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Celebration of Motherhood: The Human Rights Perspective

Sunday Adaji Esq

black-mother

On behalf of Lawyers Alert, we join other NGOs, CSOs and the entire womenfolk to say Happy Mother’s Day. March 31 of every year is commemorated as the Mother’s Day.

As an NGO that protects the rights and welfare of vulnerable groups, including women, we consider the Mother’s Day as very important as it reminds us of the need to redouble our efforts in promoting the rights of women and girls and ensuring that that they enjoy equal rights under Nigerian constitution, under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and under the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.

Since 2000 when Lawyers Alert was founded, Lawyers Alert has been in the forefront of promoting women’s rights in Nigeria. We have carried out many projects which 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.

From experience and based on Lawyers Alert’s statistics, one out of every three women and girls are constantly abused. This statistics shows that women and girls are among the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria. Our customs, tradition and religions are not helping matters as they encourage practices that relegate women to the background.

Lawyers Alert and indeed other NGOs and CSOs have been doing a lot to ensure that women’s rights are respected, but as it is, we still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of violations to contend with – denial of right to family planning, gender based violence, female genital mutilation, physical, verbal and emotional assault, denial of right to inheritance, harmful widowhood practices, forced economic and financial dependence, denial of sexual and reproductive health rights, rape, sexual assault and so on and so forth.

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 the mark of an egalitarian society. This is our yearning for Nigeria. And together we can achieve this and celebrate motherhood everywhere women are found.

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DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PERSONS LIVING WITH DISABILITIES (PROHIBITION) ACT 2018: WAY FORWARD

By Ifeyinwa Onochie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC) has estimated that no fewer than 19 million Nigerians are living with disabilities. This population
has as its major challenge issues of stigmatization, discrimination and resultant unequal treatment in all spheres. This is evident even in access to physical spaces/building either public or private which truncates not just physical access but also access to opportunity and resources.

According to a definition from equalityhumanrights.com, “equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.
It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.”

Disability in Africa and across the world, is viewed in most instances as associated dependency and inability to perform basic chores. People exhibit pity for Persons With Disabilities when in actual fact their impairment makes little or no difference to their abilities.

Nigeria efforts in negating these issues and the realization that disability is in the mind and the need to negate discrimination, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018. This development in Nigeria is good news. This means we will begin to see less and less people living with disabilities suffer discrimination from point A to B in this country. Furthermore, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation. Equally heart-warming is that the Act also provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobiles are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons living with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

This means curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, wider doorways and corridors. This also means that building plans of any public structure under construction since the President’s assent of the Act shall be scrutinized by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms to the building code.

Furthermore, with this Act, discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities, and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged.

We are finally stepping into the visions of our forefathers for, unity, peace and progress. However, there is dire need for our government to pick up a magnifying glass and look into these vast NGOs that claim to cater to the people living with disabilities in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Miss Faith Yaasa, a disability Rights activist, the question right now is: “are all the foreign aid monies collected being used to really support the people they claim they represent and collect for? What happened to awareness campaigns to sensitize the general public on matters affecting Persons With Disabilities? What about the economic empowerment of Persons With Disabilities through realistic and achievable programs that impact the society positively?” This is the right time to take a stand and put a stop to the incessant injustice and crimes committed against physically challenged citizens is the message Miss Yaasa engaged with us at Lawyers Alert when she stopped by our office this week.

Lawyers Alert cannot agree less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Divorce Your Wife, Lose Your Home to Her

by Kyenpya Katkuk Esq

In the light of the recent event celebrating women on International Women’s day all over the world on the 8th of March as recognised by the United Nations, women are not only celebrated on how far they have come in the society, in politics and in the economy but it’s also a time for reflecting on the sexism that affects women, a time to raise awareness of continued inequality as well as the achievements of combating inequality.

