Lawyers Alert sensitize Journalists on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights

The training was organized by Lawyers Alert for journalists as part of a sensitization and advocacy drive within the media community. The objective is to educate journalists on the subject of SRHR and how they can effectively report violations of same and also getting the participants to cascade knowledge gained to other journalists.

Facilitators at the training were:

  1. Rommy Mom, Esq. – President, Lawyers Alert.

2.  Mrs. Abubakar Abubakar – Director, UNFPA.

3.  Charles – Director, UNAIDS.


Facilitator – Zubaida Abubakar, UNFPA

Topic – “SRH, HIV and Gender Issues in Nigeria.” (Focus: Key Populations)

She began by acknowledging the vital role journalists play as watchdogs of the society in ensuring the protection of Human Rights. “We need to engage the media,” she enthused, “our work is based on evidence. Children and girls are mostly victims of SRHR violations. They are victims of rape, violence, etc. We have to educate them and the media can help achieve this.”

To buttress her claims that children and teenage girls were the most vulnerable in terms of SRHR violations, Mrs. Abubakar reinforced her facts with statistics shown below:

  • In Nigeria, girls particularly between the ages of 18-22 years of age are likely to get pregnant before marriage. The North has a preponderance of early marriage.
  • Female hawkers are particularly vulnerable to rape.
  • Owing to poverty, religious and cultural issues, girls are married off at the young ages of 9-22. They are most at risk of HIV and Vesico-Vaginal Fistula, a condition that frequently occurs when underage girls give birth. Nigeria has up to 600,000 cases of VVF. Girls with the condition tend to be stigmatised and isolated.
  • 47.6% of illiterate girls get pregnant early. They have no idea of the use of contraceptives.
  • Maternal and child mortality rate is high in Nigeria: For every 100,000 births, 576 infants die, while approximately 111 of the mothers die in childbirth.


On the consequences of the violations of the SRHR of girls, Mrs. Abubakar pointed out that:

  • There is no opportunity for their being educated (attending school).
  • The vicious cycle of poverty is continued.
  • They are isolated.
  • 25% of the girls whose SRHR are violated contribute nothing to the economy.

What to Address

On what to address, Mrs. Abubakar explained

  • Girls should be kept in school to discourage child marriage.
  • Girls who do not get formal education should be empowered through vocational skills.
  • The health and well-being of children should be prioritised.
  • Girls should be trained in the use of contraceptives.
  • There should be a conducive environment for children and girls.
  • Keepers of the traditional institutions should be enagaged in these efforts to obtain their support which could in turn influence parents to change their beliefs.
  • Children and girls should be given comprehensive HIV education.
  • Young people should be co-opted into the information dissemination process.
  • Social could also be a useful tool in this effort.

UNFPA Projects

On the projects being carried out by UNFPA, Mrs. Abubakar noted:

  • 4,150 are being supported with the help of Canada. In Nigeria’s North, UNFPA provides support in the education sector. In Lagos (the suburbs of Lagos State), out of school children are being supported by training them in vocational work. 270 of the girls were able to impact 20,000 others.
  • Campaign launched last year to end child marriage in Nigeria.
  • A forum was set up to educate various communities on the negative effects of early marriage.
  • UNFPA collaborates with local NGOs to carry out their work with ongoing projects in Kaduna and Kebbi States.
  • Support is being provided for girls suffering from VVF


Facilitator – Charles, UNAIDS

Topic – “Efforts at Enhancing SRHR Reportage in Nigeria.”

Mr. Charles introduced a five-page news report culled from The Associated Press, which he distributed to all participants titled: “Rampaging Sudan Troops Raped Foreigners, Killed Locals.” Using the news report as a yardstick for measuring reports on SRHR, he asked participants to read the report and critique.

Most participants condemned the detailed style of reporting. They were of the view that The Associated Press was so detailed in the reportage that within days of publication, Sudanese citizens were able to identify victim of the gang rape perpetrated by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

A participant, (a female journalist with the Daily Trust), was of the view that the victim’s identity ought to have been protected in line with the ethics of the profession. Though her name was withheld, the description of the location and the race of the victim, were so vivid that Sudanese citizens had no problem identifying the victim.

