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THE IMPLICATION OF SAME SEX MARRIAGE PROHIBITION ACT 2014 AND THE RIGHTS OF SEXUAL MINORITIES IN NIGERIA.

By Victor Eboh, (Legal / Reproductive Right Officer)

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Violence and discrimination against sexual minorities  in Nigeria have been on the increase in recent times, no thanks to the promulgation of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014, (Herein after referred to as The Act) which has contributed negatively to the already dire circumstances of the Sexual minorities (Herein after referred to as The Community) in Nigeria. Members of the community have suffered an increasing wave of arbitrary arrest, unlawful invasion of privacy, assault and battery, sexual violence and extortion, among other ills, since the passing of the Act.

The average citizens of Nigeria, finds it very difficult to enjoy the protection of their rights and access to basic social services. It is rather more unfortunate for persons who are imputed to have sexual minority identities; they are faced with even more social isolation and discrimination by both states and non-state actors. Ironically, Public Authorities who are saddled with the responsibility to protect and ensure the fundamental rights of citizens are sustained, are most times at the forefront of the scourge of terror, intimidation, intolerance and violence against members of the community. The extreme intolerance, homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia, make it even more dangerous for sexual minorities to reach out for help, hence most human rights violations against them, go unreported.

The cardinal principles of human rights include, universality and non-discrimination. The pre-condition for enjoying human rights is HUMANITY.  However, the Nigerian society and Public authorities do not see the sexual minorities as part of those, whose humanity are guaranteed rights under the Nigerian Constitution. Thus, their humanity is disregarded solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, which exposes them to all forms of violence.

 

LEGAL FRAMEWORK GOVERNING SEXUAL MINORITIES ISSUES WITHIN THE NIGERIAN CONCEPT

The combined efforts of both the Domestic, Regional and International frameworks, all ensure equality of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

DOMESTIC LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  • DOMESTIC FRAME WORK: 1999 CONSTITUTION OF FED. REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
  • The preamble of the constitution
  • SECTION 1(1) & (3)
  • SECTION 17 (3) (C & D)
  • THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF EVERY CITIZENS:
  • CHAPTER 4  of the constitution  section 33-40
  • SECTION 33: “Every person has a Right to Life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his Right    to life
  • SECTION 34: “ Every individual is entitled to Respect for the dignity of his person and no person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • SECTION 35: “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty.
  • SECTION 36: “Every person shall be entitled to fair hearing
  • SECTION 37: “ The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversation and telegraph communications is hereby guaranteed and protected
  • SECTION 38: “ Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • SECTION 39: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression
  • SECTION 40: “ Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons …or any other association for the protection of his interest.

 

REGIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, (hereinafter referred to as ACHPR),  a document which has been domesticated and  forms part of the body of laws in Nigeria, clearly and unequivocally guarantees freedom from discrimination and equal protection and equality of individuals before the law. The treaty was signed in 1981, but did not become a law in Nigeria until when the National Assembly ratified and enforced it as applicable law in Nigeria. The Charter is now known as the AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS (RATIFICATION AND ENFORCEMENT) ACT (CAP 10) OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA 1990

Article 2 of the Act, clearly provides that ‘ Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedom recognized and guaranteed in the present charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status’

Other relevant sections of the Act are as follows:

  • The preamble
  • ARTICLE 1
  • ARTICLE 2
  • ARTICLE 3
  • ARTICLE 4
  • ARTICLE 13 (2)
  • ARTICLE 16 (1 & 2)
  • ARTICLE 19

 

The African Commission, the body responsible for monitoring compliance with the African Charter, has in various communications, denounced acts of discrimination. The ACHPR has clearly established that the expression ‘OTHER STATUS’ as used in the Act can broadly be interpreted to include grounds, other than those explicitly listed under that provision of the Charter. The rights to dignity, liberty and security of persons and freedom of association are among rights clearly proclaimed by the African Charter and the Charter clearly states that every human being is entitled to these rights.

