors involved in the course of this struggle.

As the struggle continues, Torkwase and her friend Ada laugh out loud shake hands and stand up. They walk out of the room towards the door to catch up with a new day in a new Benue where the rights of Women and other vulnerable groups are fully protected under the Violence Against People Prohibition Act.

 

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MY RETREAT STORY

by Elvis Torkuma

1st March to 3rd 2019, Lawyers Alert held her annual retreat. I left Abuja for Makurdi Benue State Capital with Rapheal Didel our hard working Office assistant, Ellen Onougha our legal officer and Blessing Mase our Finance Officer; we were driving in a convoy of four cars with the police escort in front of us, we stopped at Masaka to fuel our cars and then the unexpected happened, my car broke down I did my best but the car did not start, my colleagues drove off as the time was running against us leaving me, Ellen, Blessing and Raphael. Raphael also did his best  by  proffering  suggestions  but it wasn’t helpful at this point  I started  losing hope of traveling  with the car and how to get out of the ugly situation, after few minutes my program Director Miss Roseline Oghenebrume called me to find out if there was any positive development but I told her there is none at the moment, she then asked me to park the car in the filling station and hire a taxi that will take us to Makurdi, I then called my friend who has a taxi but he rather added to my worries as asked me to  pay him N50000, an outrageous money to pay for a journey of 4hrs, Suddenly the police escort team returned with my program director to assist us with bags.  One of the officers then asked me to start the car again I did and the car picked without wasting time  I drove off and had a successful journey without further challenges; we arrived Makurdi at about 6: PM

We got to the hotel  tired,  we were all expecting to have our bath and rest due to the stressful time we had on the road, we got lodged but the hotel was not a good state as there was limited water, the AC’s were not cooling and some TV’s were  not showing. I then saw a written on the toilet door, (WATER IS EXPENSIVE CONSERVE IT); at this point I knew I was in for another unsuitable experience. I managed the small water I saw to bath. In the evening we had a wonderful seat out with my colleagues, we had enough drinks, barbecue and pepper soup with good music. It was a memorable evening after a hectic day.

The next day we had aerobics in the morning and then proceeded to the venue of our Retreat which is at NO6, Alhmadu Bello Way Old GRA Makurdi Benue State,Lawyers Alert Head Office. DAY 1 of our retreat was an internal meeting where we discussed issues regarding team bonding, organizational Goal, Vision and Mission this was in a way to better integrate some of our new staff into organizational goal, vision and mission, our Consultant Mrs Hadiza was amazing as she was very diligent in making sure we all understand the goal of Lawyers Alert, Values of the organization and our responsibilities as staff. Then it was it TEA BREAK, another ugly episode. They brought us TEA BREAK, a slide break wasn’t well wrapped and the president Lawyers Alert Mr Rommy Mom was disappointed at caterer. He ended up not eating the food likewise others, although I managed and ate the food. After then we continued with our meeting which was participatory and interactive as almost everybody contributed to issues raised. We had lunch when it was lunch time this time the caterer served us a tasty meal. We later conveyed and discussed on few things and then we closed. As it is rightly said, Work without Play Makes Jerk a dull boy! I was just waiting for evening hangout to refresh myself with cold drinks, meat and good music as usual. We later hanged out as I was expecting, we had enough fresh fish to eat, cold drinks with good music.

 

