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Category Archives: Rights

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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DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES (PROHIBITION) ACT 2018: WAY FORWARD

By Ifeyinwa Onochie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC) has estimated that no fewer than 19 million Nigerians are living with disabilities. This population
has as its major challenge issues of stigmatization, discrimination and resultant unequal treatment in all spheres. This is evident even in access to physical spaces/building either public or private which truncates not just physical access but also access to opportunity and resources.

According to a definition from equalityhumanrights.com, “equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.
It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.”

Disability in Africa and across the world, is viewed in most instances as associated dependency and inability to perform basic chores. People exhibit pity for Persons With Disabilities when in actual fact their impairment makes little or no difference to their abilities.

Nigeria efforts in negating these issues and the realization that disability is in the mind and the need to negate discrimination, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018. This development in Nigeria is good news. This means we will begin to see less and less people living with disabilities suffer discrimination from point A to B in this country. Furthermore, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation. Equally heart-warming is that the Act also provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobiles are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons living with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

This means curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, wider doorways and corridors. This also means that building plans of any public structure under construction since the President’s assent of the Act shall be scrutinized by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms to the building code.

Furthermore, with this Act, discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities, and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged.

We are finally stepping into the visions of our forefathers for, unity, peace and progress. However, there is dire need for our government to pick up a magnifying glass and look into these vast NGOs that claim to cater to the people living with disabilities in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Miss Faith Yaasa, a disability Rights activist, the question right now is: “are all the foreign aid monies collected being used to really support the people they claim they represent and collect for? What happened to awareness campaigns to sensitize the general public on matters affecting Persons With Disabilities? What about the economic empowerment of Persons With Disabilities through realistic and achievable programs that impact the society positively?” This is the right time to take a stand and put a stop to the incessant injustice and crimes committed against physically challenged citizens is the message Miss Yaasa engaged with us at Lawyers Alert when she stopped by our office this week.

Lawyers Alert cannot agree less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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