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Category Archives: strategic advocacy

ADDRESSING SOCIAL INJUSTICE THROUGH STRATEGIC IMPACT LITIGATION.. CASE STUDY OF LAWYERS ALERT.

By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha

SIL

For problems ranging from poverty to bad governance, laws and policies in a country like Nigeria with over 200million estimated human population, it is common to have most of its citizens vulnerable. Citizens encounter more problems than they do welfare and these problems often require professionals like lawyers to address them. Owing to the fact that lawyers also are sometimes vulnerable in certain situations, one will begin to wonder where lies help for the common man.

Help for the common man lies in the strength of a few determined professionals who are willing to stick both their necks and their resources out.

Lawyers Alert, a human rights organization that has its focus on free legal assistance to vulnerable groups and indigent persons in Nigeria, under “Strategic Impact Litigation”. Strategic Impact Litigation which is commonly known as “SIL” is a form of litigation which is aimed at addressing public issues for the sole purpose of making impact in the society.

Before this project, there were certain irregularities, for instance, prisons congestion, lives of citizens were lost without anyone being questioned, patients were detained in public health establishments due to their inability to pay their bills, persons were relieved of their jobs owing to their HIV statuses etc.

The objectives of this project are as follows:

  1. To make positive societal impact
  2. To address issues affecting the public
  3. To address problems of the common man who ordinarily does not have means of helping himself
  4. To maintain law and order
  5. To ensure that human rights are respected.

Lawyers Alert in recent times has approached various courts in Nigeria with the following cases for determination:

  1. Lawyers Alert V Government of Borno State & 1 Or

The government of Borno State demolished houses, living homes and hotels in Borno State without notice and compensation, thereby rendering people homeless, jobless and destroying people’s businesses. According to the said government of Borno State, the buildings inhabited criminals and formed hideouts for same. Lawyers Alert took up the matter and instituted an action against the government of Borno State in the Borno State High Court of justice, in the Maiduguri judicial division, for violating the human rights of its citizens, asking the court for the following.

  • A declaration that any residents of Galadima Area, Baga Road and indeed of the entire Maiduguri metropolis are entitled to own moveable and immoveable properties in Maiduguri and anywhere in Nigeria.
  • A declaration that the Defendants’ act of demolishing hotels, residential houses, restaurants, shops and other public places in Galadima Area, Baga Road, and indeed the entire Maiduguri metropolis on grounds of public interest, without the due process of law amounts to a violation of the constitutional rights of the concerned citizens.
  • A perpetual injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd Defendants from further demolishing properties of residents of Galadima Area, Baga Road and indeed of the entire Maiduguri metropolis, Borno state until the Defendants have fully compensated or resettled owners of such properties marked for further demolition.
  • An order of the court directing the 1st Defendants to take inventory of all the moveable and immoveable properties so far demolished in Maiduguri metropolis and to compensate and/or resettle owners of these properties
  • And for such further orders as the honourable court may deem fit to grant in the circumstances.

This matter is currently on appeal.

  1. Lawyers Alert V the Attorney-General of the Federation & 2 Ors

 

Pursuant to the provisions of the HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, the duty to ensure compliance with the Act is vested on the Attorney-General of the Federation. Most unfortunately, five years after enactment of the said Act, compliance is yet to be made. Thus, noncompliance with the said Act has resulted in high discrimination of persons living with HIV, at workplaces. On that note, Lawyers Alert instituted an action in the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Abuja judicial division, asking the following reliefs:

 

  • A declaration that Employers of labour (Ministries, Agencies and

Departments, including the Private Sector) are bound to develop and register HIV&AIDS workplace policies.

 

  • A declaration that the Respondent is bound to ensure compliance with the provisions of section 21(1) (2) of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act, being the oversight body saddled with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the Act.

 

  • An order of court directing the Respondent to ensure that employers of

labour (Ministries, Agencies and Departments, including the Private Sector) develop and register HIV & AIDS workplace policy within 30 days of this Order.