DAY 2. We continued with our retreat on day 2 with our partners in attendance, our 2018 strategic plan was reviewed along with our partners inputs were made. After reviewing our 2018 strategic action plan we also presented our 2019 annual strategic action plan for our partner’s  to make inputs in other to have a robust and  inclusive action plan for 2019. After an interactive session with our partners, they made lot of inputs into our 2019 strategic annual plan we then harmonized their inputs and make 2019 strategic annual plan a document. After a hectic day with our partners in drafting the  2019 strategic plan I was patiently waiting for evening to come so that I will have a hangout with my colleagues, it was going to be a different  evening compare to others  because we were to share gift. I was not having much money to buy an expensive gift but I bought an affordable gift. We went to back to our hotel after the meeting and later gathered at the hotel garden as usual for gift session, we didn’t factor drinks because we were to club that night at Harley Day Inn, we exchanged gift had light drinks and went back to prepare for the night club. All these while I was waiting to see how some of my colleagues will dance at the club due to their conservative behaviours and perceived  low social exposure, these were my thoughts. We then moved into the club at about 9:PM at the VIP, unfortunately the VIP which could have contain us had cooling problems , we had to move out to regular, to my greatest surprised some of my colleagues I thought were reserve were the ones who actually made the club rock that night. Although Mr Hwande dance steps were from another planet, he was the side attraction for me,  and my program director Roseline danced very well, I saw wonderful dancing steps from many of colleagues, Somto, Ellen, Leslie, Mary and the President Lawyers Alert himself Mr Rommy, It was indeed fun and an amazing experienced.

On Day 3.Our supposed final day of the retreat was a very short we only did the recap of the retreat, we spend few hours doing the recap, what went wrong, what went right and what the way forward. We then had Tea break and lunch within an hour interval. We snapped pictures and closed for that day. Although one thing was certain, evening hangout; we later had hangout as usual, had drinks listen to good music and then we both went in our rooms and slept. My retreat was very memorable I had awful moments and interesting moments which made it a memorable retreat. I must appreciate the management of Lawyers Alert for making our retreat fun and entertaining despite challenges we had in the hotel. The provision of drinks, good meal, clubbing and logistics made my retreat interesting. I am again looking forward for 2020 Lawyers Alert again by the special grace of God. God bless Lawyers Alert and long live our partners.

 

 

Elvis Torkuma is the Project Officer of Lawyers Alert and participated in the 2019 staff retreat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PETTY OFFENCES; THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

By Roseline Oghenebrume, Director Programs, Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn sets in the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria. Alhaji Abubakar (Pseudo name) after his morning prayer wakes his family up to begin the grind for the day. His family comprises of two sons and a daughter all aged 15, 13 and 11 respectively. In his words, it is Monday, you have to meet up with travelers at the Jabi Motor Park or else no food for you all. They begin their journey on foot for a 5km walk with their goods to be sold off on their heads. While they approached the park, they sighted the task force team and obviously took to their heels. While the eldest was lucky to have escaped, the two others were swept off the roads in the van of the task force and their goods seized.

These types of petty acts that are seen as offences is regrettably targeted at low income earners, the vulnerable and the poor. For instance, citizens engaged in activities such as loitering are arrested by security agents shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing these laws. In one instance, someone hawking goods in trying to escape arrest jumped off a fly over in Abuja Central District Area, losing his life in the fall. Security agencies go out at night arresting women and breaking people’s doors, dragging them out on account of their sexual orientation and perceived type of job. Commercial bus drivers trying to eke a living are said to commit offences when parked in a non-designated area and can be sent to jail if they don’t come up with the resources to pay their way through. The above is a picture of what a less privileged family/ citizen in Nigeria deals with on a regular/daily basis.

Nigeria is a country with a population of about 180 million persons with over 70% of its population said to be poor. Nigeria recently ranked highest in poverty according to a report by the World poverty Clock released in June 2018.  This shows that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot effectively cope in keeping with this high population with regard to arrest and prosecution nor does it have the prison to hold these persons.

As it stands today, Nigeria has about 75,000 persons in prison with about 60% of these persons awaiting trial. Those awaiting trial for petty offences account for a higher percentage of those awaiting trial. Petty offences are more to do with the poor and vulnerable who are often prone to these acts owing to economic dis empowerment. Petty actions like hawking, obtaining goods by false pretence, sex work, sexual expression, slander, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, use of insulting language, intake of alcohol in some Northern States, etc. are criminalised.

Petty offences are not only inconsistent with sections 34, 35, 41 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provide for right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to freedom of movement and right to freedom from discrimination respectively, but are equally inconsistent with Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights duly ratified by Nigeria.