A few of the participants, however, had a dissenting opinion. One of them was of the view that the detailed reportage was what led to further investigations.

The Facilitator left the critiquing to the professionals only pointing out the following issues:

  1. The news is about sexual violence in the context of armed conflict.
  2. Giving tips (reports) to journalists helps with exposing SRHS violations.


Facilitator – Rommy Mom (Lawyers Alert President)

Topic – “Human Rights Dimension on Violations of SRHR,”

Citing the cases of the FSWs in Abuja and the suspected gay people in Gishiri village, in Abuja, Lawyers Alert intervened, Mr. Mom emphasized the need to protect key affected populations. To buttress his point, he cited the case of a Customs Officer who was accused of theft in a market in Jalingo, Adamawa state and subsequently beaten to death. It was only after the mob action that his identity was revealed.

Mr. Mom rounded off his session with a quote he once saw in a prison in a prison he visited. The placard read: “A society is judged by how it treats the weakest among them.”


The issue of homosexuality in Nigeria is a touchy one especially since the country has enacted laws criminalising same sex relationship and marriage. It was no wonder therefore that the following questions came up:

Q – “If I heard you clear, you mean you offer free legal services to homosexuals?”

Rommy Mom – “Yes, if we offer 10 free legal services to victims of SRHR violations, including homosexuals.”

Q – “How do you marry this with the Nigerian laws which prohibit homosexuality?”

  1. M – “Years ago, in Gishiri village, a pastor mobilised a mob to attack some persons alleged to be homosexuals. They broke into their houses, assaulted them, took them to the police station, and they were detained. This to the Pastor and his believers was in keeping with the law. We urge you however to examine the process. It is an offence to break into a persons’ home, assault the person etc. Yet we choose to ignore this. It is so much as the law, the process. We don’t violate rights, in getting to the end of the law. Lawyers Alert is about rights of ALL. Remember again, it is the court that determines culpability at the end of the day. The law does not permit any person to break the doors of people on ground of suspicion of being homosexual. It is the court that will determine the guilt of any person alleged to have committed a crime. Homosexuals, like other groups be they Female Sex workers, Persons Living With HIV, Persons who use Drugs etc are the vulnerable people in the society. How we treat and relate with them is different with coloration of stigma and discrimination. Ours is to focus on the rights of these key population groups.”

Q – “Do you also offer services to children and victims of domestic violence?”

  1. M – “Yes, we offer free legal services to children and victims of domestic violence. A 10-year old girl was raped recently. Her mother could not afford to pay transport fare. We offered her free legal services and we also paid for her transport fares.”


On way forward, all participants agreed that:

  1. We should keep journalist informed as journalists are human beings and not ghosts that should know everything that happens in the society.
  2. Outcome of meetings should be shared. It could be visual, audio or text.
  3. Lawyers Alert could organise meetings to keep journalists informed.


Mr. Mom thanked all participants and assured them that the training just held was just one of many more to be held, and that from time to time, Lawyers Alert will hold refresher trainings for those in attendance.




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Lawyers Alert has taken up the matter of the wrongful killing by the Nigerian Army of one Master Ipaven Paul AYEM, a JSS 3 student of Holy Family Catholic Secondary School, Jato-Aka, Kwande Local Government Area. The family of the young man had approached Lawyers Alert last month to seek for justice over the killing of their son by men of the Nigerian Army.

According to the family, Paul Ayem, had just closed from school and sat down to lunch outdoors when he suddenly slumped at the sound of gunshots and was found to be bleeding from the head. Closer inspection revealed a gunshot to his head. It turned out that men of the Nigerian army had taken it upon themselves to randomly fire into the air in an attempt to disperse vigilantes they were caught in an altercation with. It was in the course of this action that Paul received a bullet to the head resulting in his instant death. The sad incident took place on the 21st of March 2017.

