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COVID-19 Pandemic: Curtailing Renewed Spread through Enforcement of Precautionary Measures

COVID-19 Pandemic: Curtailing Renewed Spread through Enforcement of Precautionary Measures

Compliment of the Seasons!

As we all prepare for the holiday and festive season, Lawyers Alert encourages all to #TakeResponsibility to limit the spread of #COVID19 . Always wear a face mask and practice other preventive measures.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) regional director has said that in the past few weeks the number of new COVID-19 cases had doubled in more than half of European member states. He said that 300,000 new infections were reported across Europe last week alone and weekly cases had exceeded those reported during the first peak in March. According to the WHO, there have been five million confirmed cases and more than 228,000 fatalities across Europe since the pandemic began. WHO has also predicted that with the commencement of the winter, countries in northern hemisphere will witness massive spread of COVID-19.  Altogether over 30 million persons in the world have contracted the virus since December 2019 when it was discovered in Wuhan, China, till date.

In view of these staggering statistics, there is need for countries all over the world to realize that though the precautionary measures being adopted since the beginning of this year have helped significantly in reducing the spread, COVID-19 is still very much with us and if we fail to enforce the precautionary measures, the spread this time may be much more disastrous. In Nigeria, as in other African countries where we have greater proportion of the world’s vulnerable persons, the importance of enforcing precautionary measures cannot be overemphasized. The quick response from President Mohammadu Buhari’s government and from other state governors leading to the lock down of virtually the entire country was very effective in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Also effective is the social distancing rule, the use of face masks in public places, coughing into elbows, and regular washing of hands and sanitizing.

Doubtless, the negative effect of these precautionary measures was massive. Many countries, including Nigeria, went down into recession, though some economists reported that even shortly before the lockdown in March 2020, Nigeria has already plunged into recession. Many workers lost their jobs during the lockdown in Nigeria. The daily-paid workers went through grueling period as they could not go out to work and earn a living. Be that as it may, the positive impact of the enforcement of the precautionary measures outweighed the negative effect. Think of the 200 million Nigerians whose lives were protected against the deadly COVID-19 infection.   

Applying Sustained Precautionary Measures 

Globally, some of these precautionary measures have been relaxed. The airports, seaports, cities and public places have reopened. In Nigeria, we have quickly gone back to square one. Presently, it is as though there is nothing like COVID-19. The social distancing rules are no longer observed. Commercial transporters are now conveying more passengers in their vehicles. Our churches and mosques have reopened. Our schools and colleges have reopened. But for the ASUU strike, all our universities will have also reopened. Other precautionary measures like regular washing of hands with soap and hand sanitizing are no longer observed. Go to our courts of law and other government offices, only very few are providing hand sanitizers and water as well as soap for members of the public. The same goes for the use of face masks. Only very few Nigerians are using face masks presently.

Does it mean, then, that COVID-19 has gone? Are we not presently recording cases of COVID-19 infection? The fact is: COVID-19 has come but has not gone. We are still recording cases of COVID-19 infection. The infection is still spreading. Sometimes we witnessed drops in the number of infected persons, but the virus is still as potent as it was. Presently, there is apprehension that there is going to be further spread and it will be much more disastrous. WHO has confirmed this.

What is important to note at this stage is that if there is going to be further spread, the effect will be much more disastrous. This is because, people are no longer observing the social distancing rules. This writer is not saying that Nigeria should be locked down perpetually. While the lockdown may be eased to the extent that people can go about their normal business, as it is presently, other preventive measures should be STRICTLY observed. For instance, the use of face masks should be enforced in public places. Commercial transporters should reduce the number of passengers they carry. Overcrowding should be avoided in public places. And in all public places, water, soap and hand sanitizers should be provided to members of the public.

Awaiting Vaccines

The last straw that will definitely break the camel’s yoke is vaccine. This is what the whole world is waiting for. COVID-19 has been devastating and a renewed spread of the infection can be much more devastating, but with a vaccine that is safe and effective, the spread will not only be punctuated, the virus will be demystified. Presently over 150 vaccines are being developed to control the spread of the infection, but none has completed clinical trials yet. In August 2020, Russia became the first country to license a vaccine for local use. Russian scientists later reported that early signs showed signs of an immune response. But other experts doubted the effectiveness, stating that the trials were too small to prove effectiveness and safety.

Among all the drugs being tested, only steroids have been proven to save lives and the discovery has been a significant breakthrough. The United Kingdom’s (UK’s) recovery trial points to the fact that the steroid dexamethasone is safe and effective, and “cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen.” Another research proved that another type of steroids called Hydrocortisone is equally effective.

