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COVID-19 NATIONAL RESPONSE: IMPACT OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC AMONG PERSONS LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS

BACKGROUND

The upsurge/rise in covid-19 pandemic has really affected various segments of the world’s population. Among the population mostly affected are the the vulnerable persons in the society, especially Persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). There is no doubt that COVID-19 infection came without any form of readiness on the part of mankind, and this had claimed millions of lives while we keep recording increase in the number of dead people every day as well as increase in the number of people who are infected with the virus.

Impact of COVID-19 on PLWHA.

Statistics shows that over 22.7 million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS within 2020 and are receiving Antiretroviral Drugs. It appears HIV/AIDS no longer exists because of the impact of COVID-19, however, HIV/AIDS still remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low and middle income countries. Since the outburst of covid19 infection, it seems the government have diverted its attention from PLWHA to people infected with Covid-19 infections.

Funding was actually a supporting factor that has really helped PLWHA to access their drugs in health care centers. What these means is that, with the help of funds it enables them to run the different kind of tests they needed before getting their drugs through their health care facilities, but with the outburst of COVID-19, funds were not made available for drugs to get into the hands of PLWHA. This has worsened the medical condition of many PLWHA and has resulted to deaths of some of them.

Also, access to health care facilities was a major challenge for PLWHA because with the lock down many PLWHIV were unable to access the health care facilities, leaving them physiological traumatized because the renewal of their drugs was due but they had no way of getting/accessing the drugs, since hospitals were locked down. There was no form of Tele-medicine, that is, the means of referral by which patients who are in need of their drugs are able to access their drugs within their locality.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused untold hardship for many people as they were unable to go about their businesses and normal life activities. This was a challenging period for them as their source of livelihood and means of survival were put on hold and no money to pay for their drugs/treatment because of the lockdown.

There is need to sensitize PLWHA on the precautionary measures to be taken to avoid contracting Covid-19 infection. They need to be informed about safety measures required to prevent them from getting infected. HIV/AIDS is already a health challenge for PLWHA. The challenge becomes higher if they get exposed to COVID-19 infection. To prevent the double challenges, COVID-19 sensitization should not be left out with PLWHA as they are also affected like other normal persons who do not follow the safety and precautionary measures given by WHO (World Health Organization), as a means of not getting infected by the virus.

Remedies  

Government should tackle the gap in the funding of HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 pandemic. HIV/AIDS is also a deadly disease that needs government interventions to enable PLWHA to carry out the necessary tests required before accessing the drugs for their treatment. Also, Telemedicine should be considered as another medium of facilitating treatment, if in the future there is a re-occurrence of such pandemic. This will enable patients to have access to health care professionals at a distance, using telecommunications to get proper treatment for their ailments. 

 This also includes the adoption of tele-medicine into our health care systems to enable patients to access drugs, healthcare facilities, or pharmaceutical shops close to them. This will help keep their health status in check.

Another suggestion is the creation of awareness and sensitization on covid-19 among PLWHA. The awareness/sensitization will include educating PLWHA on the preventive measures against Covid-19 infection and how to curtail the spread from infected persons to non- infected persons. PLWHA are to be sensitized because having HIV/AIDS does not prevent them from contracting covid-19, if they are not following the preventive measures which includes the use of face masks.

Finally, we recommend that our governments should regularly enforce preventive measures against COVID-19 infection which includes: avoiding overcrowding in public places, use of face mask, washing of hands with soap and water, and use of alcoholic based hand sanitizer should also be enforced in public places. Social gathering should be banned and social distancing should be enforced. As citizens of the country, we observe and enforce the preventive measures, it is hoped that COVID-19 infection will be effectively controlled and reduced to the barest minimum, not only among PLWHA but among members of the public as a whole.

WRITTEN BY BLESSING MASE

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.

Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.

 A woman with a voice is by definition, a strong woman.

International Women’s Day was marked on the 8th of March. The global theme for International Women’s Day in 2021 is ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.’

Taking us back the history, in 1908, where in the midst of very poor working conditions and exploitation, 15,000 women marched to the streets in New York to protest for shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. A year later, the Socialist Party of America announced a National Women’s Day to honor the 15,000 women, and in 1910 it went global, the Socialist International voted for the creation of a Women’s Day to advocate for suffrage.