Strangely enough, when the Nigerian Army were made aware of the incident by the family of the deceased, they became quite hostile and refused to listen to the deceased’s family against standard practice and procedure – and dismissed the death as likely caused by a bullet fired by the vigilantes.

Lawyers Alert believes responsibility lies on Government at all levels to bring to justice the perpetrators of such this act. Paul was a 17-year old in a certificate class with poor parents catering for him and hoping for an eventual reaping of the fruits of their sacrifice. 

Based on the above facts and the Nigerian Army’s indifference to the family’s plight, Lawyers Alert has written to and served on the Nigerian Army, a 21 days’ notice to meet the following demands:

  • a.      Identify and bring to book the soldiers involved in this heinous crime as their conduct was a negation of the ethics, conduct and rules of engagement of the organization.
  • b.      The Nigerian Army serves a letter of condolence on the family of the deceased for the unfortunate and unlawful death of their son from the bullet fired by men and officers of the Nigerian Army.
  • c.       The Nigerian Army pays to the family a compensation of two billion naira as damages for the unlawful killing of their son by men of the Nigerian Army.

A failure to meet the demands stipulated above will cause Lawyers Alert to resort to the law courts for a judicial determination of this matter.


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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Human Rights, Uncategorized


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Billows of smoke, lifeless bodies, charred cars and deserted streets best describe the scenarios in Buruku, Ukum, and, to a lesser degree, Kwande Local Government Areas recently attacked in Benue State of North Central Nigeria. For some time now, the people of Benue have been under heavy attacks from different fronts ranging from militia herdsmen, marauding gunmen and other sources in between. An estimated 200 lives have been lost with many more maimed or wounded. This situation has left the people, especially Women and Children, as the main victims of these unfortunate attacks.

The chief role of every government at all levels is the protection of lives and property of its Citizens. Nigeria is no different as specified in the 1999 Constitution in chapter 2 section 2b: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” This provision however, seems to look much better on paper than it does with regard to implementation in Nigeria as a whole. With the return to democracy in 1999, wave after wave of violence has been meted out on the people by a range of faceless groups. Until very recently, Boko Haram terrorists held sway in Nigerias north east having almost totally crippled the Borno state government.

But these attacks have not been limited to any one part of the country.

On Friday the 17th of March 2017, reports have it that a platoon of gunmen believed to be nomadic Fulani Herdsmen, numbering over 50 stormed the sleepy town of Buruku and opened fire on unsuspecting residents. The attack is said to have lasted over three hours. At the end of the unanticipated onslaught, over 60 people lay dead, most of them Women and children.

Three days later, on Monday March 20 2017, an unknown number of gunmen, in four vehicles and 12 motorcycles invaded the town of Zaki Biam in Ukum Local Government again opening fire on defenseless people at the popular yam market and killing an estimated 80, leaving in their wake a trail of destruction. Reliable reports of the Zaki Biam incident are few and far between. Rumors and speculations, however, abound ranging from suggestions that the killing spree was the aftermath of intra-ethnic bickering to external attacks from a neighboring state.

Be that as it may, Lawyers Alert has been able to glean information from reliable sources indicating that the Zaki Biam attack also lasted well over three hours from about 5pm to 8pm. Now, the question begging for answers is, where was the Police?  The failure of the Police in the local government areas to quickly counter the marauding gunmen can only be described as unfortunate. Especially in light of the prior attack on Buruku.

The true situation of the Kwande incident remains unclear. For now all we know is that lives have been lost and another group of citizens displaced.

The state government’s response has however been swift. Governor Samuel Ortom made personal on the spot visits to ascertain the true status of the attacked localities and consoled the bereaved. He also ordered the prompt expulsion of all Fulani herdsmen from the state, a stance which drew nods of approval from the people but also attracted the ire of the police chief in the state who considered the action inappropriate and illegal. The Governor and the Comissioner of Police were soon caught in a standoff that left a sour taste in the mouths of many.