The Fate of Vulnerable Persons

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, those that are worse hit are the vulnerable persons. In view of the expected renewed surge/spike in the spread of COVID-19, the next six months (June 2021) will be crucial to the health and wellbeing of vulnerable persons the world over, especially those in the developing countries. Apart from the fact that it will take up to six months or more to come up with a clinically tested and approved vaccine, another challenge vulnerable persons will face is access to the vaccine. Vulnerable persons can hardly make both ends meet, not even to talk of having money to pay for the vaccine. Again, if vaccines are made free by the UN through WHO, how soon can these vaccines reach vulnerable persons who are mostly dwelling on the fringes of the society?

For this reason, while we await the emergence of vaccines that will put paid to the deadly virus, it is important that government of countries all over the world enforce preventive measures to protect vulnerable persons against contracting the infection.

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writer’s opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Dealing With The Psychological Consequences Of The COVID19 Pandemic.

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Just a few weeks ago, a friend put up a video on his WhatsApp story, people were wailing in the background, someone they loved had just passed from coronavirus. The local department of health had come to pick up the corpse. No farewell, no burial, no proper send-off, not even hugs; this is the reality of the highly uncertain times we now live in. So many people have had to bid their loved ones final goodbyes over Facetime or phone calls because of the stringent  rules at isolation centers that forbid the physical presence of uninfected kin and friends; nothing prepares you for situations like these.

The coronavirus pandemic is nothing like any of us have experienced before, this novel virus has robbed us of a lot of things – our freedom, economic stability, health, financial security, jobs, peace and more importantly for some of us – our loved ones.

Social distancing, quarantine, and isolation are public health actions that have hampered traditions and processes people typically rely on to make their grieving process easier. All these have been yanked away and replaced by loneliness and feelings of anxiety and stress.

The big question is what do we do with all this grief?

Grieving is a natural human reaction to a painful loss such as the passing of a loved one, there is evidence to suggest that the sudden passing of the ones we love such as losses associated with COVID19 can even be more detrimental as most people cannot cognitively wrap their heads around it thus leaving them in a state of mental limbo.

While it is unrealistic to set a timeline to mourn and grieve the loss of a loved one, grief that goes on for too long when left unattended to can persist indefinitely and have long term consequences on the emotional and mental health of anyone involved. Sadness, numbness, disbelief, anger, insomnia are some of the common reactions you may experience while grieving.

What else is to be expected?

Depression

The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as ‘a common and serious illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act’.

Recent data from around the world have shown a significant rise in anxiety and depression in many people; this has been linked to isolation from friends and families, job losses, uncertainty about the future, increasing fear of loved ones, or even them contracting the virus and falling ill. These changes may have a notable effect on people already living with depression and heighten mental health struggles on the vulnerable. 

Depression can be a consequence of living through this pandemic but it is treatable and you are not alone.

Prolonged Grief Disorder

Prolonged Grief Disorder, also known as complicated grief is defined as grief that lasts for more than six months and interferes with your normal functioning. It is distinctively different from depression and characterized by a distressing and inescapable yearning for the deceased, accompanied by anger, guilt, and other symptoms indicative of intense emotional pain. According to the New England Journal of Medicine (Vol. 372, No. 2, 2015), without treatment prolonged grief increases the risk of substance use, sleep disorders, impaired immune functioning, and suicidal thinking.

Prolonged grief is expected to increase post-COVID 19 deaths as its symptoms are usually on the rise when the death that caused it is unexpected and happens with no chance to observe traditional grief rituals e.g viewing and burial of body (Castle and Phillips, 2003).

Survivor’s Guilt

COVID19 is taking away the lives of people who otherwise wouldn’t have died and one of the expected effects is survivor’s guilt.

Survivor’s guilt is a type of self-guilt that occurs after a traumatic event; it occurs when someone feels like they have done something wrong by surviving a life-threatening situation while other people did not. In some situations, it is legitimate e.g causing an accident that led to someone’s death, other times, it is not, as nothing could have been done to alter the outcome of the situation.

Anyone experiencing certain symptoms like flashbacks, jumpiness, or nightmares for longer than a month might need to see a doctor and get evaluated for a trauma-related condition like Post  Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).

It Is Okay To Not Be Okay.

The pain of losing a loved one is real and everyone affected needs to understand that they will benefit greatly from seeking help from a licensed mental health specialist or psychologist. For so many people living in Nigeria, we parade ourselves as being highly resilient and thus therapy is unheard of and often referred to as part of western culture but the consequences of bottling things up are never positive. A trained specialist helps articulate your emotions and challenge the irrational thoughts you might have. They are experts at recognizing the uniqueness of different individuals and have tailored strategies that help you better handle fear, anxiety, and guilt.

