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Category Archives: Rights

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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Employers of labour must comply with HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act

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A Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert has insisted that employers of labour in the public and private sector must comply with the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act to protect workers who that are infected with Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr Rommy Mom told Daily Trust that the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act that was passed into law in Nigeria five years ago was not implemented and that his organization has dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to court to demand full implementation and total adherence to the law.

He said the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act mandates the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that work places have HIV/AIDS policies to protect workers that are HIV positive.

He said the law was passed in 2014 and that it mandates the AGF to ensure that employers of labour in public and private sector in Nigeria have the policy within three months.

Mr Rommy expressed concern that the law was not implemented five years after and that no policy in work places to protect people living with HIV.

He lamented that majority of workers that are HIV positive are facing all forms of discrimination and stigmatization in their places of work.

 

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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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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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Bringing Hope to Prisoners in Nigeria

By Sunday Adaji Esq

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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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