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Category Archives: victims

PETTY OFFENCES; THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

By Roseline Oghenebrume, Director Programs, Lawyers Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn sets in the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria. Alhaji Abubakar (Pseudo name) after his morning prayer wakes his family up to begin the grind for the day. His family comprises of two sons and a daughter all aged 15, 13 and 11 respectively. In his words, it is Monday, you have to meet up with travelers at the Jabi Motor Park or else no food for you all. They begin their journey on foot for a 5km walk with their goods to be sold off on their heads. While they approached the park, they sighted the task force team and obviously took to their heels. While the eldest was lucky to have escaped, the two others were swept off the roads in the van of the task force and their goods seized.

These types of petty acts that are seen as offences is regrettably targeted at low income earners, the vulnerable and the poor. For instance, citizens engaged in activities such as loitering are arrested by security agents shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing these laws. In one instance, someone hawking goods in trying to escape arrest jumped off a fly over in Abuja Central District Area, losing his life in the fall. Security agencies go out at night arresting women and breaking people’s doors, dragging them out on account of their sexual orientation and perceived type of job. Commercial bus drivers trying to eke a living are said to commit offences when parked in a non-designated area and can be sent to jail if they don’t come up with the resources to pay their way through. The above is a picture of what a less privileged family/ citizen in Nigeria deals with on a regular/daily basis.

Nigeria is a country with a population of about 180 million persons with over 70% of its population said to be poor. Nigeria recently ranked highest in poverty according to a report by the World poverty Clock released in June 2018.  This shows that the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot effectively cope in keeping with this high population with regard to arrest and prosecution nor does it have the prison to hold these persons.

As it stands today, Nigeria has about 75,000 persons in prison with about 60% of these persons awaiting trial. Those awaiting trial for petty offences account for a higher percentage of those awaiting trial. Petty offences are more to do with the poor and vulnerable who are often prone to these acts owing to economic dis empowerment. Petty actions like hawking, obtaining goods by false pretence, sex work, sexual expression, slander, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, use of insulting language, intake of alcohol in some Northern States, etc. are criminalised.

Petty offences are not only inconsistent with sections 34, 35, 41 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provide for right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty, right to freedom of movement and right to freedom from discrimination respectively, but are equally inconsistent with Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights duly ratified by Nigeria.

The effect is State resources are expended in rather needless investigations and prosecutions and the prisons congested. Good governance, more attention at economic empowerment and fighting corruption by Government will be more in focus if Government is not distracted by expending resources on petty offences that are criminalised. Petty offences have resulted in lack of justice for the poor, social discrimination sometimes with grave consequences.

We at Lawyers Alert strongly believes that decriminalising petty offences in Nigeria will aid development given the likelihood of more time and focus on development issues.

Based on the above, the following are recommendations;

 

  1. Laws/policy reform which is critical in decriminalising petty offences because the small actions that are made petty offences are being institutionalised by certain laws in Nigeria.
  2. State and Non- State Actors should be engaged. Majority are not aware of the effects of these laws, they have not been made to understand the importance of decriminalising petty offences and its effect on socio, economic welfare of the nation.
  3. Lawyers are to be encouraged to offer free legal services to victims of petty crimes rather than demand professional fees which the vulnerable and poor people who are the victims of petty offenses cannot afford.
  4. Continuous sensitization of the vulnerable and less privileged in the society. Lack of knowledge of human rights or where to get assistance when their rights are abused is part of the problem that institutionalizes petty offenses.
  5. Civil Society groups, the Media and other Human Rights Activists to embark on a campaign towards decriminalization of petty offenses in Nigeria. Petty offenses target the most vulnerable in the country; the poor, less privileged and uneducated.

 

Poverty is not a crime……

Human Right is for all…….

