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THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN NIGERIA: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

BY: D.U INNOCENT ESQ.

Human-rights

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There has been an outcry, on the gross violation of human rights that has ravaged Nigeria in recent times. These violations have led to massive loss of lives, properties and the displacement of families and communities. These violations have also led to the rise in the insecurity and the volatile nature of our society presently. It is important to note that victims of these violations are innocent civilians whose lives are being disrupted and even destroyed. Who should we hold responsible?

The European Union reported at the end of 2018, that 7.1 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 850,000 people in Borno are estimated to be in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. The conflicts between farmer communities and herdsmen escalated markedly in 2018, becoming the deadliest crisis in Nigeria with thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands internally displaced. While the root causes are fundamentally economic and lack of governance, the violence increasingly takes on a worrying ethno-religious dimension.
Federal and State governments are being criticized for the failure to ensure security, rule of law and for not addressing the widespread impunity. [1] The brutal violation of Human Rights in Benue, Nigeria which occurred in January 2018 caused by decades of old communal conflicts between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in the Middle Belt further exacerbated the security situation in the country. As at least 1,600 people were killed and another 300,000 displaced as a result of the violence.

In June 2018, at least 84 people were killed in double suicide bomb attacks attributed to Boko Haram at a mosque in Mubi, Adamawa State. The heightened political tensions ahead of the 2019 elections led to the violations of human rights of Nigerians through Abductions, suicide bombings, and attacks on civilian targets by Boko Haram. At least 1,200 people died and nearly 200,000 were displaced in the northeast in 2018.[2]

As of 2019, 1.8 million Nigerians have fled from their homes and are internally displaced, the majority in Borno State – the epicentre of the crisis. 80 per cent of internally displaced people are women and children, and one in four are under the age of five.   [3]                                                                                                              Civil societies have led campaigns against arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture exposed human rights abuses by security agencies, including by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).[4]

On the 11th of October 2019, the Punch Newspaper reported that the ECOWAS Court indicted the Federal Government over 2018 Benue Mass killings. This judgment was given by a three member panel of the Community Court of Justice ECOWAS with suit number: ECW/CCJ/APP/16/18. The judgment was presided by Justice Edward Asante, President of the Court, Justice Keikura Bangura, and Hon. Januaria Costa.[5]

Between 2018 and 2019 Nigeria has lost millions of human resource to human rights violations both reported and unreported. The above stated scenarios are only a tiny fraction of the reports of human rights violations in Nigeria, as writing about more would turn this piece into a documentary. The list of violations in Nigeria is almost listless and cuts across almost every strata of the society. The government is supposed to be the hope of security for the common man, but today in Nigeria that hope has been shredded in pieces as Nigerians are being violated even in their homes. The apparent case of Nigeria’s hopelessness in tackling human right issues is seen in the plethora of violations by both state and non-state actors.

Article1, 2,3,4,5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right, Chapter 10 LFN 1990 and Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution enshrine the Protection of the Human Rights of Nigerians. The Federal Government is tasked with the responsibility of protecting the Human Rights of her citizens. It is therefore in the interest of the peace and development of our country that our governments should take up their responsibility of protecting the human rights of her citizens.

 “When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the center of our institution no longer holds. It is they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity.” – Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

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.

[1] https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/nigeria/62580/eu-annual-report-human-rights-and-democracy-world-2018-country-updates-nigeria_en

[2] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nigeria

[3] https://www.unocha.org/nigeria/about-ocha-nigeria

[4] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nigeria

[5] https://punchng.com/ecowas-court-indicts-fg-over-2018-benue-mass-killing/ 

 
 

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WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS

BY CHIGOZIEM ELLEN ONUGHA ESQ

Human-rights

Human rights are those basic rights that every human being upon conception acquires by virtue of the presence of “life”. They are not bought, neither are they alienable. These rights are not defined by time. They do not wear-off upon a person’s committal of an offence (this has exceptions). These rights also are those rights which must be respected for peace to reign in a society.

There are some other characteristics which make human rights different from other rights. They are:

  • One does not acquire them by virtue of position or office
  • Unlike some other rights, disrespect of human rights may attract dire consequences.

Human rights are both divinely orchestrated and humanly stipulated by laws, so whichever way one looks at it, disrespect of human rights is a sin to both God and human laws.

BELOW ARE WAYS TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS:

  • Education/sensitization of what human rights are, and the various types of human rights
  • Setting-up of structures to help protect these rights. Structures like; relevant laws and policies.
  • Implementation systems, like; courts to address issues of violation of human rights.
  • Development of punishments against persons who disrespect these rights. These punishments would serve as warning to all others against disrespect of human rights.