The dismay expressed by many at the turn of events might be traced to the fact that Security agencies who ought by now to have put preemptive strategies in place were caught napping as the marauders came, saw and conquered without challenge from them. Indeed, not a single person has been arrested in connection with any of the attacks so far, rather reports reaching us have it that Jato Aka in Kwande LGA is currently on lock down by the same security agencies who seemed powerless in the face of what can be only be described as a terrorist attack in other parts of the state. And yet the state government’s efforts at curbing the menace were seemingly being thwarted by those actually given the mandate.

Without a doubt, the onus for keeping the Police well equipped, armed and trained lies on the shoulders of the Federal Government. There has never been a time in the history of the Nigerian nation when a need has ever been as glaring as this one currently is. Intelligence gathering is a necessity and can easily be achieved with the current advancements in technology. Security has gradually evolved from a place of reactiveness to pro activeness. These coordinated attacks are randomly unleashed on unsuspecting members of the public by hoodlums some of who actually are Fulani herdsmen (as seen in their own confession regarding the Agatu massacres). Whether all of these attacks can truly be traced to marauding herdsmen however, remains a matter for thorough investigation.

Be that as it may, regardless of who the killers are eventually (hopefully) identified to be and no matter what their motives are, the Nigerian state has witnessed one death too many as a result these unknown murderers. The political will to unmask the brains behind these attackers must be drawn from whatever reserves of inner strength the Federal Government still has left. The masterminds and their financiers must be located and brought to book.

Certainly, the state government also has a major role to play and we commend Governor Samuel Ortom for his untiring efforts to return peace to the state. Shortly after assuming office, the arms buy back project reduced the quantity of small arms scattered across the state as many turned theirs in. The process went smoothly and reports have it that up to 700 such arms were retrieved. All this achieved without the shedding of a single drop of blood.

The Ortom administration has also done its best to halt the activities of a local power monger known simply as Gana who had become a law unto himself and had been named in connection with many murders one of which was that of a close aide to the governor himself. Though still on the run, Gana arguably no longer has the chokehold he once did on the state. This is another commendable gesture as Benue has no interest in contributing its own quota to the pre-existing mix of locally bred terror mongers.

That said, much still remains to be done as we are sure Governor Ortom himself is fully aware.

In line with the state governments efforts at finding a lasting solution to this seemingly never ending tide of violence, therefore, Lawyers Alert recommends the following steps:

The Federal Government:

  • The Federal Government should set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the Ukum and Buruku slaughters with a view to bringing the culprits to book and compensating the victims.
  • The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, send a ministerial delegation to assess the situation in both Ukum and Buruku LGAs and forward their findings straight to the Presidency for immediate action.
  • The deployment of a special TAC team to Benue is welcome.

State Government

  • The Benue State Government should synergize its Security position with the Security Agencies in the State especially the State Police Command.
  • The State Government should set up its own panel of inquiry to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the armed conflict with a view to finding lasting solutions to the problem and compensation of the victims.
  • The Benue State Government should strengthen peace building committees across troubled spots to include herdsmen, farmers and other critical stakeholders.
  • The State House of Assembly should carefully go through the anti-Grazing Bill currently before it which the state government has requested be sped up. In their bid to reach a quick conclusion, the people of Benue should not be saddled with a law that could work against the interests of the people as feelers seem to indicate at the moment.


In Conclusion, Lawyers Alert considers all extrajudicial killings as a gross violation of fundamental Human Rights. All lives are sacrosanct and where any life is taken for any reason beyond judicial spheres, the responsibility lies on Government at all levels to remedy the situation and bring to justice the perpetrators of such dastardly acts.

Borno must never be replicated anywhere else in Nigeria. Enough is enough. The time to act is NOW.

Rommy Mom Esq

President, Lawyers Alert


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Posted by on March 25, 2017 in Uncategorized



Startled by this loud reverberation from her phone, Ms. Elizabeth Johnson (not real name) jumps out of bed, looked at her bedside clock it is 6:00am in the morning. She quickly reached out for the phone. Remembering it is the reminder alarm she had set the previously, to keep “6th February, 2017 handy as it is the International day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), a monument she never forgets.