Their have treatment plans are evidence-based and can help you overcome sadness and depression.

What Can You Do?

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Wear a facemask

Studies show that masks reduce the risk of inhaling spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth, they serve as a barrier against respiratory droplets A mask offers you some sort of protection especially if you are in a room with an infected person.

Wearing one however should not replace social distancing and regular washing and disinfecting hands.

Otegbayo Ayomide writes from Abuja, Nigeria.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2020 in Uncategorized, WORLD AIDS DAY

 

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LAWYERS ALERT PARTNERS WITH THE GENDER UNIT (GU) OF THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE AND POLICE DUTY SOLICITORS SCHEME (PDSS) OF THE LEGAL AID COUNCIL IN ADDRESSING WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN NIGERIA

Background

Over the years, there have been serious increase in Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the society. The upsurge in these violence manifests in the forms of forced marriages, mental and sexual assaults, rape, harmful traditional practices, socio-economic Violence, Female Genital Mutilation etc.  GBV has resulted in a lot of psychological and mental trauma for Victims. Statistics have shown that 3 out of every 10 Nigerian experience GBV at age 15. It is from this view that GBV can be seen as a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s’ ability to enjoy rights and freedom on the basis of equality with men. In other words, GBV is anything done to put a woman at a position of not being able to enjoy some rights as provided by law equally with men.

The Gender Unit and PDSS.

In responding to the rise in GBV, the Nigeria Police Force created the Gender Unit at the Force Criminal Intelligence & Investigation Department (Force CIID) across the six geo-political zones of the country on 21st October, 2014. The major task before this unit is to encourage survivors of GBV to report incidence of violations for possible prosecution of perpetrators anyone culpable of such offences. A former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase once said that the gender unit of the Force CIID was set up due to the predominant rate of sexual and gender based violence in the society. Through the years, the GU has brought justice to the door steps of Nigerians faced with these issues.

By the establishment of the GU, the Police Force is no longer hesitating to prosecute anyone found culpable of a GBV to serve as a deterrent to other perpetrators. This has helped to curb Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria and the menace of the Violence. Force ‎Gender Unit had since its inception embarked on full campaign against SGBV due to the daring dangers it portends.

Violence against women is the most pervasive, yet a less recognized human right in the world. A lot of cultures and traditions in the society, unconsciously or ignorantly support violence against women and girls. As a result of this, the so-called inhabitants of these cultures and traditions harbour the perpetrators of these crimes and condemn the victims with tirades, thereby, encouraging impunity and recurrence. Most perpetrators have succeeded in sending most women and girls to emotional and psychological torments by their actions.

Working hand-in-hand with the GU is the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria which was established in 2004 to help reduce the excessive use of partial detention by providing free legal advice to suspects at the police stations, the points at which the decision to detain or release pending trial are being made. Services of young Lawyers completing their compulsory national services are being deployed as duty solicitors to various police stations in the states.

Challenges Identified by Partners.

Lawyers Alert, a Rights Based Organization is partnering with the GU and the PDSS in addressing the challenges faced by both the GU and the PDSS in the course of discharging the duties imposed by the tasks here. The partnership began with meetings held in three project states of Plateau, Niger and the FCT on the 10th and 17th of September 2020. The first Meeting was held in FCT to address some of the challenges being faced in delivering the respective mandates that include:

  1. Obtaining sustainable Evidence
  2. Inadequate synergy between the Police /stakeholders
  3. Lack/Inadequate Funding
  4.   Lack of shelter for survivors
  5.  Inadequate Professionalism
  6.  Discrimination and Stigmatization
  7.  Partiality
  8.  Survivors Stigmatization
  9.  Inadequate sensitization of members of the public/survivors of violence(SGBV)
  10. Religious Influence/Societal Norms and Practices
  11. Silence Culture.
  12. Exclusion of Religious Bodies in active Stakeholders meeting
  13. Poverty.
  14. Family Influence(Societal/School).
  15. Environmental Factor.
  16. Rigor of Judicial Processes.
  17. Political Interference.
  18. Unwillingness of Survivors of Violence.
  19.  Media.

The second meetings were also held in the three project states on the 5th and 12th November 2020. The purpose of the meetings is to introduce women groups to the GU and the PDSS. It was also to create a network of organizations that work together to address issues of SRHR and GBV in Nigeria. it was in the course of these meetings that they identified the challenges that Women groups faced in reporting violations. At the end of the meetings the following challenges clearly standout:

  1. Awareness creation/sensitization on SGBV.
  2. Professionalism/Non Descrimination(Police and  other security)
  3. Non stigmamtization of Survivours of SGBV
  4. Synergy between Police,PDSS and other Women Groups
  5. Inadequate Funding.
  6. Media.
  7. Lack of Shelter for Survivours
  8. Transfer of an Office.