 

There is no place in the world where women have the same opportunities as men and in so many countries the rights of women and their opportunities are limited by law. The belief that patriarchy is so entrenched in the Nigerian system and the fact that women are unable to exercise their rights have been an erroneous one especially by those ignorant on the rights provided under the law.

 

However, this issue of a woman not having rights to property due to cultural beliefs has been disproved of recent and it has been an uplifting moment in the lives of women in Oyo State, Nigeria.  In the recent decided case, by the presiding Justice Munta Abimbola , the courts held that “ a husband who marries a wife and builds a house during the pend-ency of the marriage stands the risk of losing the house if he later divorces the woman who had children for him unless such woman of her own volition, leaves the matrimonial home”. The presiding Justice whilst ruling on the matter also emphasised on what is known as “palm tree justice”, which indicates that “it doesn’t matter in whose name the property stands or who pays what (on the property) and in what proportion as determination of such matters transcends all rights, legal or even equitable but simply what is fair and just ‘’ in the circumstances of the case.

The basis of this judgement was made under the provisions of the Married Woman’s Property Act 1882.  Furthermore, Section 17 Married Women’s Law of  Oyo State, Cap 83 and Laws of Oyo State 2000 gives a court the discretion as it thinks fit on the issues of title of possession to property. Section 18 Married Women Law of Oyo State also allows the court to treat property as joint property especially where it has to do with a matrimonial home.

 

Conclusively, it could be said that there is significant progress on the application of legal provisions and precedents regarding property rights that affect women inspite of the system of marriage laws (customary, Islamic and statutory marriage). The parties in the decided matter happen to be married under customary law and so this could mean that a woman is entitled to having an equal share of property in the event of divorce, regardless of whether she is married under customary law or statutory law.

 

This is also a good reflection of international instrument , the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), particularly Article 5 ,which refers to how women should not be confined to culturally defined constructions. It recognises that all human beings are equal and have equal rights and deserve equal respect for their human dignity.  Gender stereotypes should not deny women the right to be treated respectfully as an equal. Therefore, this landmark ruling is a significant in combating inequality as it affects women.

 

Kyenpya Katkuk is a lawyer with the Coalition Of Lawyers for Human Rights  (COLaHR).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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USER FEE CHARGE: A HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL IN NIGERIA

Ayomide Joshua

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Over the years, a lot have been done to exterminate or reduce the spread of HIV to the barest minimum. Many drugs have been invented to treat HIV. One drug that immediately comes to mind is the anti-retro viral (ARV). The ARV has been known to be very effective in HIV treatment as constant dosage reduces the viral load to zero. What this means is that any person living with HIV who is constantly taking the ARV will continue to enjoy sound health for as long as he keeps taking the drug. Another drug that has been found to be effective is one which injection a person takes once in a year. As the HIV positive person keeps taking this injection yearly, he keeps enjoying sound health. The injection reduces the viral load in his/her body system to zero level. However, this injection is very expensive and not very much available like the ARV.

STRATEGY FOR HIV CONTROL

Prior to the invention of the ARV, especially in the 80s and 90s, the world witnessed rapid spread of HIV infections and many people died of AIDS.  During these periods, some drugs were invented which were helpful in the treatment of HIV but they were expensive and only few people afford to pay for them. As a result, the condition of majority HIV positive persons who could not afford those drugs worsened from HIV infection to full blown AIDS, leading to their eventual death. Worried by this development, the United Nations came up with two strategies for HIV response and control.The strategies are;

  1. The ARV should be made available everywhere;
  2. The ARV should be free so that every person living with HIV should obtain the drug regularly.

No doubt, these strategies have gone a long way in helping to treat and contain the spread of HIV. A front liner in the campaign for the right and welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS once testified: “I am a living testimony to the effectiveness of the ARV. I have been taking the ARV for over 13years and I have been enjoying sound health.”

Currently, statistics shows that 63.9 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in the world while 3.1 million persons are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria and of the 3.1 million persons, 28% of them are children.