International Women’s Day is a day to recognize how far we’ve come towards gender equality, and also how far we have left to go. Back in 1911, only eight countries allowed women to vote, equal pay for equal work was unheard of, that is, if women were allowed to work at all, and reproductive rights were non-existent.”

The story has changed considerably though we still have a long way to go. During the uncivilized days of Britain and other developed countries of the world, gender inequality was considered fit and proper. Women were relegated to the background and were not carried along or represented in the scheme of things. It was widely believed that women lacked the capacity to enter into a contract. For this reason, they were deprived of the opportunity to do so. In Africa, it was worse and still worse. The customs and tradition of virtually all ethnic groups in Africa regarded women as properties to be acquired and owned, and as such, women were not qualified to inherit their parents’ and husbands’ properties. And when you talk about women in leadership, it was a mirage. It was almost a taboo for women to be at the helm of affairs, lording it over men. But as stated earlier on, all these are gradually fading into limbo.

Talk about participation in politics and voting, the gender inequality gap is closing. More women are taking leadership positions in politics. In Rwanda, for instance, women have a greater proportion of seats in the Rwandan parliament. In many countries of the world, women are voting and being voted for. Saudi Arabia has modified its law and women are now permitted to drive cars. Recently, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (former Minister of Finance in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan) was elected Director-General of the World Trade Organization. She contested against seven contenders among whom were men, and she won.

More than ever before, we are seeing more shining lights pointing in the direction of gender equality. We are observing the reality of the saying: “what men can do women can also do”, and sometimes do better. In the area of education, commerce, industry, investment, etc., women are excelling, taking the driving seat, and driving the economy.

COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt impacted women and girls negatively, facts gathered have proven that in Nigeria and many parts of the world, more cases of rape, gender-based violence, and child abuse occurred during the lockdown. It is gratifying to note that more women are at the forefront of the fight to control the spread of COVID-19 all over the world, which shows part of the ways women have contributed positively during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To review and ensuring women can access opportunities, rights without discrimination, economic participation amidst pandemics is achieved and in commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day, Lawyers Alert organized a webinar on Friday 5th of March, 2021 to discuss issues of COVID-19: Gender Parity and Women’s Rights. In case you missed the webinar, you can watch the replay on YouTube ( https://youtu.be/4SAgwZ8Ak6s )or Facebook ( https://web.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=317941519886158&ref=watch_permalink )

MOVING FORWARD

We implore the Nigerian government to formulate and enforce policies aimed at increasing women’s access to leadership roles. We must remove hindrances to the attainment of gender equality. We must do away with myths, stereotypes, customs, and traditions, conducts, and practices that relegate women to the background and deprive them of their rights and freedom.

This year’s theme: “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World,” is a call for CSOs and human rights activists to intensify their advocacy for gender equality, equal rights, equal opportunities, equal freedom, sexual and reproductive health, and rights, right to education, inclusion, and integration. This is the path to achieving an equal future in this COVID-19 world.

Lawyers Alert is leaving no stone unturned in its commitment to promote the rights and dignity of women and to advocate for policies that will increase women’s access to leadership roles in Nigeria. WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS. Let us pursue this cause and together we can have an equal future in this COVID-19 generation and beyond.

WRITTEN BY AYOMIDE JOSHUA 

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

HIV Discrimination at Workplace

HIV Discrimination at Workplace

About three decades ago, HIV/AIDS used to be one of the most dreaded illnesses all over the world, but the story has changed now. Thanks to the advancement in the field of science, medicine and technology. HIV infection spread like wild fire and it was destructive. There was not much knowledge about preventive measures that should be adopted to control the spread, coupled with the stigma and discrimination.

Although it is scientifically proved that HIV is not contacted through casual contact such as hugging, shaking of hands, touching, being close to a person with HIV/AIDS, sharing of clothes, dishes, toilet seats, eating together, but stigma and discrimination were strife. There was high rate of stigma and discrimination due to inadequate information and awareness about how HIV is contacted.