Conclusion

Trainings should be given to police officers working on SRHR and GBV issues. LA believes if the capacity of officers working in these areas is built the challenges identify by the women groups will totally be eliminated

Apart from all that have been said so far, All the partners in this relationship recognise the need to develop a Women Satisfaction Index. This tool aims to monitor women’s satisfaction with the services rendered. From time to time, analysed results from this tool are shared with the GU & the PDSS towards addressing gaps noticed for improved service delivery. This will be ongoing even as LA & its partners continuously provide free legal services & document violations. LA believes that as the GU & PDSS begin to effectively address VAWG alongside, these issues will be reduced & access to justice enhanced for women. This model of interventions in the 3 states can be replicated in the other states towards effectively addressing VAWG in Nigeria.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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END-SARS PROTESTS AND THE JUDICIAL PANELS OF INQUIRY

END-SARS PROTESTS AND THE JUDICIAL PANELS OF INQUIRY

By Barr. Bamidele Jacobs

It is heart-warming to observe that the killings, maiming and destruction to property that characterized the recent #EndSars Protests have gradually given way to some peace and normalcy following calls by well-meaning Nigerians for at-least an immediate suspension to the protests. The hiatus has paved way for the setting up of Judicial Panels of Inquiry as earlier directed by the Vice President at the Federal Executive Council meeting that held on Thursday, the 15th day of October 2020. At the last count, more than 12 out of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have constituted the panels. It was reported that Lagos State has inaugurated its own Panel and same would begin public hearings on Tuesday, the 27th day of October, 2020. So far, the Term of Reference (ToR) that is common to these Judicial Panels is to receipt and investigation of complaints of police brutality against the people of Nigeria.

As more states constitute and even inaugurate the Judicial Panels of Inquiry to entertain and investigate complaints against police brutality, it is crucial that members of the panels are selected to demonstrate competence and reflect the complexity of interests giving rise to the protests. Certainly, a retired judicial officer not below the rank of a High Court Judge will chair the various Panels. It will be a good idea to also have representatives of the youths, the Nigerian Bar Association, Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s), and the National Human Rights Commission. It is the least expectation that these panels shall go about their work in a manner that is fair to all parties. Justice in these cases must not only be done but must be clearly seen to be done. The panels must be courageous enough to recommend appropriate disciplinary measures against erring police and other security personnel. Another important consideration in the success of the whole exercise is the period covered by the investigations. It will be an exercise in futility not to include complaints of violations during the protests in the scope of work of the Panels. Indeed, the Panels cannot rightly ignore allegations of grave human rights abuses and even deaths of innocent people in violence that characterized recent protests.

Of course, a direct implication of extending the scope of work of the Panels to cover the period of protests would mean that the Terms of Reference will have to be expanded to include allegations of violations that do not only involve the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, but also those involving the officers of other security agencies. The alleged involvement of military personnel in the Lekki Toll Gate incidents and other similar ones across the country point to the need to have the scope of work of these Panels extended to cover the field. Yet, it is needless to say that the Panels must be independent and free of the usual government interferences. Each panellist need to be aware that he/she is accountable to the people and not the government. The saying that ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ must not be allowed to play any part here. The issue of speed too must be given adequate consideration as a good balance needs to be struck. Although, ‘justice delayed is certainly justice denied;’ a hastily taken decision may spell doom. The earlier the various Panels sit to consider the complaints brought before them, the better as it has become more urgent to have tensions doused now than ever.  

Above all, the Federal Government must demonstrate rare political will and willingness to implement the reports/recommendations of the Panels. The experience of the past, where similar reports have been forgotten in the book shelves must not be allowed to rear its ugly head at this time. We must remember that the initial reluctance by the protesting youths to have the protests suspended to enable governments meet their demands is not unconnected to lack of trust occasioned by years of demonstrated insincerity on the part of various governments. It remains that the Judicial Panels can only be as successful as the governments will allow them to be. No doubt, there is so much on the shoulders of the Federal Government who principally owns and finances the current Nigeria Police Force. The concerns and pessimism already expressed in some quarters over the wisdom in state governments setting up these Panels to investigate a Force that they never own and control is a legitimate one as the cooperation of the President, the Ministry of Police Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and much more the Police Service Commission (PSC) would be required for any overall achievements. Indeed, it will be better if these Panels were not set up than doing so and not implementing their reports/recommendations. In that case, the scarce public funds would have been frittered away, the time of the panellists and other support staff would have been wasted and the high hopes of Nigerians dashed once again. God forbids that this happens! We cannot afford to squander this one more opportunity to right the wrongs of the past years.