Concerned by the increasing violence against the community, the ACHPR at its 55th session adopted a landmark resolution on the Protection Against Violence and Other Human Rights Violations against persons on the basis of their Real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The Resolution unequivocally condemns violence against persons on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation and gender identity. It calls on states to stop all violence committed by state and non-state actors and to enact and implement laws condemning violence against all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. States were also urged to promptly investigate and punish all acts of violence against persons based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The International legal framework governing Human rights apply equally to all sexual minorities in all parts of the world. The principle of equality, non-discrimination and universality are fundamental in ensuring the human rights for all persons including sexual minorities. It has been established that the grounds of discrimination enumerated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are non-exhaustive and “other status” includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE PROHIBITION ACT 2014

The promulgation of the Same Sex marriage prohibition Act has to a great extent heightened the level of violence against the sexual minorities. The law has been used and utilised by both state and non state actors to subject community members to all sorts of violations, ranging from public humiliation, to battery, assault, blackmail, extortion and other forms of violations and violence.

The Act has further encouraged and in fact, breeds a culture of intimidation, suppression and violence against community members in Nigeria. The Act, apart from prohibiting same sex marriage, goes further to prohibit and criminalizes the association of persons and organizations who purport to promote the interest of Sexual minorities in Nigeria. It prohibits and criminalizes the ‘Public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly without defining what qualifies as “same sax amorous relationship”

The negative effect of this law was immediate and still persists, as and thus the community members are subjected to an unimaginable level of futility being victims of a wave of arbitrary arrest, invasion of privacy, blackmail, extortion and violence of which state actors are also perpetrators of this hideous practices.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

From the above consideration, it suffices to say that if the rendition of the constitution “WE THE PEOPLE” is the have a meaningful impact, then it must have the force of general application without prejudice.

The following recommendations are worthy of consideration:

  1. The Government should act timeously in condemning the on-going violence against persons based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity expression.
  2. A review of discriminatory laws that trigger violence against sexual minorities should be given priority.
  3. Enforce constitutional and treaty provisions on universal human rights in public and private institutions across the country.
  4. Human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity expression, should be investigated and perpetrators brought to book.
  5. Embark on a holistic campaign to promote an end to hate speech and statements inciting violence against sexual minorities in Nigeria from religious leaders, politicians and others and establish a link with sexual minorities human rights organizations, regarding ways to promote awareness on issues affecting sexual minorities.
  6. Establish a reporting process for informing the Human Rights Commission and other related bodies, on human rights abuses experienced by sexual minorities.
  7. State actors should discourage incidences of police raids, arbitrary and indiscriminate arrests and searches of individuals based on perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity expression.
  8. The police should be at the forefront in investigating and prosecuting incidents of violence against sexual minorities and refrain from harassing, arresting or prosecuting members of the sexual minorities support organizations and human rights advocates on account of their work on sexual minority rights.
  9. Civil society organizations should be encouraged to mainstream sexual minority’s awareness and rights into their relevant health, gender and human rights programmes.
  10. Mainstream stakeholders and the general public should be educated on human rights issues affecting sexual minorities. Sensitization workshops with government agencies, health workers and other law enforcement agencies be developed, on the need to promote and protect rights of sexual minorities as citizens of Nigeria.

 

CONCLUSION

From the above consideration, one fundamental principle looms larger, that violence and discrimination against any individual or groups of persons is unacceptable. OUR HUMANITY should be paramount in ensuring dignity and rights to ALL PERSONS.

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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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FLOODING AND THE PLIGHT OF BENUE CITIZENS

BY: Yua Miriam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dooshima… I heard that all your properties were swept away by flood in your compound is it true?? She sighs, drops her arms in resignation and replies. ‘Chinedu my dear, I thank God for my life oo, what you heard is true, the rain that fell in Makurdi of late destroyed most of my properties not excluding my credentials ‘oh my God! Not again my dear friend. Her friend exclaims in surprise.The above scenario sums up the yearly agony of the residents of Makurdi, the capital city of Benue owing to flooding every rainy season.