The increasing rate of stigma and discrimination prompted Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Human Rights Organisations (HROs) to agitate and advocate for a legislative framework that would prohibit all forms of discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The efforts of these organizations paid off when eventually the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act 2014 was passed to law. Presently, many States in Nigeria have enacted their HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) laws.

The HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act/Laws were enacted to put an end to all forms of discrimination against PLWHA. Section 1 (a) of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act 2014 states: “The purpose of the Act is to protect the rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS by eliminating all forms of discrimination based on HIV status.”

HIV Discrimination at Workplace
Although increased awareness has helped to whittle down the rate of HIV discrimination, it still has a huge socio-economic impact on the society. In the world of work, PLWHA are still discriminated against on the basis of their HIV status. HIV discrimination at workplace takes various forms. The following are acts amounting to HIV discrimination at workplace:

  • Requirement of HIV test as a precondition to an offer of employment.
  • Refusal to employ a person on the grounds of his/her HIV status.
  • Denying PLWHA access to medication.
  • Posting PLWHA to places where they cannot access treatment, medication and facilities.
  • Termination of employment on the basis of real or perceived HIV status.
  • Ostracizing staff living with HIV/AIDS from other staff.
  • Preventing staff living with HIV/AIDS from using organisations’ public facilities, library and toilets.

Many employers who engage in acts amounting to HIV discrimination may not be aware of the consequences of their actions. However, ignorance of the law, they say, is not an excuse. Since the enactment of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act 2014, some employers of labour who engaged in one form of HIV discrimination or the other, have been prosecuted and made to pay damages to their affected staff for violating their rights and dignity, as guaranteed under the Constitution and under the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act 2014. An example is Mr. X case, who was job unlawfully terminated due to his HIV status, Lawyers Alert helped him get justice, read story here

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

Awareness Creation
The government’s efforts aimed at eliminating all forms of HIV discrimination will not yield the desired results if employers of labour are not enlightened on the need to comply with the provisions of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) legislation. There is need to create constant awareness on the obligation of employers to comply with the provisions of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) legislation. The more awareness we create, the faster the progress we will make in our collective efforts aimed at eliminating HIV discrimination at workplace. The contributions of CSOs, NGOs, HROs, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and other relevant government agencies are required in this regard.

Enforcement of HIV LegislationAwareness creation alone is not enough to eliminate all forms of HIV discrimination at workplace in Nigeria. Employers of labour found violating the provisions of the provisions of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) legislation must be sanctioned, as stipulated in the legislation, to serve as deterrent to others.

In view of the foregoing, employees/workers who have been discriminated against on the basis of their HIV status should come out to report. The era of keeping silent in the face of violation has passed. To eliminate all forms of HIV discrimination at workplace in the society, victims of HIV discrimination at workplace must report violations. Where reports are made and violations are established, employers of labour who violate the provisions of the HIV and AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) legislation should be made to face the wrath of the law either by instituting criminal or civil action against them in the court of law.

OUR STANCE
Lawyers Alert is committed to protecting the rights and dignity of PLWHA through advocacy, counselling and provision of free legal services. With the kind contributions and collaboration of all and sundry, we can eliminate all forms of HIV discrimination at workplace, and the society will be the better for it.        

Written By: Ayomide Joshua 

 

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THE ARRIVING COVID-19 VACCINE

THE ARRIVING COVID-19 VACCINE

Humans have been aggrieved by diseases transmitted from animals, history has proven this. From the 1998 Nipah virus in Malaysia to the 2014 Ebola virus across West Africa, the current coronavirus outbreak is the latest to have taken place in recent years. The World Health Organization has declared four global health emergencies over the past decade and research reveals outbreaks are becoming more common.

Now the pandemic is over but Covid 19 numbers are still counting, hence the importance of preparing all countries for Covid-19 vaccine introduction and the administering of the vaccine. Several organizations, WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, and partners are working together at the global and regional levels to develop and disseminate adaptable guidance, training, planning and monitoring tools, and advocacy materials and to provide technical assistance and support to countries. According to Achim Steiner, United Nation Development Programs Administrator–“We are already hard at work, together with our UN family and other partners, on three immediate priorities: supporting the health response including the procurement and supply of essential health products, under WHO’s leadership, strengthening crisis management and response, and addressing critical social and economic impacts.”