At this point, it is good news that a state like Lagos has announced the setting aside of a certain amount of money as compensation for those who are eventually found to have suffered any police brutality or a violation of rights. There is no amount of healing that can be achieved if victims of brutalities are not offered monetary compensation. Although, it is true that no amount of monetary awards can adequately compensate for the loss of a loved one, for instance, there is no doubt that this will still go a long way to providing succour for the dependants of those who have been rendered temporarily or permanently incapacitated or have even lost their lives in circumstances that cannot be permitted in a democratic society. It will amount to good preparation if all the other State and Federal governments in the country take a cue from what the Lagos counterpart has done by setting aside a chunk of their resources in anticipation of awards that the various Panels are likely to make in the course of their investigations. This is the least expectation.

In conclusion, Lawyers Alert encourages everyone who has any complaints involving police brutalities or any human rights violations that are captured by the ToR of the Panels to brace up for the challenge ahead and be ready to ventilate his grievance before the Panels. Human rights activists and CSO’s are also encouraged to make their services available to victims that may want to appear before the various Panels. This is the time for us all to live up to and even surpass the expectation of the public on our Pro bono (free of charge)  services. There can never be a better time to demonstrate out readiness than now.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Covid-19 National Response: The Need for Government to Impose the Use of Face Mask in Public Places towards curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria

BY BLESSING MASE

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic that has affected Nigeria and the world at large, there is the need for governments across the world to explore all possible options to curb the spread. The outbreak of the virus has been responsible for the loss of lives and means of livelihood across the world. Further, it goes with the saying that the pandemic has negatively affected the economy of both developed and under-developed countries.

Owing to its nature and way of transmission, there has been a daily upsurge in the documented cases of the Coronavirus. In the past, there has been the imposition of compulsory lock down of state borders, country airports and even bans on interstate travels across the world because it was discovered that people are more exposed to the risk of infection in crowded places. There is rarely no citizen who has not experienced its own share of the pandemic. Interestingly, series of researches and findings by experts has revealed that the use of face masks and hand sanitizers would reduce the transmission of the virus.

At the moment, the risk of not wearing facemask in shops, schools, airports, places of worship, markets and other public places is very high as the mode of infection by droplets during talking, sneezing, coughing on surfaces and goods can lead to infection and further spread as someone touches same surface.

Another fact is, the Government of Nigeria and its citizens has expended so much resources on the treatments of COVID-19 patients, purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other safety measures towards curbing the spread of the virus. These situations, without doubt, have affected the Nation’s resources and could continually eat deep into it if national responses or policies are not put in place.

Covid-19 pandemic is no doubt a human rights issue which if not effectively checked can annihilate a large proportion of the world’s population. In line with the recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the COVID-19 regulations use of face masks especially for those exhibiting signs of the virus, such as coughing, high temperature, fever, etc., it is important that Nigerians comply with all relevant recommendations for public.

The significance use of face masks will help to curb the spread of COVID-19 if adhered to, so there is need for the Federal Government to impose its usage on Nigerians especially in public places. The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and other relevant Stakeholders to facilitate the awareness of the use of face masks in public spaces towards protection of self and the society at public spaces.

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writer’s opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

NIGERIA: NON-ADHERENCE TO COVID-19 PROTOCOLS FOR PREVENTING SPREAD OF THE DISEASE

PRESS RELEASE

Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. September 25, 2020.

Lawyers Alert, a human rights organization, is calling on Nigerian citizens to adhere to laid down COVID-19 protocols for preventing the spread of the virus in the country. The organization is concerned that life seems to have reverted to normal as citizens go about their daily activities uninhibited following a lifting of the lockdown on movement imposed by the Federal Government. Following the lifting of the lockdown, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 mandated a number of measures in line with World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposals for preventing the spread of the virus. These include public use of face masks, frequent hand-washing and physical distancing especially in crowded places. Research has however revealed challenges with enforcing these measures especially in crowded areas and localities where citizens lack adequate information.

