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1 DAY INTERACTIVE SESSION ON THE OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP (OGP)

HELD BY LAWYERS ALERT ON THE 17TH MAY 2019

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The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was formally launched on September 20, 2011 on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting during which Heads of State from 8 founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States) endorsed the Open Government Declaration and announced their country action plans along with an equal number of civil society leaders.  The eight founding members also welcomed the commitment of 38 governments to join OGP. Since its creation, OGP has resulted in over 2,500 commitments made by 75 participating countries, covering a third of the world’s population. Nigeria joined the OGP as the 70th member in 2016, the OGP mechanism has been adopted by some states in Nigeria and it is working efficiently in those states. It is yet to be adopted and implemented in Benue state. Lawyers Alert alongside other CSOs and the Media, have  come together in a bid to form a coalition to advocate for the introduction of the  OGP and actions towards encouraging the state government adopting the OGP and developing a sub-national Action plan mechanism for Benue state.

Open Government Partnership is an international multi-stakeholder global coalition of reformers from government and civil society, working to make government transparent, participatory and accountable, to truly serve and empower citizens. The fundamental principles of OGP include:

Transparency: Information on government activities and decisions is open, comprehensive, timely and freely available to the public, and meets basic open standards.

Accountability: Rules, regulations and mechanisms are in place that calls upon government actors to justify their actions, act upon criticisms or requirements made of them and accept responsibility for failure to perform.

Citizenship Participation: Governments seek to mobilize citizens to engage in public debate, provide input and make contributions that lead to more responsive and effective governance.

Technology and Innovation: Governments embrace the importance of new technologies in driving innovation, providing citizens with open access to technology, and increasing their capacity to use technology.

OBJECTIVES:

At the end of this meeting, we are expected to achieve the following:

  • A clear cut understanding of what the OGP is and how it works
  • A Civil Society led movement towards having the Benue State Government sign up to the partnership
  • A road map towards successfully having the Benue State Government sign up to the OGP.

PROCEEDINGS:

The meeting which held on 17th May, 2019 at the Lawyers Alert head office Makurdi brought together members of the media and various civil society organizations in Makurdi. Among the participants were representatives from the Sun newspaper, Daily Trust newspaper, Elohim foundation and Angel Support foundation.The President of Lawyers Alert Mr. Rommy Mom defined Open Government Partnership as the government and civil society coming together to run governance as equal partners in an open and transparent way. He also spoke on the roles of the civil society organizations and the government in OGP, using the OGP at the national level as an example; stating that both the government and the civil society have equal co-chairs on the OGP committee. He also spoke about the numerous advantages, which the implementation of OGP in Benue state would bring to the citizenry and the government. The Programs Director, Mr Lazarus Ahangba spoke onengaging the Benue state government on the OGP and led a very interactive session where an action plan was developed by the participants in ensuring government buy in and eventual signing up. Agreements were reached, meetings and deadlines set and persons responsible appointed. This meeting was essentially a startup meeting and with a larger strategic meeting to hold soon including capacity building sessions on understanding the OGP. Thereafter advocacy will commence on state actors and government.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Identify and meet some members of the transition committee to pitch the OGP to them as a proposal for the incoming government in June 2019.
  • Capacity building for CSO’s on OGP to equip them for advocacy on OGP.
  • Advocacy visits to state actors and non-state actors to urge to enhance the implementation of the OGP.

CONCLUSION:

The OGP movement start up meeting was a huge success because, participants ensured that the entire session was lively through their robust contributions and in put. We believe that Benue state is on the right path with regards to good governance and that the OGP movement will give more room for innovation, progress and the development of Benue state.

 

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AN X-RAY: THE IMPLICATIONS OF FEMALE SEX WORK IN NIGERIA

By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha Esq

sex work

As human beings, one of the things we find so difficult to desist from doing is the setting apart of morals from laws. There is a common law principle which states:

“for something to be an offence, it must be contained in a written law and with a punishment attached to it”

 

Invariably, we have found ourselves acting as our conscience directs and not as the law states. I think we have gotten to that point where we need to assume our conscience and laws were parcels of land adjacent to each other, where beakers would be used to create boundaries to avoid trespass.