One of the initial resources developed is the Covid-19 VIRAT. This tool is intended to be used by Ministries of Health, with support from WHO and UNICEF Country Offices where relevant, to provide a roadmap for countries to plan for Covid-19 vaccine introduction and a structured framework for countries to self-monitor their readiness progress against key milestones. The Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) have oversight of regulatory checks and approvals for public delivery and the use of medicines and other critical health technologies, including vaccines, within their countries. All vaccines will need to be registered with these agencies, whose job it is to ensure that they meet the necessary standards for safety, quality, and efficacy.

National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has been working on Pre Covid- 19 vaccine by sensitizing Nigerians, CSOs groups among others, to make the dissemination of the vaccine stress-free. The vaccine is said to come into Nigeria in two batches.  Based on WHO guidelines, the first batch of the vaccine will be prioritized among health workers in the first quarter of 2021. Then other frontline workers (Immigration Airport, personal at testing centers, targeted uniformed personnel), elderly aged groups, vulnerable individuals with Co-morbid conditions would also be prioritized due to their exposure to the virus. Nigeria plans to reach 70% of the population with the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2022.

Some of the advantages of taking this Covid-19 vaccination are: as immunity, Covid 19 vaccine will offer natural protection, facts have proven that wearing masks and social distancing help reduce chances of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, been vaccinated against covid -19 help to fight against the virus in one’s body if at any means one is being infected after vaccination.

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

WRITTEN BY RAPHAEL DIDEL

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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THE BANNING, SEIZING AND BURNING OF MOTORCYCLES IN KATSINA ALA AND UKUM AREAS OF BENUE STATE. ITS IMPLICATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE

THE BANNING, SEIZING AND BURNING OF MOTORCYCLES IN KATSINA ALA AND UKUM AREAS OF BENUE STATE. ITS IMPLICATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE

PREAMBLE:

Tuesday, the 29th day of December 2020, turned out to be a red-letter day for the residents of Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Sankere axis of Benue State of Nigeria, when the State Security Council, through the Bureau of Internal Affairs and Special Services, banned the use of motorcycles in those local government areas of the state.

The council in a statement by the permanent secretary, directed security agencies to arrest defaulters and impound their motorcycles. A premise upon which, the Nigerian Army, acting under the authority of the State Security Council, had impounded, set ablaze, burnt and destroyed over 50 motorcycles belonging to the residents of Katsina Ala and Ukum Local Government Areas, without trail before a court of competent jurisdiction and further subjecting the indigent masses to a greater level of futility, destitution and despondency.  

LEGAL FRAMEWORK GOVERNING THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS WITHIN THE NIGERIAN CONCEPT

It is trite and fundamental principle of law by the combined interpretation of the express provisions Sections 36 and 44 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended) that the Right to Fair Hearing and Right to acquisition and ownership of property is protected and guaranteed.

Section 36(1) clearly provides that ‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”

Section 44(1) No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any part of Nigeria ecept in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by law…..”’

REGIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, (hereinafter referred to as ACHPR), a document which has been domesticated and forms part of the body of laws in Nigeria, clearly and unequivocally guarantees freedom from discrimination and equal protection and equality of individuals before the law. The treaty which was signed in 1981, but did not become a law in Nigeria until when the National Assembly ratified and enforced it as applicable law in Nigeria. The Charter is now known as the AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS (RATIFICATION AND ENFORCEMENT) ACT (CAP 10) OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA 1990

Article 2 of the Act, clearly provides that ‘Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedom recognized and guaranteed in the present charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status’

Article 3(1) (2) provides that Every individual shall be equal before the law, and every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.

Article 7

  1. Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises:
    1. The right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations and customs in force;
    1. The right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal;
    1. The right to defense, including the right to be defended by counsel of his choice;
    1. The right to be tried within a reasonable time by an impartial court or tribunal.