 

ACCESS TO HIV TREATMENT AND THE USER FEE CHARGE

The strategies for HIV control has been effective in Nigeria. For instance, the ARV are very much available in our health institutions and PLWHIV are accessing the drug. However, there are many people living with HIV who are finding it difficult to obtain ARV regularly due to the fact that they are being compelled to pay user fee before they can obtain it.

“User fee” means an amount that a person living with HIV is asked to pay before accessing HIV treatment. Towards the end of December 2018, a large number of persons living with HIV trooped out with various banners and posters to protest against the user fee charge. One of them who was interviewed by a journalist said that the user fee that is imposed by public health institutions was worsening his condition of health. He said each time he went to the public health institution where he normally obtain ARV, they would ask him to pay N1, 000 and sometimes N500 before giving him the ARV. He said further that anytime he didn’t have money to pay for the treatment, they will not give him the ARV. And once there is no ARV for him to take, his condition of health would start deteriorating. While they kept demonstrating against the user fee charge, the person living with HIV appealed to the government to remove the user fee charge so that they could have access to HIV treatment and enjoy sound health.

REMOVING HINDRANCE TO HIV CONTROL

The fact is, if we are going to make any head way in our national HIV response, we must remove anything that will act as a cog in the wheel of our progress

In Nigeria, we are very good at shooting ourselves in the foot or working agent our self. We always want to make things difficult for ourselves. HIV treatment have been made available for fee, yet our public health institutions have made user free mandatory for persons living with HIV to pay before obtaining the drugs.

Whatever may be the reason for introducing the user fee, the fact is that persons living with HIV are finding it difficult to access HIV treatment. Even the little amount of N500 and/or N1,000 they are been asked to pay before accessing treatment, are amounts which persons living with HIV/AIDS find it difficult to pay.

If persons living with HIV/AIDS cannot access treatment because of the user fee, how then will we be able to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020? Obviously the user fee charge is a hindrance to our national HIVresponse. If we are really serious about controlling the spread of HIV infection, we should not hesitate to remove the user fee charge.

WAY FORWARD

Lawyers Alert is therefore appealing to the Federal Government, the 36 States Government, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the NACA (National Agency for the Control of AIDS), the SACA (States Governments for the Control of AIDS),Ministries of Health and other relevant agencies and institutions to expedite action to remove the user fee charge so that persons living with HIV can access treatment and enjoy sound health. It is when this is done that we can hope to achieve our goal of controlling HIV infection come 2020.

 

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Employers of labour must comply with HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act

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A Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert has insisted that employers of labour in the public and private sector must comply with the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act to protect workers who that are infected with Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The President of Lawyers Alert, Mr Rommy Mom told Daily Trust that the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act that was passed into law in Nigeria five years ago was not implemented and that his organization has dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to court to demand full implementation and total adherence to the law.

He said the HIV/AIDS non discrimination Act mandates the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that work places have HIV/AIDS policies to protect workers that are HIV positive.

He said the law was passed in 2014 and that it mandates the AGF to ensure that employers of labour in public and private sector in Nigeria have the policy within three months.

Mr Rommy expressed concern that the law was not implemented five years after and that no policy in work places to protect people living with HIV.

He lamented that majority of workers that are HIV positive are facing all forms of discrimination and stigmatization in their places of work.

 

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Fire Outbreaks and Need for Action.

By Mbakaan Linus

kano-fire

Billows of smoke becloud the skylines creating a fuzzy and hazy atmosphere. At a closer look, a high rise is engulfed in a wild inferno. Nothing could be salvaged. Three lives are reportedly lost and properties worth millions destroyed in the process.  The victims are crying, mourning and helpless.  Neighbors and a few good people are helping to salvage the situation. It is useless. A loud explosion is heard. The building is finally engulfed in unquenchable flames.  An hour into this bizarre and solemn atmosphere, the fire service truck pulls up whirling its red lights accompanied by siren. The crowds boo them as they jostle to fight an outbreak that is an hour too late. This scene describes a typical fire outbreak on any given day in Nigeria.