Benue State is located in the North Central geopolitical zone of Nigeria, it is known as the food basket of the nation occupying a land mass of 32,518sqkm, it lies within the Lower Benue River Basin in the middle belt region of Nigeria. It  has a tropical sub humid climate, with two distinct seasons which are wet season and dry season, the wet season last for Seven months between April to October, while the dry season last from November to March. The seven months of rain is usually the most devastating and destructive season to the inhabitants of Benue State as most parts of the local government areas especially Makurdi are habitually flooded as a result of torrential down pour.

Benue State which heavily relies  on its agricultural sector suffers flooding  every year, caused by several reasons including heavy and intense rainfall leading to the river spilling over its banks, poor and inadequate  drainage channels which could have helped the situation, poor maintenance of the few drainage that are available which are often filled with refuse and rubbish, disruption of the original City plan,  weak political will on the part of Government to mitigate the situation, poor level of public awareness campaign on flood hazards, sometimes absence of vegetal cover in the environment also causes flood and many more.

In view of the fact that majority of the people classify flooding in the area as severe; the environmental effects are also severe. The environmental effects include destruction of houses and displacement of people in the affected areas often running into billions, disruption of livelihood of the people in the flood prone areas, obstruction of movement and flow of people and goods, as well as pollution of domestic water supply causing health problems to the people in the area and in some cases, loss of human life. Flooding also alters aquatic life and causes the death of many aquatic animals. Flooding has also often times carries away crops and destroys the months and weeks of human labor of hardworking farmers in a couple of hours.

In light of all the above, citizens and government bodies must take responsibility for the environment, by putting in place a proper waste disposal, building plan and construction of houses and other structures to reduce the effect of flooding and altogether prevent flooding where possible. Policies should also be put in place to regulate where individuals, organizations and government bodies put up their structures to avoid drainage path blockages. These policies should also provide punishment for those who turn drainages into waste dumps as deterrents to other members of the society.

In conclusion, reducing and ultimately preventing flooding is the responsibility of every member of the society. When citizens take care of the environment, by maintaining proper hygiene amongst other activities, flooding will be reduced.

As the thunder in the sky claps for another round of rain, Dooshima and Chinedu look at each other in utter surprise. ‘Rain!’ they both exclaim at the same time. They scamper in different directions each running to their house to salvage their properties or what has remained of it.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

LAWYERS ALERT SUES THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL/MINISTER FOR JUSTICE OVER NON-IMPLEMENTATION OF HIV WORKPLACE POLICY BY EMPLOYERS IN NIGERIA

By Roseline Oghenebrume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act was enacted in 2014. It discourages discrimination against persons living with HIV and AIDS, in particularly at the workplace. To this end, the Act stipulates that Agencies and Employers put in place a workplace policy on HIV and AIDS is their institutions.

In specific, Section 21 (1) of the HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014 stipulates that “an employer employing five or more persons shall, in consultation with the employees or their representatives, adopt a written workplace policy that is consistent with the National HIV and AIDS workplace policy for its working environment”.

Subsection 2 of the same section goes further to state that the workplace polices shall be lodged with the Minister for Labour and Productivity, currently known as Minister for Labour and Employment.

Section 24 (1) of the same Act goes on to repose the duty of ensuring compliance and enforcement of the entire provisions of the Act on the Attorney-General of the Federation. The HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, therefore specifically reposes the duty to ensure compliance with the entire HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, including section 21 (1) of the same Act on the Attorney-General of the Federation.

By virtue of section 150 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Attorney-General of the Federation who is also the Minister for Justice, is the Chief Law Officer in Nigeria, and therefore responsible for and oversees all legal affairs of the nation.

Lawyers Alert under our free legal assistance project for vulnerable groups, are in court in several cases, where persons living with HIV are discriminated against and either denied employment even when qualified and able, or out rightly dismissed on account of their status and no more. This is a gross violation of their human rights, and the right to work.

Recently Lawyers Alert secured judgment in matter of dismissal of account of HIV status wherein the National Industrial Court held that dismissing employees on the basis of their perceived or actual HIV-status is unlawful and discriminatory.  Justice Agbakoba of the Abuja Industrial Court found that the 2014 HIV and AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act is clearly applicable against private employers and prohibits discrimination against existing and prospective employees.