The above constitutional provisions, clearly raises questions that begs for answers:

  1. Is the action of the Nigerian Army, in arresting, confiscating and burning of motorcycles of the residents of Ukum, Katsina Ala Sankere axis of Benue state without reference to the principles of Natural Justice and without following the due process of the law of having alleged offenders brought before a court of competent jurisdiction to stand trial, not constitute an infringement of the fundamental rights of the people as enshrined in the constitution?
  2. Is the action of the State Security Council in passing a directive banning and confiscating the motorcycles of the residents, taking away the only source of livelihood of most of the residents without an adequate alternative for the sustenance of the affected residents, further subjecting the poor masses to a further state of destitution and despondency justifiable?

THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS IN THE ATTAINMENT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

Civil society groups, have created positive social changes in numerous places throughout the world. Benue State of Nigeria, is not an exception. LAWYERS ALERT, a right based civil society organization, having its Headquarters in Makurdi the capital of Benue State, has been astute in speaking out boldly and condemning in strong and vehement terms, the insensitivity of the Government of Benue state to the despondent masses of Katsina Ala, Ukum and Sankere axis of the state, especially with the recent directive of the State Security Council placing a ban on the use of motorcycle and invariably taking away the source of livelihood of the common masses.

These actions have cumulated into a law suit by LAWYERS ALERT, against the Benue State Government demanding justice for the residents of the affected areas who have been thrown into a further sate of futility. Kudos to LAWYERS ALERT, for the right step in the right direction.

RECOMMENDATIONS

From the above consideration, it suffices to say that if the rendition of the constitution “WE THE PEOPLE” is to have a meaningful impact, then it must have the force of general application without prejudice.

The following recommendations are worthy of consideration:

  1. The Government of Benue State should be more proactive in addressing the security situation in Katsina Ala and Ukum areas. The deployment of 1.The deployment of the Nigerian Army and presence of more police personnel to the region is a good attempt but not a solution. It is high time to get the locals involved in their own security. Therefore, community policing is an indispensable tool in curbing the crime rate in the affected regions. (Nothing for us without us), the locals know the nooks and cranny of their community and thus can easily fish out recalcitrant individuals therein. 
  2. The condition of the roads in both Katsina Ala and Ukum is such in a deplorable state, making it a haven for thieves and bandits to make a clean sweep, for often times, motorists are forced to slow down on high ways due largely to the pot holes and several obstacles that have bedevilled the only road leading to the districts. It is sad and pathetic that a journey from the state capital Makurdi to Katsina Ala, last as long as three to four hours as a result of the deplorable condition of the road, for a journey that ordinarily should not exceed a maximum of two hours. The State Government should give attention to the deplorable state of the roads.  
  3. History has shown that a ban placed on the livelihood of the people has never resulted in attainment of security in the district. Years back, Government in place at the time in question, placed a ban on the use of a particular Toyota model in Katsina Ala popularly known in the local parlance as (DOG YANSH) for reasons that it was being used by kidnappers and bandits to unleash mayhem on the community. In spite of the ban, crime rate in the district never abated. What good then will the ban on motorcycle have in securing the lives and property of the locals other than to heap hardship on the poor who would barely manage to keep their heads above water?    
  4. If the Government is bent on eradicating the use of motorcycles, can they in turn make provisions for the replacement of same with tricycles to convey the poor masses from one destination to the other?
  5. Can the Government as an alternative to an outright ban, rather impose curfews at designated hours to restrict the movement and activities of nefarious characters in the district?

CONCLUSION

From the above consideration, one fundamental principle looms large, that discrimination against any individual or groups of persons, is unacceptable. OUR HUMANITY should be paramount in ensuring Dignity and Rights of ALL PERSONS. 

Presented by: VICTOR EBOH ESQ                                                                                           
LEGAL/REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS OFFICER, LAWYERS ALERT

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2021 in access to justice

 

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THE UNTAPPED RESOURCES WE SHOULD BE MAXIMIZING

THE UNTAPPED RESOURCES WE SHOULD BE MAXIMIZING

The severity of one’s disability does not determine their level of potential. The greatest barriers that persons with disabilities have to overcome are not steps or curbs, it’s expectations – Karen Clay

Persons with disabilities in Nigeria persistently face stigma, discrimination, and barriers to accessing basic social services and economic opportunities. Today, they face greater barriers brought about by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Disability Report, about 15 percent of Nigeria’s population, or at least 25 million people, have a disability.