Female genital mutilation also known as female genital cutting or circumcision is a rite removal of the female genitalia. It is a common practice found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. According to UNICEF Report of 2016, a total of 200 million women are estimated to have undergone the procedures of FGM and are alive in 30 countries including 27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraq Kurdistan and Yemen.  This form of circumcision is an equivalent of that of a male child in severity. This is usually conducted by a traditional circumciser particularly an older woman using a blade. The circumcision method varies depending on the country and/or ethnic group. Like circumcision for boys takes place on the eighth day after birth, most ethnic group takes from days after birth to puberty and beyond.

Dated far back as 1929 following the lead of Mario Scott Steven, a Church of Scotland Missionary, the Kenya Missionary Council already referred to Female Genital Mutilation as the Sexual Mutilation of Women. But till 2004 in Laikipiaplateau Kenya, the Kenyans still front it as an honourable rite called the “Samburu FGM ceremony”. But of what significance is it to their victims?

Elizabeth Johnson, had lost her cousin to the cold hands of death at childbirth owing to this practice that violates human rights. It drains her emotionally each time this International day is marked. What can be done to abolish or eradicate this inhuman tradition?  She recalls the  damaging health effects of FGM that often results in woman having recurrent infections, difficulty passing urine and menstrual flow with excruciating pain and worse of all the inability to get pregnant and/or childbirth complications.

Female Genital Mutilation according to health professional and/or practitioners has no benefit instead inflicts health challenges.  From the research carried out, the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were the first to have referred to this act as Female Genital Mutilation in 1990 and 1991. Others used terms such as female genital cutting (FGC) also female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), which is said to be the most preferred by persons who work with practitioners.

A report also had it that Female Genital Mutilation are of classes, these include cutting without removal of flesh, partial or complete removal of the clitoral hood and/or clitoral glands and also removal of flesh and sewing of same called “infibulation”. This procedure is done by clasping the foreskin together and allowing only a little passage for excretion purposes (urine and menstrual fluid). Such victims when married are faced with diverse challenges including health implications, lack of penetration, inability in getting pregnant and complications at childbirth due to the little open. In this regard victims are required to be cut open in order for them to either be penetrated or have their children with ease at every point of childbirth.  The sole reason behind this tradition is to prevent the girl child from being exposed to social exclusion, where an African mother wants to regular her daughters’ sexuality, purity, modesty and beauty sees it as an honour to inflict her with such pain and trauma.

Following the recap of Female Genital Mutilation, it may seem antiquated and ancient but surprisingly it is still making waves in most parts of Nigeria including the South West and South East. Female Genital Mutilation is a long standing tradition that is carried out by most Nigerian women on their daughters and grand-daughters. This act as performed by those women using razors, knives and other sharp objects is not mindful of the dangers of infections of different degrees. They see it as a way of protection and prevention from extreme sexuality and the voice of disgrace. Female Genital Mutilation is a pathetic issue confronting women in the name of purification, modesty and beauty. Where a woman cannot enjoy the free and natural gift as endowed her by her creator is injustice, inhuman and the highest level of women human rights violation and it all boils down to the issue of gender inequality and denial of sexual and reproductive health rights.

The consequences of all of these is the unsafe nature of the device used for this mutilation which are not sterilized yet are used on several of the children in the same home or community where it takes place as the circumcisers are traditionalists and know nothing about sterilization or the need for the safe health of those children being mutilated. It is also done without anaesthesia because medical practitioners are not involved in most cases and such children are left in cruelty.

A report from a Ugandan nurse quoted in 2007, “The Lancet”, ‘a cutter would use one knife on up to 30 girls at a time’. Whereas in Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia and Sudan Health professionals are often involved, but only in Egypt was it recorded to have 77 percent of FGM procedures performed by medical professionals as of 2008 and 2016.

Another report from UNFPA 2015 shows that in Nigeria states like Ekiti, Ebonyi, Imo, Lagos and Oyo are well known for this traditional practice but Oyo is said to have ranked the highest in female genital mutilation with over 76.3 percent.