Sex work is not contained in any Nigerian law as an offence, because it is a way of life which when juxtaposed with effect on society, would probably rate least. As a right-thinking member of the society, you would not expect to see a man and a woman on the road carrying out any sexual activities, except if they are both mentally enslaved. If this affair is private rather than public and is not contained in any written law as an offence, I beg to be educated on what informs the minds of the society in violating the fundamental human rights of persons who are called “Female Sex Workers”.

Unfortunately, the law goes beyond morals. Therefore, a person’s moral values should not compromise or prejudice the provisions of the law.

Lawyers Alert Nigeria in their recent publication of report of violations in Nigeria, educates thus:

  1. The Federal Capital Territory has the highest rate of violation of Female Sex Workers
  2. Kogi State and Benue State come immediately after the Federal Capital Territory
  3. Bornu State and Lagos State have the least amount of violation of Female Sex Workers.
  4. Persons between 20 to 24 have a high violation rate by 65%
  5. Persons between 25 to 40 follow the list by 29%
  6. Persons between 10 to 19 rank as the group with the least violation rate by 6%

The report further gives an expository to the various forms of violations these persons (Female Sex Workers) go through and they are as follows:

  1. Verbal Abuse 19%
  2. Emotional Abuse 17%
  3. Privacy 10%
  4. Blackmailing 3%
  5. Freedom of Movement 7%
  6. Forced Detention 1%
  7. Physical Abuse 7%
  8. Harassment 9%
  9. Sexual Exploitation 6%

A cursory look at the statistics above, bares a display of morality which can by investigation of some other words be termed display of double standard. An enquiry into the recent raiding of women in Abuja by men of Abuja Environmental Protection Board, Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security and other various security agencies in Nigeria with disparate visions and modes of operation from matters like this, in the name of ridding the society of sin, also gives an expository to the trespass to morals in legal societal issues.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Success of the nation (Nigeria) leans extremely on the level of importance we attach to matters and what matters we attach high level of importance to. Amidst the chaos and economic redundancy the country is facing, detention and violation of the fundamental human rights of Female Sex Workers is a distraction from the goal. On this basis, I recommend the following:

  1. That a deliberate and conscious effort should be made by law enforcement agencies in carrying out their functions.
  2. That law enforcement agencies should engage in human rights trainings and studies as a course for qualification.
  3. That Female Sex Work should be seen as “just a name” that it is, distinct from persons who are involved in the acts of female sex work. Because I believe that would help law enforcement agencies to see them as human beings and also treat them as human beings.

 

CONCLUSION

Section 405 (1) (d) of the Penal Code Act, chapter 53 LFN (Abuja) defines vagabond as thus:

“A common prostitute behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in a public place or persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution”

The law is like a manual by which we all (with no exception to a particular people) should live. Explicitly observed in the afore stated provision is the fact that prostitution is not a crime in the Penal Code Act, chapter 53 LFN (Abuja). Rather, what constitutes a crime in this Act is a disorderly or indecent behaviour in a public place persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution.

I strongly believe that meddling in the affairs of persons with regards to their private lives and how they choose to live it is rather indecent and a show of irresponsibility.

For better examination and study of the report made mention of above, kindly visit Lawyers Alert Nigeria website @lawyersalertnigeria.org.

 

 

 

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Rommy Mom: The Man with passion for community advancement.