Decriminalizing petty offenses is a human rights issue….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Day Strategic Planning Meeting On Reducing Human Trafficking In Benue State

Introduction

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On the 24th of September 2018, a case of human trafficking was reported to us at Lawyers Alert for legal advice and possible assistance. That a certain man named Saviour Daboor was placed under arrest and detained by the police at the State Criminal Investigation Intelligence Department (SCIID) Makurdi for an alleged case of human trafficking. That Saviour Daboor an indigene of Benue State on the 4th of September, 2018 took five (5) girls to Lagos State under the guise and pretence that he will make life better for them, by giving them jobs in Lagos. On arriving Lagos, he handed over the girls to an unknown woman who is still at large and surreptitiously left the vicinity. The girls were then taken out of Nigeria to BURKINA FASO, obviously for prostitution and Sex Slavery rather than a conventional job as promised by Saviour. Upon realising their situation, the girls resisted but at that point they are handicapped both financially and emotionally. As part of the job requirements, a medical test was conducted on the girls and it was discovered that one of the girls was pregnant and another sick and this isn’t good for the job. Thus the two were sent back home. Following the arrest of Saviour and the pressure that followed, the third girl was eventually returned. However, two of the victims of the trafficking are still held up with the trafficking gang in Burkina Faso. Saviour is under arrest and in detention and will be due in Court on the 21th November, 2018. The other members of the syndicate are still at large and two of the victims are still under their grips in a foreign land. This is a clear case of human trafficking and women rights violation. These girls undoubtedly have been sold into slavery and from all indication will be made to serve as sex toys.

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Given the above therefore Lawyers Alert held a one day strategy building meeting with partners and stakeholders with a view towards charting out a work plan that will lead to the release of the trafficked girls and the prosecution of the culprits involved. The meeting was also intended to necessitate the building of a movement and a formidable fight that will lead to the release of the girls and subsequent arrest and prosecution of the suspects in Court to account for their actions.

Goal

The goal of this intervention is to enhance the promotion and protection of Women Human Rights in Benue State and Nigeria and to secure the return of the trafficked girls back home and the punishment of the suspected culprit.

Objectives

  • To form a mass movement through collaboration with 5 identified stakeholders towards synergising on the release of the two girls and compensation for all the 5 Victims
  • To design and implement an effective action plan that will lead to the achievement of the project goal.

Expected outputs

  • A copy of the work plan
  • Secure the arrest and prosecution of all the suspected culprits.

Expected outcome

  • A reduction in the incidence of human trafficking.
  • The promotion and protection of women human rights in Benue state.

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The meeting was held at Lawyers Alert’ conference hall.  A total of 28 participants attended the meeting cutting across different organizations and groups. Participating Organizations comprised of State Actors, Non State Actors including the Civil Society, Media and Professional groups.

The meeting commenced with self introduction of participants. This was followed by a welcome address by the Progams Director of Lawyers Alert’ head Office Mr. Lazarus Ahangba. In the address he appreciated their time and commitment to the cause of the project. He briefly introduced the purpose of the meeting and its expected outcome. He urged the participants to be active and make quality contributions. Goodwill messages from NBA, NAPTIP and Ministry of Women Affairs were also delivered. NBA expressed delight to be part of this project and offered their hand of solidarity with pledges of support in any capacity and at any moment the need arises. NAPTIP thanked Lawyers Alert for organizing this meeting and said that the meeting could not have come up at any better time than now. They said human trafficking is becoming more rampant in Benue and equally pledged their support to this project and in any other way possible. The Ministry of Women Affairs equally thanked Lawyers Alert for putting the meeting together and expressed willingness to work with Lawyers Alert in any way and manner as required. After tea break, R.A Hwande Esq, the Legal Officer at Lawyers Alert unpacked the project. In his presentation, he attempted the definition of Human trafficking, traced its history and prevalence level from the federal level to the State, the legal frameworks that criminalizes Human trafficking both local and international. He concluded the presentation with focus on the case at hand outlining its beginning, goal, objectives, expected outputs, outcomes and the progress made so far. After his presentation, one of the victims, Ms Helen narrated in details what happened to them and how some of her friends are still held back in Burkina Faso. This was followed by questions, answers, comments and the development of a work plan and way forward.

In order to develop a more cogent work plan, the meeting broke into two working groups. A technical working group made up of Lawyers and the officials of NAPTIP and a Civil Society/ Media working group. At the end of their deliberations, each group presented their proposed action plan and persons responsible.