A number of community-related risk factors have been identified as the cause of non-adherence to practicing recommended preventive measures. One of these is denial. There is widespread disbelief among the populace about the existence of the pandemic. Even citizens with adequate access to information choose not to follow the prevention guidelines. The conclusion can be drawn that the populace have willfully chosen to ignore the potential possibility of infection and consequences of same. However, living in denial will not halt the spread of the disease and has the potential to actually worsen the spread. Indeed majority of the populace still remain ignorant about their COVID-19 status owing to an inability or unwillingness to get tested.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, on the 24th of September, 2020, there were 125 new confirmed cases, which makes it a total 7,649 active cases, 49,098 discharged cases, 1102 deaths, 494,577 sample tested, and 57,849 confirmed cases recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Several guidelines have been provided by the organization which if citizens were to adhere could curb the spread of the virus. The President Lawyers Alert, Rommy Mom, specifically made an urgent call for awareness campaigns to sensitize Nigerians to the efficacy of masks in preventing spread. In his words, “Nigerians must not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security owing to the low number of fatalities recorded so far. This is a new virus and the way it functions is yet to be fully understood even by leading scientists across the globe. It is therefore crucial that we do everything in our power to get our people to imbibe the message of prevention instead. It is after all said to be better than cure.”

Lawyers Alert further calls on the Government to scale up existing advocacy campaigns. This can be achieved through advocacy visits to Community Based Organizations, Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders and other such community gatekeepers owing to how influential these groups tend to be. Additionally, interest groups, from the formal to the informal sector are urged to partner with NCDC, the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), and other similar organizations to help spread the word on the significance of masks to halting the spread of the virus. For instance, formal spaces such as business environments can mandate the use of masks for access. Transport workers (drivers) could be encouraged to wear face masks and insist on same from passengers. Social distancing could also be practiced in commercial vehicles by carrying fewer passengers and spacing them in the vehicles. Individuals who can afford to should maintain frequent use of alcohol-based sanitizers where the option of washing hands is not readily available.

Lawyers Alert is collating public opinion on the use of face masks and has begun the process of sensitizing the general public on its importance. The organization is also focused on gathering data on challenges faced by citizens especially poor and marginalized groups, and reaching the right stakeholders with this documentation in order to share lessons learnt and make recommendations.

Lawyers Alert encourages Nigerians to support government’s efforts in curbing the spread of this virus by wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, frequent washing of hands under running water, as well as sanitizing hands and touchable surfaces.

 

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Freedom of Expression in a Democratic Society vis – a-vis Protest

By Ozobulu Solumtochukwu Precious

Several newspapers and social media platforms were inundated with the news that the pump price of Premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as fuel increased to N151.56. This is resulting from the deregulation of the downstream sector and removal of subsidy by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The recent happening in the oil and gas sector can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant consequences on world economies. 

The hike in the price of petroleum products ignited widespread discontent and anger across various sectors in Nigeria. This is the third time the pump price of Premium motor spirit is reviewed in 2020.  Citizens especially youths expressed their displeasure in the recent increase through different mediums like protest. In Lagos State, protesters were arrested and their properties seized around Ojuelegba by officers of the Nigeria Police Force.  It is pertinent to note that this is not the first of its kind in Nigeria where protesters are arrested and detained.

 The question that seeks to be addressed is whether protest is lawful especially in the Nigeria context.

At different times, citizens have resulted to protest as a means of expressing their dissatisfaction with government policies, laws or mode of governance. According to Wikipedia protest is described as “a public expression of objection, disapproval or dissent towards an idea or action, typically a political one. Protests can take different forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations. Protesters may organize a protest as a way of publicly making their opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy, or they may undertake direct action in an attempt to enact desired changes themselves”. For a state to be democratic, the people must be allowed to air their dissatisfactions as freedom of expression is pivotal to democracy. Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Sections 39 and 40 of the constitution provided thus:

SECTION 39(1)

“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.

SECTION 40

 “ Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests:

Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition”

By the aforementioned provisions of the constitution it can be rightly said that citizens have the right to peaceful protest.

The Public Order Act C382 LFN in the other hand gave State governors the authority to regulate and stop assemblies. The act provides thus:

S(1) For the purposes of the proper and peaceful conduct of public assemblies, meetings and processions and subject to section 11 of this Act, the Governor of each State is hereby empowered to direct the conduct of all assemblies, meetings and processions on the public roads or places of public resort in the State and prescribe the route by which and the times at which any procession may pass

S (2): Any person who is desirous of convening or collecting any assembly or meeting or of forming any procession in any public road or place of public resort shall, unless such assembly, meeting or procession is permitted by a general licence granted under subsection

S (3) of this section, first make application for a licence to the Governor not less than 48 hours thereto, and if such Governor is satisfied that the assembly, meeting or procession is not likely to cause a breach of the peace, he shall direct any superior police officer to issue a licence, not less than 24 hours thereto, specifying the name of the licensee and defining the conditions on which the assembly, meeting or procession is permitted to take place; and if he is not so satisfied, he shall convey his refusal in like manner to the applicant within the time herein before stipulated

The police reacted by disrupting the protests, arresting protesters and seizing of media men properties on the ground that the organizers did not obtain police permit as provided by the Public Order Act. The Public Order Act pose a threat to the enjoyment of the rights provided for in the constitution as it relates to peaceful assembly and expression. 