By Akade Emmanue
rommymom
If the greatness of a community is measured by the actions of its members then the Hon. Commissioner for Human Rights at the Police Service Commission, Bar. Rommy Mom is one of those whose actions will elevate not just his immediate community but the North Central zone which is under his purview.
Working hand in glove with the Nigeria Police to establish Community Policing, Bar. Mom’s passion is a return to peace and normalcy not just in his home state of Benue and the North Central, but also across Nigeria.
Hon. Commissioner was in Ushongo LGA of Benue state on Thursday the 16th of May, to inspect the Police station he contributed to his community, Utange, earlier this year.
Bar. Mom was pleased to note that the Ikyo-Adzande, Utange Police station, which has seen police officers and members of the community’s vigilante group working together effectively, is now fully functional.
The combination of efforts by the two groups appear to be a model of what the proposed community policing will offer. According to the Officer in charge of the station, Inspector Emmanuel Ugbatu, and the commander of the vigilante group, Mr Tersoo Iorsula, the programme has so far recorded success in reducing criminal activities in Utange and neighboring communities.
They both thanked Bar. Mom for making their work posts conducive for them and promised to work tirelessly protect the community.
Addressing reporters, Mom acknowledged the efforts of the Inspector General of Police regarding the establishment of community policing in the country and indicated that a model is being developed to enhance a robust approach. He bemoaned the current number of Police officers in the country and equipment at their disposal. Mom described both as grossly inadequate hence the need for communities and local security apparatus like vigilantes to be effectively engaged with the police to form the bedrock for the community policing agenda.
Earlier in the week Barr Mom met with the Tor Tiv V, His Loyal Majesty Orcivirigh Professor James Ortese Ayatse on the same issue. At the meeting he laid out plans to meet with all traditional rulers in the state as well as district and kindred heads as part of an ongoing advocacy and sensitization campaign on community policing. The aim is to enlighten them about what it entails in a bid to secure their buy-in.
The major aim of community policing as being considered by the Nigeria Police Force, is to provide each community with its own peculiar security that also involves the Police to ensure the entrenchment of order according to the dictates of Nigeria’s laws.
*Akade is a public affairs analyst based in Benue State.
 

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SRHR with Regards to LGBTI Community

by Solumtochukwu P. Ozobulu  Esqlgbti

Sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) is a growing movement around the world and in Nigeria. The movement is borne out of the need to encourage individuals to explore their sexuality without fear of stigmatization, physical abuse or any other kind of violation as a matter of Right.

The growing nature of SRHR movement is aimed at protecting the vulnerable and Key Affected Persons including the LGBTI community. LGBTI is an acronym for Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- gender and Inter- sex. This community with a different and peculiar kind of sexuality has been viewed with negative and discriminatory tendencies especially in Nigeria and other African Countries. This unfortunate trend has sent the LGBTI Community into hiding due to the legal, social and religious environment in our country with attendant consequences.

It is no news in Nigeria that many LGBTI Persons are still being denied key sexual and reproductive health rights and services i.e. their right to enjoy control over and make decisions on their sexual and reproductive health without discrimination.

The homophobic nature of the citizenry draws its link from socio-cultural and religious beliefs and practices. The culture of the people of Nigeria largely frowns at homo sexual practice as it is said to be foreign to the indigenous practices and beliefs. The religious beliefs and teachings also view same sex practice as sinful, unnatural and therefore unacceptable.

The aggregate Socio Cultural opposition to same sex practice and relationships in Nigeria led to the enactment of the same sex marriage (prohibition) Act 2014. The same sex marriage (prohibition) Act together with the criminal and penal code totally criminalizes homosexual activities in Nigeria. According to the words of the criminal/ Penal code,  homosexual act is regarded as “an act against the order of nature”. The maximum punishment in the northern states that have adopted the sharia law is death by stoning among other punishments. That law applies to all Muslims and to those who have voluntarily consented to application of the sharia courts. In the southern Nigeria the maximum punishment for same sex sexuality activity is 14years imprisonment. The various laws forbidding gay practice providing different punishment varying from the state of commission did not take into cognizance the sexual and reproductive health rights of the LGBTI community.

The provision/ enacting of the laws led to an unprecedented violations of the Rights of the LGBTI community in Nigeria even on grounds of suspicion and hearsay.For example in Lagos Nigeria, over 40 Young People were arrested on the suspicion of holding a gay party. The different violations range from physical abuse, verbal abuse, denial of freedom of association, denial of privacy, emotional abuse, rape, denial of quality healthcare among others. These various violations of the LGBTI community prevailed in Nigeria as both the law enforcement agencies and individuals took justification from the various laws prohibiting homosexuality to violate the rights of the sexual minorities at random.