What is a fire outbreak and how can it be prevented? What preparations have we put in place as a people to contain fire outbreaks in Nigeria?

Fire outbreak is a dual word description for a single incidence; Fire on one hand and outbreak on the other. Fire is defined as the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion releasing heat, light and various reaction products. Outbreak on the other hand is defined as a sudden violent spontaneous occurrence usually of an undesirable nature.

Put together, technically, fire outbreak can be defined as a sudden violent and spontaneous occurrence of rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process leading to the release of excessive combustible heat.

 

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Fire outbreaks occur for various reasons. They could be natural or unnatural. Natural fire outbreaks arise through Acts of God like lightning and thunderstorms, upsurge in electricity, volcanic eruptions etc. Unnatural causes could be attributed to Arson, carelessness and negligence or a fault in electrical connections etc.

Regardless of the cause of fire outbreaks, their occurrences are a dozen for a dime in Nigeria. A day hardly passes without one hearing of one case of fire outbreak or the other. The media is awash with stories of deadly fire outbreaks often caused by most avoidable reasons.

In Kano State alone, no fewer than 123 lives were lost and 1, 721 lives were saved from the 660 fire outbreaks recorded across the state from January to December of 2017.

According to the  Fire Disaster Prevention and Safety Awareness Association of Nigeria Incessant fire outbreaks has cost the national economy about N6 trillion in the last five years, with major cities like Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt , Abuja experiencing serious consequences of the scourge.

Experts in Fire and Disaster Management say the losses could be more as no valid Fire Statistics Database exists. For instance, the Kano market fire alone was estimated at about N2 trillion worth of goods which was lost to a single fire incidence”.

These perennial fire outbreaks poses serious threat to the national economy, as it leaves enormous material damage, injury to persons and disruption of economic and commercial activities of the people affected.

The economic implications of fire outbreaks to investment and growth of the nation cannot be over emphasized. The high incident rate of market fire in particular has serious economic consequences of depriving families of shelters, trader’s means of livelihood, investors of properties, lives lost etc.

Fire fighting in Nigeria and the present efforts in containing fire outbreaks is significantly challenged at all levels. These challenges include poor firefighting equipment and vehicles, weak and sub standard training, infrastructural decay including bad roads, low safety awareness on the part of citizens etc.

At the federal level, there is tremendous improvement in the funding and equipment holding of the federal fire service, the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari has for the first time invested substantially in the infrastructure and equipment for the federal Fire service.

The State and Local level fire service is clogged in the old ways. Fire service is more or less placed at concurrent list, which mandates the Fire service to be under the jurisdiction and control of the states.

“The major challenge is how to redirect the mindset of the state governors and their Parliaments to also see the need to invest in the fire sector. Unfortunately, all attempts to make this possible have never been successful except for some few states that are making some efforts.

In view of the above, the following are the recommendations:

  • There is need for the Fire Service in Nigeria to be overhauled, re-engineered and repackaged and to actualize this phenomenon, a situation whereby all Fire Services in Nigeria (states and federal) come together as one unified body and under one umbrella would be a step in the right direction as it will enhance uniformity as well as ensuring standard in the service.
  • State Parliaments increase budgetary allocations to State Fire Service in order to improve service delivery across Nigeria
  • Amend the legal framework to allow Private Fire Service providers to intervene in fire service delivery across Nigeria
  • Constant training and retraining of fire service personnel across Nigeria
  • The need to involve the Civil Society intervening in Fire and Disaster management towards the  sensitization and awareness creation of the masses on safety measures

In conclusion, fire outbreaks in Nigeria have assumed a disastrous proportion which can be described as an emergency situation. All hands must be on deck to reduce to the barest minimum the incidences of fire outbreaks and its attendant losses.

 

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