The CFRN provides that the constitution is supreme and any law inconsistent with the constitution is null and void to the extent of it inconsistency. The court in the celebrated case of All Nigeria Peoples Party v Inspector-General of Police (2008) 12 WRN 65 decided by the Court of Appeal on December 12, 2007 Adekeye JCA (as she then was) held inter alia: “A rally or play card carrying demonstration has become a form of expression of views on current issues affecting government and the governed in a sovereign State. It is a trend recognized and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilized countries– it will not only be primitive but also retrogressive if Nigeria continues to require a pass to hold a rally. We must borrow a leaf from those who have trekked the rugged path of democracy and are now reaping the dividend of their experience.”

Muhammad JCA as a contribution to the judgement said: “In present day Nigeria, clearly police permit has outlived its usefulness.  Certainly, in a democracy, it is the right of citizens to conduct peaceful processions, rallies or demonstrations without seeking and obtaining permission from anybody. It is a right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and any law that attempt to curtail such rights is null and void and of no consequence.”

Flowing from the decision of the Court of Appeal on the fundamental right of Nigerians to freedom of assembly and expression through peaceful rallies and protests Government at all levels should stop the police and other security agencies from further harassing or intimidating protesters.

He who comes to equity must come with clean hands; therefore, protesters/demonstrators must conduct themselves in a peaceful manner. Otherwise, they may end up being in conflict with the provisions of the law and be liable to prosecution.

“The majority will have its way, but the minority has an inalienable right to have their say.”

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The Southern Kaduna Killings.

BY ELVIS TORKUMA

Southern Kaduna is a community in Kaduna state, Nigeria; they are predominantly Christians, Southern Kaduna has experienced violent attacks from armed herdsmen for years without a sustainable solution.

This conflict has killed many; victims are mostly women, children, and old people. Owing to these facts the Nigerian government, community leaders, religious leaders, security agencies have failed to find a lasting solution to this conflict. Since the beginning of this crisis many recommendations have been made, a commission of inquiry set up as well as conflicts resolutions team towards ending the conflict yet the crisis persists, lives lost and properties burnt to ashes.

In a bit to seek for help and solution, the southern Kaduna women went into the streets naked to protest the continued killings, some of the women recount their ordeal from the hands of their attackers, the conflict has taken away their husbands, children, breadwinners and has made of them widows. Their livelihood was taken away including their farmlands.

The need to end the southern Kaduna killings and conflict has become paramount owing to the long history of violent attacks from armed Fulani herdsmen in this region. This crisis is largely believed to be politically and religiously motivated while others believed it is due to land dispute as to the Fulani community in the southern Kaduna region vehemently said they are not settlers but indigenes. These arguments by the Hausa Fulani community in the southern kahuna often result in a crisis that has lingered for years with no sustainable solution.

Government inability to end the southern Kaduna killings and failure to bring perpetrators to justice has largely question the will of the government to end the southern Kaduna killings which has displaced thousands of vulnerable people from their homes.

The inability of the government to end the southern Kaduna killings further raises questions about the competency of the security forces to end the killing, survivors still live in fear knowing fully well that their killers are still out there.  

This development has made many concern Nigerians and human rights defenders to further criticize the Nigerian government for lack of will to bring sustainable solution to the southern Kaduna killings.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Female Education as Key to a Better life

It was on a Monday morning in September, Amina saw her mates going to school on a school bus, she waved at them with tears in her eyes and ran back home to her parents. Amina why are you crying her father asked, she answered; father I want to be going to school like my friends. Her father shouted “not in my house when did education become so important to a girl child. A few days later Amina ran away from her father’s house in Katsina to her aunt that stays in Lagos and explained how her father refused to enroll her in school and the aunt understood her plight and enrolled her in a school.

According to the World Bank Group, Girl Child Education is a strategic development priority. Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children when they choose to become mothers.

In many homes in Nigeria, a girl child does not have the right to education as a Basic Human Right. Since the adoption of the universal declaration of the human right of all citizens in 1948, the nation’s policy on education states that access to education is a right for all Nigerian children regardless of gender, religion, and disability. Girls have the same right to education as boys, educated girls can make informed choices, and from a far better range of options. Educating girls saves lives and builds stronger families, communities, and economies. An educated female population increases a country’s productivity.