Unemployment rates among persons with disabilities are almost double that of the general population, owing to attitudinal, mobility-related, technological, and physical barriers (lack of accessible workplaces). Assistive devices are expensive and not easily available, which limits the mobility and access to technology for persons with disabilities. In addition, many will experience frequent denial of job opportunities, employers’ negatives attitudes, inappropriate job placement, lower expectations at work, and a lack of reasonable accommodation.

These challenges among others compound the vulnerability of persons with disabilities, and especially during COVID-19. A distinct absence of data pertaining to disability prevalence and the different forms of disabilities persists in Nigeria, which in turn challenges effective policy responses and data driven programming.

Many World Changers today are Persons with Disabilities who through their various feats have proved to the world that disability is not in the mind. These men and women have gone ahead to set higher standards in their various fields through the feats they accomplished. Some of these men and women include; Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, Walt Disney, Maya Angelou, Nicholas James Vujicic and our very own Cobhams Asuquo.

On the 18th of May, 2020 in the heart of the COVID -19 pandemic, Lawyers Alert found a large crowd of persons staged around the Deputy Governor’ Office’ entrance, and upon enquiry found out that they were members of the Benue State Association of the Deaf.

Lawyers Alert (LA) invited representatives of the association to our first meeting, a conversation that was purely inscription based. The Chairperson of the Association stated that his community members who are scattered across the 23 LGAs are dying from sickness and starvation; most especially because they do not have means of livelihood. Some members of the deaf community are married with children and some of those children’ parents (deaf) are also dead and long buried yet no one is taking responsibility for them.

According to the chairperson and his community, skills acquisition has been their heart cry but the government has completely failed to assist them in any way possible to see that they are economically stable. that since the COVID-19 Pandemic, Government has not made any effort to reach out to their community.

After this meeting, we started the BSAD project in partnership with House of Hilkiah Foundation (HOHF) with the goal of providing entrepreneurship trainings for 20 members of the community as well as carry out other activities on our work plan which we developed in conjunction with the community.  During this period, we discovered one of them who is an amazing artist who needs a good platform to showcase his work, which further corroborates the fact that disability does not affect the potentials or dreams of anybody.                           

It is important that government officials, policymakers, decision makers and Civil Society Organisations are aware of the importance of disability as a development issue and enhance data collection on disability. A concerted effort to raise awareness surrounding disability issues would serve to shift negative perceptions and stigma against persons with disabilities among families and communities. 

In order to forge a disability-inclusive recovery from COVID-19, support for existing disability inclusion legislation in Nigeria is imperative. This means promoting the implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 and strengthening the institutional landscape for disability inclusion through the Disability Commission. A woman with a physical disability from Abuja captures the issue well – “Persons with disabilities should not relax and think ‘we now have a law, everything you need will fall into place.’ No, we must continue to work, to advocate for implementation.” 

Furthermore, investments in inclusive employment and livelihood interventions are critical to addressing unemployment challenges among persons with disabilities. These could include entrepreneurship training and business advisory services, as well as the promotion of locally produced assistive devices and accessible workplaces. Disability-focused organizations in Nigeria should be empowered to support this process and provide services to persons with disabilities and caregivers[1].


[1] https://blogs.worldbank.org/nasikiliza/social-inclusion-persons-disabilities-nigeria-challenges-and-opportunities

BY INNOCENT DORIS UZOAMAKA

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: Lawyers Alert Mourns Barrister Moses Udam

ANNOUNCEMENT: Lawyers Alert Mourns Barrister Moses Udam

It is with heavy hearts that the members, staff, and management of Lawyers Alert formally announce the passing of our one-time President, Barrister Moses Udam, who served as President between 2010 to 2012. Moses Udam was murdered on the night of Tuesday, December 15, 2020, in his home in Makurdi, Benue State, alongside his wife by assailants, yet to be tracked and arrested.

The unfortunate incident has come to Lawyers Alert as a total shock given Moses was a good-natured person with a peaceful disposition and total commitment to the plight of the underprivileged, especially prisoners. He facilitated the release of hundreds of detainees at detention centers and was a human rights activist of repute, especially in Benue and North Central Nigeria.