The effect is State resources are expended in rather needless investigations and prosecutions and the prisons congested. Good governance, more attention at economic empowerment and fighting corruption by Government will be more in focus if Government is not distracted by expending resources on petty offences that are criminalised. Petty offences have resulted in lack of justice for the poor, social discrimination sometimes with grave consequences.

We at Lawyers Alert strongly believes that decriminalising petty offences in Nigeria will aid development given the likelihood of more time and focus on development issues.

Based on the above, the following are recommendations;

 

  1. Laws/policy reform which is critical in decriminalising petty offences because the small actions that are made petty offences are being institutionalised by certain laws in Nigeria.
  2. State and Non- State Actors should be engaged. Majority are not aware of the effects of these laws, they have not been made to understand the importance of decriminalising petty offences and its effect on socio, economic welfare of the nation.
  3. Lawyers are to be encouraged to offer free legal services to victims of petty crimes rather than demand professional fees which the vulnerable and poor people who are the victims of petty offenses cannot afford.
  4. Continuous sensitization of the vulnerable and less privileged in the society. Lack of knowledge of human rights or where to get assistance when their rights are abused is part of the problem that institutionalizes petty offenses.
  5. Civil Society groups, the Media and other Human Rights Activists to embark on a campaign towards decriminalization of petty offenses in Nigeria. Petty offenses target the most vulnerable in the country; the poor, less privileged and uneducated.

 

Poverty is not a crime……

Human Right is for all…….

Decriminalizing petty offenses is a human rights issue….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Divorce Your Wife, Lose Your Home to Her

by Kyenpya Katkuk Esq

In the light of the recent event celebrating women on International Women’s day all over the world on the 8th of March as recognised by the United Nations, women are not only celebrated on how far they have come in the society, in politics and in the economy but it’s also a time for reflecting on the sexism that affects women, a time to raise awareness of continued inequality as well as the achievements of combating inequality.

 

There is no place in the world where women have the same opportunities as men and in so many countries the rights of women and their opportunities are limited by law. The belief that patriarchy is so entrenched in the Nigerian system and the fact that women are unable to exercise their rights have been an erroneous one especially by those ignorant on the rights provided under the law.

 

However, this issue of a woman not having rights to property due to cultural beliefs has been disproved of recent and it has been an uplifting moment in the lives of women in Oyo State, Nigeria.  In the recent decided case, by the presiding Justice Munta Abimbola , the courts held that “ a husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pend-ency of the marriage stands the risk of losing the house if he later divorces the woman who had children for him unless such woman of her own volition, leaves the matrimonial home”. The presiding Justice whilst ruling on the matter also emphasised on what is known as “palm tree justice”, which indicates that “it doesn’t matter in whose name the property stands or who pays what (on the property) and in what proportion as determination of such matters transcends all rights, legal or even equitable but simply what is fair and just ‘’ in the circumstances of the case.

The basis of this judgement was made under the provisions of the Married Woman’s Property Act 1882.  Furthermore, Section 17 Married Women’s Law of  Oyo State, Cap 83 and Laws of Oyo State 2000 gives a court the discretion as it thinks fit on the issues of title of possession to property. Section 18 Married Women Law of Oyo State also allows the court to treat property as joint property especially where it has to do with a matrimonial home.

 

Conclusively, it could be said that there is significant progress on the application of legal provisions and precedents regarding property rights that affect women inspite of the system of marriage laws (customary, Islamic and statutory marriage). The parties in the decided matter happen to be married under customary law and so this could mean that a woman is entitled to having an equal share of property in the event of divorce, regardless of whether she is married under customary law or statutory law.

 

This is also a good reflection of international instrument , the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), particularly Article 5 ,which refers to how women should not be confined to culturally defined constructions. It recognises that all human beings are equal and have equal rights and deserve equal respect for their human dignity.  Gender stereotypes should not deny women the right to be treated respectfully as an equal. Therefore, this landmark ruling is a significant in combating inequality as it affects women.

 

Kyenpya Katkuk is a lawyer with the Coalition Of Lawyers for Human Rights  (COLaHR).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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