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Civil Society/ Media Work Plan:

  • Create a Social Media platform that will serve as an interactive forum that will keep all the project participants together and the conversations alive.
  • Report the meeting and its outcome and also write features periodically on the issue to harvest public support and also sensitize People on the issues of Human trafficking.
  • Monitor Court proceedings regularly.
  • Carry out Advocacy visit to key State Actors and other public institutions including DG Radio Benue, Commissioner of Women Affairs, Wife of the Governor, Commissioner of Justice, NAPTIP and the General Manager the Voice newspapers.
  • Push for the rehabilitation of the victims of trafficking.
  • Create a coalition that will work on this project and other related issues in the State.

Technical Working Group Action Plan

  • The other victims should write a letter of complaint to NAPTIP in order to commence the arrest and possible prosecution of the suspect at the Federal High Court.
  • Explore the possibility of including Kidnap among the charges against the victim.
  • Monitor the progress of the case at the State High Court and explore the possibility of filing a fresh case at the Federal High Court and withdrawing the other case at the lower court.
  • Work closely with NAPTIP, FIDA and the NBA to ensure justice for the victims of the trafficking case.
  • NAPTIP to explore the possibilities of rehabilitating the victims of the case.
 

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The Compulsory Treatment And Care For Victims Of Gunshots Act, 2017: An Analysis

By Chigoziem Ellen Onugha Esq

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One of the known characteristics of Laws is that it is dynamic and not static. An example is our Constitution which has been changed serially, with the current one being enacted on May 29, 1999. Even with that, the 1999 Constitution has also gone through a couple of amendments. Change in Laws is chiefly a direct consequence of developments within a given society. Of all the challenges confronting Nigeria, I am convinced that health problems are most discomforting, and therefore any attempt by the government to build solid foundations that suit each of the problems of the health sector is going to be a welcome one. Admittedly, the enactment of the COMPULSORY TREATMENT AND CARE FOR VICTIMS OF GUNSHOTS ACT 2017 is a direct attempt to underscore one of Nigeria’s problems with regards to health.

Nigeria has no doubt progressively changed and enacted Laws to take care of its ever-changing environments. One of the offshoots of such progressive changes has been the enactment of the COMPULSORY TREATMENT AND CARE FOR VICTIMS OF GUNSHOTS ACT, 2017.

Prior to December 20, 2017, lots of lives were being lost on a daily basis due to refusal to care and treat gunshot victims by hospitals, agencies of the government and even individuals. Before December 20, 2017; it was common to have people die of gunshot wounds simply because they could not provide either police reports or money for treatment. This is, indeed, careless on the parts of the hospitals, the governments, and individuals. The doctors, for one, appear to have forgotten the Oath they swear to at induction and had rather made money and other materials considerations the substance of their practice.

It is easy to see that the emergence of the Act in question is a complete game changer with regards to the abnormalities associated with the usual refusal to treat gunshot victims. The Act has taken care of thorny issues ranging from police procedures, hospital/hospital personnel’s involvements to that of the public involvement. Its provisions are far reaching, at least, to the extent of gunshot wounds and its victims.

The fourteen provisions of the Act alongside their sections are as follows:

  1. Right to treatment
  2. Duty to assist
  3. Notification of police
  4. Certificate of fitness
  5. Offense
  6. Relations to make statement
  7. Withholding information
  8. Protection of volunteers
  9. Persons guilty of the offense
  10. Duty to notify victim relations
  11. Offense of standing by
  12. Records
  13. Trial of a corporate body
  14. Restitution

Far reaching and beautiful as the provisions of this Act are, citizens who the law is meant to protect may not be able to take maximum benefits of same unless those shouldered with the responsibility of enforcing the law are alive to their various responsibilities. It is easy for this same law to go the way of others before it in terms of implementation.

Unlike the previous instance where the whole burden of safety was on a victim of gunshot wounds, the Act withdraws this burden and places them on the police and the hospital/hospital personnel. The Act also goes ahead to make provisions for restitution at the instance of a High Court to be made by a corporate body or a person convicted of an offense under this Act to a victim of the offense.

Similarly, issues relating to police reports and deposits before treatment of gunshot victims have been taken care of by the new law. We expect better results in that regards, as we encourage citizens to hold on to their rights. That is all we have got.

 

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