Notwithstanding, Lawyers Alert is witnessing increasing acts of discrimination against Persons Living with HIV and AIDS in workplaces in Nigeria, as evidenced by more uptake of similar cases by Lawyers Alert. Determined to ensure compliance with the law and access to justice for persons living with HIV, Lawyers Alert on November 2, 2018, served a Freedom of Information request on the Minister for Labour and Employment, requesting the document containing a list of workplaces/ministries  that have complied with the provisions of section 21 (1) of the HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014 which requires employers of labour maintain a workplace policy and lodge same with the minister.

Unfortunately, despite a series of follow-ups on the FOI by Lawyers Alert, for over three (3) months, there was no document at all with the Minister for Labour and Employment containing such information.

Lawyers Alert has now approached the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Abuja judicial division, with a suit against the Attorney-General of the Federation for neglecting and not overseeing his duty to ensure compliance with section 21 (1) of the HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, and compelling him to forthwith carry on his stipulated duties as provided by the HIV and AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014.

Lawyers Alert notes that an Act which was enacted 5 years ago is yet to be complied with. Lawyers Alert believes that if Attorney-General of the Federation carries out his duties as the Chief Law Officer of the nation in ensuring compliance with HIV workplace policies by employers of labour, stigma and discrimination will be addressed, rights to work and access to justice enhanced for persons living with HIV.

The suit which is in Court 3 of the National Industrial Court has been mentioned and comes up on the 29th of October 2019 for Lawyers Alert to address the court on the issue of locus stand which to say whether Lawyers Alert has any interest above that of the society for us to approach the court on the issue.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

THE PLIGHT OF INDIGENT INMATES IN NIGERIA.

BY: SOLUMTOCHUKWU .P. OZOBULU ESQ

prinsoners

Natasha(not real name) gazing at the blue sky inhales deeply as she steps out of the Makurdi medium security prison where she has been incarcerated for close to ten (10) months awaiting trial. She stood fixed tormented by the thoughts of her experiences in prison custody. Just like flashes of lighting her mind wandered from the beating she got both from fellow inmates and prison warders alike on different occasions, the apology called food, the odour that serves as air freshener to the air tight cell rooms that made her feel choked most times. She did not forget the moments without sanitary pads and underwear or the moments when she had to alternate between sleeping on the bedbug plagued mattress and the bare ground. At this point tears dropped like the rain and flowed down her chin as she remembers the few friends she made in custody who are not free from the hunting/inhumane treatments.

There has been an awakening to the quandary of inmates in our Nigerian prisons, the gross terrible condition they live in and the very harsh situation they have found themselves in. Over the years, there has been serious concern about the state of the Nigerian prisons, because of the dilapidated state of the buildings, the quality of health care received by the inmates, abuse of human rights and the congestion of the prisons. The Prison system in Nigeria ought to serve as an institution of correction, reformation and rehabilitation; geared towards disabling its inmates from further criminal pursuit but this is not the case.

There is an ill-conceived believe that prison inmates have no rights within the general population. Their rights may be limited; but they have a degree of human and civil rights that is guaranteed by the Constitution, by international conventions and the UN Declarations. For instance, the UN General Assembly adopted the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners otherwise known as the “Mandela Rule”, on December 14, 1990, which guarantees the basic human rights of prisoners. Therefore, prisoners cannot and should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment; they are to have full access to due process and equal protection and should not be discriminated against. Inmates are to be protected against discrimination and not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading punishment which borders on abuse of their rights. Furthermore, they are entitled to adequate medical and psychiatric care. And their physical safety must also be assured at all times.

Another primary concern surrounding the Nigeria Prison system is the congestion of the Nigeria prisons which, has been a major concern for almost a decade, among stakeholders in the country. Congestion constitutes a major problem creating a negative effect on the welfare of the inmates in the Nigeria prisons. On further investigation it was discovered, that an average Nigerian prison contains three times more persons than its capacity.  For example, the Makurdi Medium Security Prison has an Original capacity of 240 inmates however, as at March 2019; there were over 975 inmates in detention. Of this number, over 623 are still awaiting trial. Several writers have identified congestion as a major problem facing the Nigeria prisons which has exposed the inmates to improper health conditions, claimed the lives of some inmates and put enormous pressure on the prison infrastructure.