Gracefully, these systems exist in Nigeria. The only obstacle to achieving a human rights violation free society is “sufficiency”. We may have these systems in place, but we must ask; do we have as much duplicates of these systems enough to go round? The answer is No. Let us take the systems listed above one after the other.

  • Education/Sensitization – there is a saying that goes “until the day one dies, learning never ends”. Some persons even go as far as adding that even upon death, one learns of a different world and for one to be able to stay in that new world which is discovered upon death, one needs to learn things about the new world and keep learning to stay on track. As civil society organizations, we carryout projects on sensitization of persons on these rights, and once the project terminates, the sensitization/education terminates too. Sensitization of persons on these rights should be reoccurring. On this note, Lawyers Alert is doing a good job, because out of the need for this form of education, Lawyers Alert permanently has as its objectives to sensitise persons of these rights.
  • Laws and Policies – There are laws in place to regulate violation of these rights, but implementation of these laws or policies pose a barrier. It may sound a bit cliché, but Nigeria has so many laws that enactment of laws may not be our problems, but implementation is.
  • Courts – For a country like Nigeria with over 200million human population, the amount of courts we have are not enough. And so, issues concerning violation of human rights which should be treated urgently get to be treated without any sense of urgency.
  • Punishments – punishment for violation of these rights sometimes are not commensurate. Therefore, more appropriate punishments need to be developed.
 
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Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Human Rights, humanity, Rights, Uncategorized

 

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Xenophobic Attack in South Africa: An Anathema to the spirit of Africanism

By Sunday Adaji Esq

lawyers lert xenophobia

“Xenophobia” has become the trademark of the South Africans. Over the years, these Africans have continued to revel in killing foreigners, especially Nigerians living in their country. It is obvious that Nigerians have become endangered species in South African.

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It has now been established that South Africans derive pleasure in killing Nigerians living in their country. For reasons that are not clear, they keep doing so with reckless abandon. It was reported that nearly 200 Nigerians have been killed so far within the spate of three years. The situation is worse and may continue to get worse for a long time to come if nothing is done to stop the savagery and barbaric acts.

Recently, what looks like the reason for the xenophobic attack in South Arica was expressed by the country’s Deputy Minister of Police, Mr. Bongani Michael Mkongi who appears in support of the killing of foreigners by his country people. In what looked like a press conference, the deputy minister of police with others, addressed members of the public where he said that 80% of foreigners had taken over their cities, taking away everything that belongs to South Africans. While expressing his annoyance and frustration to justify his support for the dare-devil South Africans; he queried: “Which city in the world will you find 80% of South Africans dominating? You can’t find South Africans in other countries dominating a city up to 80%… We cannot surrender South Africa to foreign nationals.” The video that captured Mr. Bongani Michael Mkongi making the statement is online to aid any verification.

 

The statement of Mr. Bongani Michael Mkongi is a reflection of the opinions and fears of those South Africans that are killing foreigners in their country. We now begin to realise why South Africa Police which are conferred with the statutory duty to maintain law and order and to protect lives and properties have abandoned their duties to participate in the killings of Nigerians living in South Africa.

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It is really pathetic that South Africans take up arms to kill, in cold blood, law abiding Nigerians who lawfully go about their legitimate business in South Africa. It is much more pathetic that this happen under the watchful eyes of South Africa policemen. It is equally sad that South Africa’s government is not doing enough to put an end to this killing of foreigners.

Things usually take a downward slope when you don’t take drastic steps to deal with them. Over the years, Nigerian government has not done enough to address the issue and as a result, this evil keeps rearing its ugly head. At the moment, the government of Nigeria has started taking some concrete steps to address the issue. It is reported that President Muhammadu Buhari has sent his entourage to meet with Cyril Ramaphosa, South African president, to see how they can address the issue and put an end to the killing of Nigerians in South Africa. Nigerian government has also made an arrangement to evacuate Nigerians living in South Africa who are willing to return to Nigeria.

Looking at things, the effort of Nigerian government is not likely going to yield the desired result. At best, it may only bring about some palliatives. The fact is, xenophobia has become the trademark of many South Africans. And to lift the trademark off their necks, it will take the intervention of the whole world. There is need to mount pressures on South Africa from all quarters to stop this act. You don’t take it likely with a group of people that have no respect for the sanctity of human lives.

 

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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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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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