Since most members of the LGBTI community  are seemingly oblivious of their sexual and reproductive health rights, they find it difficult to open up by reporting these violations due to fear of stigmatization. This has led to strong need for  massive sensitization and awareness creation in the area of sexual and reproductive health right and reporting of violations for effective interventions by Civil society organizations and Nongovernmental organizations both local and international in Nigeria.

Part of this sensitization is currently being carried out by Lawyers Alert in its legal literacy project for vulnerable groups in Nigeria. The positive effect of the sensitization is that more awareness of the Rights of KAPs is being recorded across Nigeria, leading  to a decrease in some violations. This can be clearly seen in the Lawyers Alert published findings on Sexual and Reproductive Health Right violations in Nigeria between 2017 and 2019. These findings can be accessed at http://www.lawyersalertng.org/res.php.

 

According to the recent released report of Lawyers Alert on its website in April 2019, Benue state seems to have the highest rate of LGBTI violations among other states in Nigeria. It can be deduced from the published finding that the age bracket more susceptible to be violated in the LGBTI community are those between 20-24years which can be categorized as youth with 58% of violations in 2019 and 63% in 2017. Although the statistics shows a level of decrease yet it is alarming. A critical analysis of the reports brings to limelight the occurance of these right violations, while some are on the increase others are on the decrease. Violations like physical abuse breach of privacy, denial of freedom to associate, sexual expression and  rape seems to be on the increase with 2%, 3%, 4%,1% and 4% respectively while blackmailing, verbal abuse and emotional abuse are on the decrease with 5%, 1% and 2% respectively. Regardless of the increase and decrease of each of the violations emotional abuse still top the chart as it represents 20% of the violations followed by verbal abuse and denial of sexual expression with 18% each. Although some of the right violations like rape and breach of privacy e.t.c represent a little fraction of the violation but it is important to know that every little piece matters when it is in relations to a person’s sexual and reproductive health right.

It is trite to know that the published finding is not all inclusive as just reports from 12 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria were used. Nevertheless, it shows the growth of SRHR movement and the need to deepen and expand the scope in other to curb the menace.

As we all aspire to be part of a society where individuals have knowledge, skills and resources to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health right without violations and subsequently bequeath same to future generations; there is a need to deepen sensitization on sexual and reproductive health right.

 

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SEXUAL RIGHTS VIOLATION IN NIGERIA

By Doris U. Innocent Esq

lawyers alert

Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents, and other consensus documents. They rest on the recognition that all individuals have the right—free of coercion, violence, and discrimination of any kind—to the highest attainable standard of sexual health; to pursue a satisfying, safe, and pleasurable sexual life; to have control over and decide freely, and with due regard for the rights of others, on matters related to their sexuality, reproduction, sexual orientation, bodily integrity, choice of partner, and gender identity; and to the services, education, and information, including comprehensive sexuality education, necessary to do so.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights SRHR, in Nigeria is an area which, owing to culture and religion, is neither making as much progress nor being given as much space for expression in comparative terms with more “acceptable” rights. Violence against Women and Girls, Abortion, Same Sex Relationships, Female Sex Work, Rights of Persons Living with Affected by or Most at Risk of HIV, Female Genital Mutilation, Unlimited Access to Family Planning, Rights of Persons Living With Disabilities etc. are all issues that citizens regularly confront yet fail to attract the commensurate attention in the positive, from authorities.

The cry out against sexual rights violations in Nigeria is a very serious issue. Sexual rights violations are real and they stare at us every day in our neighborhoods, families and different circles of association. We believe that the first thing we must understand about these individuals is that they are human beings. They are entitled to their basic human rights, they are deserving of love, understanding and acceptance. A lot of organizations have carried out public sensitization, awareness and campaigns through various channels in Nigeria regarding issues related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. This is an applaud-able approach to dealing with the glaring issues of SRHR violations inherent in our society. There still remain quite a number of people who are either victims of sexual violations or are at risk of becoming victims of sexual rights violation. These victims are usually at left at their own peril, they are seen as objects of constant abuse and discrimination by members of the society.