 

  • And for such further orders as this Honourable court may deem fit to make in this case.
  1. Lawyers Alert V Benue State University of Agriculture, Makurdi

 

A school bus conveying students of Benue State university of Agriculture, Makurdi, from a part of the school to another part of the school. Unfortunately, it had an accident and a student was severely injured and due to the weight of the accident, the student went into oblivion. The injured student was immediately rushed to the school’s clinic by some other students who were at the scene. On getting there, the medical personnel refused to treat the student because on their demand for the student’s clinic card, the good Samaritans could not provide it. even when majority of the students who rushed the unconscious accident victim to the hospital testified that they knew her ad also went ahead to mention her department, the clinic medical personnel did not change their minds on treating the victim. Unfortunately, while the medical personnel was still hellbent on treating the victim, the victim lost so much blood and passed away. Students were devastated and a riot ensued. In the process, some of the school’s facilities were destroyed.

The school after the riot, demanded that each student should pay the sum of N10,000 for to enable repairs and replacement of all that were destroyed. On hearing this, Lawyers Alert took up prosecution of the case and immediately filed an action against the school at the Federal High Court of Nigeria, asking the court for the following reliefs:

 

  • A declaration that the 1st Respondent’s clinic’s act of refusing to administer medical treatment to the victims of the accident on campus for the reason that they were unable to produce the 1st Respondent’s identity cards, leading to the death of some of them, contravenes section 20 of the National Health Act, 2014 and amounts to a serious violation of the students’ rights to medical care and to life as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999.

 

  • A declaration that the 1st Respondent’s clinic’s act of requesting students’ identity card before administering treatment to the accident victims even in an emergency situation amounts to a violation of section 20 of the National Health Act, 2014, the ethics and practice of the medical profession and a gross violation of the students’ rights to life.

 

  • A declaration that the Respondent’s action is illegal, null and void and of no legal justification.

 

  • A declaration that the Defendants’ action of imposing the sum of N10, 000.00 (Ten Thousand Naira) fine or any other money or amount on the students of the 1st Respondent is illegal, mischievous, gold digging, null and void, and of no legal justification.

 

  • An order of this Honourable Court restraining the Respondents from collecting the sum of N10, 000.00 (Ten Thousand Naira) or any other amount of money by whatever name or description from the students of the 1st Respondent as fine, damages, levy, fee or any other name whatsoever over the alleged students’ demonstration that took place on the campus of the 1st Respondent on the 15th day of August, 2018.

 

IN THE ALTERNATIVE

 

  • An order directing the Respondents to forthwith refund any amount of money by whatever name or description, already collected from the students of the 1st Respondent over the demonstration that took place on the campus of the 1st Respondent on the 15th day of August, 2018.

 

  • A perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Respondent’s clinic from further requesting for identity cards from individuals in emergency medical situations before treatment and medical attention.

 

  • Such incidental orders as the justice of this case may demand.

 

Effectively, with regards to all issues of access to justice, all hands must be on deck. Lawyers Alert is doing its best to ensure there is improved access to justice for vulnerable groups, but much more is still needed to be done.

 

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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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Lawyers Alert Secures The Release Of John Ibya Through Its Pro Bono Services

 

As part of our free legal services to vulnerable persons, Lawyers Alert is happy to announce that we have secured the release of John Ibya from prison custody. Sometime in July 2018, Mr ibya was arrested by the police in Aliade and was immediately taken to the police station for the alleged offence of conspiracy, attempted robbery and house breaking. He was arraigned at the Chief Magistrate court Aliade for the said offences. He was subsequently remanded in prison custody since July 2018.

The fact that led to his arrest and subsequent detention in prison custody is that, prior to his arrest there was a robbery around his vicinity at Aliade town, where some hoodlums conspired and attempted to break a neighbor’s house for the purpose of robbery.  Police officers swung into action and carried out a random arrest in his neighborhood and in the process, arrested him as a suspect.

John Ibya is male aged 36 years; married with twin babies that were born to him while he was in prison custody.

 

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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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