According to 2019 data to Educeleb.com obtained from the Federal Ministry of Education, about 38% of Nigeria out of school children are girls. This represents 3.85 million of the 10-19 million children out of school in the country. With this number of females not been educated it increases poverty in the country. It goes without saying, how essential the importance of girl-child education is to our society.
They are so many importance of education of the girl-child to the society these includes;
Income Potential: Education empowers a woman’s wallet by boosting her earning capabilities. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also known as UNESCO, a single year of primary education has shown to increase a girl’s wages later in life by 20 percent.

Political Representation
Education empowers women to understand governance and politics, vie for political positions, and make women in power better leaders.

Safe Sex: A girl who completes primary school is three times less likely to contract HIV. With these statistics in mind, The World Bank calls education a “window of hope” in preventing the spread of AIDS and or any other STDs among today’s children.

Late Marriage: A girl that is educated understands what marriage is all about and gets married when she is mentally ready and at her convenient time. One in every three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. Early marriage can be a deception. Young girls get pregnant without even realizing it and how it is harmful and sometimes deadly for their lives. They hardly cope with the proper upbringing of kids as no one taught them how to do it as well. So many health problems may be experienced by these young girls; there is a high risk of getting sick with HIV/AIDS, not to forget domestic violence in the marriage which is a common problem that may not be handled by illiterate women properly.

Thriving Gross domestic product: This also soars when girls are being offered educational opportunities. When 10 percent more women attend school, GDP increases by three percent on average.

Poverty Reduction: When women are provided with equal rights and equal access to education, they go on to participate in business and economic activities, thereby increasing earning power and income to combat current and future poverty through feeding, clothing and providing for entire families.

Human Trafficking: Women are most vulnerable to trafficking when they are uneducated and poor. Educating a girl child will reduce trafficking in society.

Recommendations
The following are the recommendations as a solution to girl-child Education in Nigeria.
• Government to increase access to quality education for girl-child in the country.
• There is a need for government and other relevant stakeholders to establish more campaigns and awareness on the importance of girl-child education.
• The girl-child needs to be provided with a safe and supportive educational environment that will be free from abuse, with separate toilet facilities, safe drinking water, equal attention with boys, and a gender-sensitive curriculum.

• Government should pass legislation that makes the education of girls mandatory for primary and junior secondary school, and then enforce these laws firmly, and or especially in the rural communities so that the issue of house chores and other things that stop the education of a girl child will stop.

Conclusion
Girl- Child education is key to a better life for everyone in society as the lives of un-educated girls will always be at risk and will increase the poverty rate in the country.
A few years later Amina returned home as a Medical Doctor and treated her poor father that had been suffering from cancer of the lungs for years. Then the father realized how very important girl-child education is.

By Yua Miriam

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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ONE NIGERIA: THE SILENT CLAUSE

By Goziem E. Onugha

As the number one represents “a whole”, Nigeria since the year 1914 has been called “a” Country. Nigeria consists of 36 States and 774 Local Government Areas. The Country even though has no physical boundaries and limits for participation of any citizen in any legal process, has overwhelming limits and boundaries.

Just as you would think that an Idoma man would be free to actively participate in any political process in Yoruba Land, the reverse is the case. Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides several rights of every citizen of Nigeria. These rights are neither affected, invalidated nor deterred by ethnicity, language, or tribe. Among these rights is a right of ownership of property by a citizen in any part of the Country.

The Silent Clause

Pursuant to the above provision by Nigeria’s grund norm, suffice it to say that the Constitution has given all citizens of Nigeria the right to participate in any legal process in any State of the Country. Albeit, it is a silent atrocity that a Hausa man would think of running for the governorship race in Akwa Ibom State. Literally, a citizen’s right to own a property (a living home, shop, school, hospital, hotel, etc) in any part of Nigeria also means that if I can run any business, no matter how big, in any part of Nigeria, I can also participate in any legal process in that State.

Unconsciously, we have proven inconsiderate of the constitution by letting our individual thoughts and considerations out-way the relevance and aptness of the laws that are supposed to govern us.

The express mention of one thing excludes another

The laws of Nigeria are clear on the issues of freedom of citizens. The laws are also clear on the equality of every citizen of Nigeria in any part of the country. The express mention of “freedom” of participation by citizens, excludes all other issues that relate to inequality and unacceptance of any citizen to participate in any political process.

Conclusion

The laws of Nigeria supersede all other considerations, sentiments, bias, and conspiracies of any tribe, religion, ethnicity, or State.

 
 

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