Lawyers Alert is an established Human Rights Organization with an internationally recognized track record of successful interventions in relation to Human Rights abuses in Nigeria. It is made up of lawyers and other professionals with members across the 36 states of Nigeria. It builds capacity on essentially eco-socio rights, advocacy/legislative engagement, and organizational development. Its programs are essentially the monitoring of rights violations, legal assistance and interventions geared towards enhancing good governance. Lawyers Alert was founded in the year 2000, it was birthed from the place of passion to fight and restore the rights of those whose human rights have been infringed upon. Lawyers Alert has been in the forefront of promoting women’s rights in Nigeria ever since. We have carried out many projects which have impacted positively on the lives of thousands of women and children. Presently, we are implementing projects aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, eliminating sexual and reproductive health and rights violation and providing free legal services to victims.

Notwithstanding, Lawyers Alert’s vision remains clear: A developed Nigeria where the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women are respected. Similarly, her mission has not changed: To promote the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women through advocacy and through provision of free legal services. We are not relenting. We will keep doing the best we can to ensure we carry out our mission and achieve our vision. Denial of an individual’s rights is denial of the rights of all. We will always have mothers, wives, aunt, sisters and daughters with us. They are all entitled to their rights. We should individually and collectively stop violating their rights. And we should do the best we can to protect and defend their rights. This is our yearning for Nigeria, and together we can achieve this. Here at LawyersAlert, we have taken up the responsibility to bear the burdens of people whose sexual rights have been violated or at risk of being violated. We also make periodic violation reports, with instrumentality of our web based tool. You can get to know us better through our website http://lawyersalertng.org/ .

It is on this premise that we invite the general public as always to report human right and sexual rights violation against them and other people, we also encourage you to refer people in need of our services to us. We assure you, that we will work to ensure that justice is served.

 

 

 

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Mr. X Terminated On Grounds Of His Hiv Status Gets The Fruit Of His Victory

mrx

Dear Colleagues and folks,

Recall the National Industrial Court of Nigeria’s Judgement prohibiting employers from coercing existing or prospective employees to undergo HIV testing and that dismissing employees on the basis of their perceived or actual HIV-status is unlawful and discriminatory. Recall also the court awarded monetary damages to the total sum of 4,200,000NGN (11,500USD). This followed a suit by Mr. X. who was dismissed on account of his HIV status. Lawyers Alert filed and prosecuted the matter on his behalf. The judgement can be found here.

Lawyers Alert alongside Mr. X met severally with the employers and their lawyers towards negotiating an agreed judgement sum so as to bar an appeal alongside the expected time the appeal would have been disposed of. An appeal can take several years.

Lawyers Alert is happy to announce that last week, we received an inflow for the judgement sum negotiated at 3,000,000NGN (8,400USD) on behalf of Mr. X. Mr. X. was in our office on Saturday 30th March 2019 to receive from Lawyers Alert a cheque in the total sum of 3,000,000NGN representing the entire judgement sum as paid.

Lawyers Alert acknowledges with deep appreciation Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), and everyone that contributed in one way or another towards justice for Mr. X. and the judgement which prohibits employers from coercing existing or prospective employees to undergo HIV testing and that dismissing employees on the basis of their perceived or actual HIV-status is unlawful and discriminatory.

We acknowledge Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Enda Sante, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Nigeria, AIDS Health Foundation (AHF), National Agency for the Control of AIDS, United Nations Development Programme, International Labour Organization (ILO), Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights (COLaHR), Network of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Nigeria Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+), Association of Positive youth living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (APYIN), Society of Women and Children Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (SOWCHAN), Association of Women Living With HIV/AIDS (ASWHAN) in Nigeria and other Human Rights Activists.

A picture of Mr. X. collecting his cheque can be found here and a video of his experience can be found here.

Thank you.

 

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