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Category Archives: key populations

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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Effect Of Rape On Women/Girls

By Yua Miriam

 

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A taxi driver on his way to the motor park was attracted to a young lady who is a newspaper vendor. He decided to stop by and purchase a newspaper, telling her that he is not in the habit of buying newspaper but for her sake he would buy. The young lady smiled and said “that’s good of you Mr”. The taxi driver asked her to give him any newspaper of her choice and she did. On the first page, the taxi driver saw A father of 46 raped his 16 year old daughter for a virginity test. He was shocked and shouted Jesus Christ! “Is this a myth or what?” the taxi driver asked. The young lady asked why he was shouting, as the news had been all over town for two weeks then.

As the driver arrived the park, he was moody and decided to explain the sad news to his colleagues, where are you getting your news from? His colleagues asked, he shook his head full of tears in his eyes and at the same time smiled in amusement. He picked up the newspaper and threw it at them and started shouting, how can a father rape his own daughter for a virginity test?  What a wicked world we are living in, he said. The 15 year old girl who was selling oranges in the park felt a tinge of pity for the taxi driver.

Globally, rape is an everyday violent occurrence affecting millions of women and girls all over the world.

According to Wikipedia, rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.

The effect of rape varies for each individual as each individual responds differently to traumatic experiences and recovers at different rates. However with the information from survivors, we know that there are some common responses from rape and sexual violence. These effects can last many years and can take many years to show themselves.

Physical effects may be instantly obvious if the assailant had used violence during the assault, and may need immediate hospital treatment. However, it is also worthy of note to consider other physical effects, that might arise in the future such as sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

A significant number of people who have been sexually assaulted feel embarrassed or shameful about what happened. Most people find it difficult to discuss intimate issues, this makes it difficult for such people to open up about what has happened to them. In this case it is sometimes easier to talk to someone on a telephone helpline who should take things at the victim’s pace.

For many, an initial reaction to being raped is one of shock and emotional numbness. Many people initially feel calm and shut off from what happened to them. This reaction can sometimes surprise friends and family members who expect the victim to be distraught immediately after an assault. However, disassociation is a natural defence mechanism and is perfectly normal. Usually after a few days or weeks the victim may begin to have a range of other reactions like anger, shock and fear. Fear of becoming pregnant or contracting HIV/AIDS or STD. Subsequently, the victim may worry about not being able to be in an intimate or sexual relationship, but all these fears are absolutely normal and common and given time and support they can be overcome. Discussing them with a friend or counsellor will help a lot. Research on women in shelters has shown that women who experience both sexual and physical abuse from intimate partners are more likely to have had sexually transmitted diseases. In 1991, a study in a maternity hospital in Lima found that 90% of new mothers aged 12-16 had become pregnant from being raped, the majority by their father, stepfather or other close relative.

If a victim does not want to report a rape incident or doesn’t want to be attended to by their local doctor, they can visit a local Genito-urinary medicine clinic (GUM) to check for infections.

A father in Swaziland raped his 16-year-old daughter to test if she was still a virgin, a court has been told. The times of Swaziland reported on Monday 21st May, 2018 that, a man aged 46 from the Lubombo region in the east of the kingdom made a statement to a judicial officer at Siteki Magistrate Court. He said, he had argued with his daughter because he believed she had been sleeping with boys. He asked if she was still a virgin and she told him she was. The news paper reported however, that the man confessed that he did not believe his daughter, hence he suggested that he should test her virginity. He unashamedly told the judicial officer that he forcefully had sexual intercourse with his daughter as a way of “testing” her virginity’.

The taxi driver with distaste, informed his colleagues that he had lost his zeal for working on the road that day. It would be better for him to go and rest at home, he left the park and said goodbye to his colleagues.

 

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