Filled with content after series of research work Ms. Elizabeth only sees FGM as ‘the mayhem of all times’. Looking up ways to save the lives of others from dying like her cousin. She felt the need to call on mothers all over Africa and beyond who are still in the practice of FGM to rather stand in defence of the rights of their daughters and their unborn granddaughters instead of ingraining in the tradition and culture that inflicts health challenges and even sorrow to themselves as it is the only way forward to allowing this path of harmful tradition to die a natural death and fight with the weapon we know best, which is the implementation and domestication of the available legal resources, conventions and instruments such as ‘Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), 2015, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)’ etc. In the spirit of working together to put an end to FGM, the 5 mile Women Walk she will be leading will be a way of saying it loud and clear: NO MORE!

Marie-Uneje Jerome is with Lawyers Alert  +234 073 129 6971

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Uncategorized




Reason to monitor Human Rights Abuses

By Sunday Adaji Esq

One common denominator among human rights defenders is the passion to fight, protect, and defend the fundamental rights of citizens. This passion has led some lawyers to sacrifice their time, money, resources and even life and limb, in defense of citizens’ inalienable rights.

The history of the human rights struggle is as old as the history of mankind. In the Bible, we read how Cain murdered Abel his brother in cold blood. There was no justification for the murder of Abel by Cain. From the time of Abel till now, human rights abuse has continued to rise at a geometric rate while the rate of protection and defence against human rights abuse, on the other hand, only rises arithmetically. Just when you have successfully prosecuted a case of human rights abuse and want to jubilate, you hear yet more cases of others whose rights have been infringed.

Nigeria, has witnessed all forms of human rights abuse by the state actors whether during the military era or in the democratic dispensation and by non-state actors.  Thousands of citizens have been killed by Boko Haram terrorists and millions of others were rendered homeless due to Boko Haram’s invasion In every nook and cranny of the country, human rights abuse exist. Issues of child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, rape, lynching, homicides, baby factories aimed at making babies primarily for commercial purposes, deprivation, false imprisonment, etc still abound and actually appear to be on the increase. 

As long as rights exist, so shall abuses, making the need to monitor paramount. So long human rights defenders make efforts at combating  human rights abuse and reducing it to the barest minimum, dignity of more persons can be protected. abusers.

We will not forget in a hurry heroes in Nigeria the military era for example. Be they organizations like NADECO, CLO or persons like  the Fawehinmis, the Ransome – Kutis, the Agbakobas, or the Nigerian Press, and many others too numerous to mention, who wrestled with military dictatorships and eventually saw them out of power. The feat achieved by these human-rights-minded Nigerians convinces me beyond an iota of doubt that we can reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum, if only we are willing to contribute our quota towards protecting and defending citizens from having their human rights abused.

Everyday people’s rights are violated with impunity. Some, we witness ourselves, others are reported to us. And many others are reported on the internet and in the print and electronic media, yet we do nothing about them. We cannot continue to fold our arms and watch perpetrators violate people’s rights. We have to show and feel concerned with what happens to others. We might be the next victim! You never can tell!

There is always something you can do when you see other people’s rights being abused. Don’t shrug your shoulders, walk away and say, “It is none of my business.” It is your business. If it doesn’t concern you today, it may concern you tomorrow. Be your brother’s keeper. Do something. You can report to the police, you can report to the press. We have many radio stations, television stations and print media around us. We also have many human rights organizations around us, they are within your reach.

We don’t have to keep mute in the face human rights abuse. The reason human rights abuse is rampant is because we are not doing anything about it. If we are ready to do something about it, we will reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum.

And for us human rights lawyers, TENACITY is our watchword! We are not relenting, we are not quitting! We will not fold our arms! More often than not, we will spend our money, time and resources pursuing this just cause, but these are the sacrifices we must make to ensure that people enjoy their inalienable rights.

Sunday Adaji is a human rights lawyer and legal officer with Lawyers Alert. He can be reached on 07061016859

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