The genesis of this problem can be traced to poor administration of criminal justice in Nigeria and unethical activities of the Nigeria Police which has constantly threatened the physical, mental and social well-being of inmates. Consequently, the Nigeria prison has failed to achieve its major role of rehabilitation and reformation of inmates but rather the scenario has been that of dehumanizing situation and hardening of the inmates.  The congestion of the Nigeria Prisons lays a foundation for a whole bunch of other pressing issues that directly deal with the welfare of prisoners ranging from the quality and quantity of food they are served to the quality of water for drinking and domestic affairs, to mattresses they sleep on, and the list goes on and on.  This cause definitely comes along with its appalling effects which are not limited to but include; poor sanitation, poor medical services and increase in human right abuse. The congestion of the Nigeria prison is gradually leading to an apparent decay not just of the horrifying infrastructures but also of the institution as a whole. We can consequently say that the Nigeria Prison system is a walking corpse gradually edging it is way to an end, if no severe holistic intervention is put in place.

The Panacea to this nemesis of congestion of prisons and abuse of prisoners’ right in Nigeria includes but not limited to:

  • Establishment of more prisons.
  • Upgrading of existing prisons to meet with international standards in order to improve the welfare of prisoners.
  • Capacity building for prison officials in order to carry out their duties within the ambit of human rights.
  • Establishment of committee for monthly supervision of the prisons by the Minister of Interior.
  • Domestication and Effective implementation of Administration of criminal justice Act by states government.
  • Provide tools and access to education and skill acquisition for Inmates.s
 

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LAWYERS ALERT SECURE ANOTHER BAIL

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Our dedication to the protection and enforcement of Human Rights.

The legal department in line with the vision and strategic plan of the organization and in line with our commitment towards de-congesting the prison, through rendering pro- bono services to indigent inmates visited the Makurdi prison sometime in February.  The legal team came across a peculiar case of a young man who was arrested on his first visit to the state for a contract. The incident occurred on the 10th of November 2018 at about 11am, while he was waiting to be served his meal in a restaurant in Makurdi, a group of young men mobbed him and leveled some accusations against him based on the fact that he was an unfamiliar person in the neighborhood. He was taken to the police station and his working tools were confiscated. He was brutalized, maltreated, deprived of some basic human rights while in police custody. He was eventually remanded in the Makurdi Medium Prisons. He was without legal representation between November 2018 and February 2019 when the legal team came to his rescue.

Upon further investigation we realized that he had two First Information Report (FIR) drafted against him and that on both FIR all the other accused persons totaling about twenty(20) persons had already been granted bail.  Moved by the circumstances surrounding his arrest and subsequent remand; we drafted and filed the necessary bail processes at the appropriate court.  After several adjournments the matter was transferred to two separate courts. Empowered by our vision we did not give up, rather we tenaciously pursued the matter in the two courts were the mattered has been transferred to.

The next hurdle before us was to ensure that the two courts grant the bail applications before them. Eventually both bail applications were heard and graciously granted. Armed with this good news we visited the prison to inform him of the new development and get a contact outside the prison that could help with processing the already granted bail. We got in contact with his sister who came into town and visited the office on Thursday. She was grateful to the office for the help of LAWYERS ALERT in securing her brother’s bail. On Friday the 26th of July 2019, all bail conditions were met and Harrison Igweonu was released from prison custody.

 

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Successful completion of course on criminalization of HIV transmission, exposure and non – disclosure organized by AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA).

Two of our Lawyers Alert staff participated in a course on criminalization of HIV transmission, exposure and non-disclosure organized by Aids & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) and upon successful completion of the course we are awarded certificates. pictures shows Roseline Oghenebrume, Director programs, Abuja office and Elvis Torkuma, project officer (youth) proudly displaying their certificates.

 

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