During his time at Lawyers Alert, Moses was noted for selfless service, always looking out for the weak, humane disposition and hard work amidst a deep conviction that free legal services are key to access to justice. He served as the North Central Coordinator of the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, over two terms.

Upon leaving Lawyers Alert he made an unsuccessful bid to win elections to serve as Chairman of the Makurdi Local Government. He was running a very successful law practice, with a leaning to free legal services for the downtrodden before his murder alongside his wife.

Lawyers Alert mourns Moses and regrets the poor state of security where Nigerians lose lives to assailants and men of the underworld at a rate that is presently worrisome. The ability to get away with these crimes, as in the present case, is a strong motivation for men of the underworld.

We call on the government to enhance internal security across the country as this is key in the respect to life and property, the primary function of government. We equally call for the apprehension and trial of the killers of Moses Udam and his wife.

Lawyers Alert will be organizing a colloquium “Security, Access to justice and Right to Life” on the 4th of February 2021 at Benue Hotels, Makurdi in honor of Moses Udam.

Management,
Lawyers Alert.

 

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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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RIGHTS OF A WOMAN IN AFRICAN COMMUNITIES

RIGHTS OF A WOMAN IN AFRICAN COMMUNITIES

Rights are God’s given, are these rights applicable to only men in some African Communities? One would ask. In many African communities, women are been subjected to harmful practices which  violates their fundamental human rights as human beings, some of these practices includes female genital mutilation, domestic labour , right to education amongst others.

In many African communities, women and girls are seen as lesser human beings, they are force to go through all forms of human rights violations owing to their gender, these violations are often not reported or documented, and it affects their mental health and reduces their self-esteem. Do women and girls have right in some African Communities? I asked.

In some African Communities, women  cannot own land or right to child custody and when their husband dies, they are force to bath the dead body and drink the water in other to appease gods of the land, these practices are not applicable to men when their wives dies. Do the African woman and the girl child has right? I asked. Gender based violence is not a big deal in many African communities even in the cities, laws and policies are weak. In Kogi state Nigeria, a lady was beaten to pulp by the state commissioner which attracted the attention of many human rights defenders but it was not a big deal in the eyes of many just because she is a woman.

If truly rights are God’s given and if African women and girls have rights, we must begin to advocate for proper protection of the African woman from harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, right to child custody and right to western education amongst others. Women are better managers and home builders; we cannot subject them to harmful practices without protection. Let’s support the African women and the girl child to enjoy full rights as men do without gender inequality. Women too have rights, we must enhance them.

By Elvis Torkuma.

 
 

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‘RECOVER BETTER – STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS’

‘RECOVER BETTER – STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS’

Human Rights is celebrated every 10th day of December over the world. The day has been chosen to coincide with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – a document detailing the 30 fundamental rights that are said to be naturally available to any one born human – in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Human Rights Day affords every country and other smaller entities the opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in rebuilding the world. It is an occasion for individuals, organizations and even nations to show solidarity with one another and create awareness about the rights of the people. The chosen topic of this piece has actually been adopted from the theme for this year’s celebration. In view of the ravaging and damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that took the world by shock, it is not strange that this theme has been chosen. As countries recover from the incalculable destruction done to its economy and the human capital, I presume the theme is reminding us that we can only recover better when all of us stand up to defend our rights and those of others. Enough of our indolence as it concerns issues of human rights.

A cursory look at relevant records and statistics in Africa does not present any encouraging pictures as the continent has become notorious for armed conflicts with all forms of violations including torture; worse forms of communal violence with large number of internally displaced persons as never before witnessed; arbitrary arrests and other incidence of extra-judicial killings; serious violence against the weakest citizens; human trafficking and various forms of modern slavery; severe economic deprivations; extreme cases of insecurity, just to mention a few. Indeed, all these are common indicators of serious human rights violations, just as they undermine the relevance of any government and the entrenchment of constitutional democracy. The continent of Africa is acclaimed to be home to the largest number of people that live in abject poverty. In fact, Africa holds the records in virtually all the negative indicators that exist- has about the highest maternal mortality rates, extreme low literacy levels and very poor healthcare systems. Such pictures do not in any way give hope of any better future for the continent. At best, they have crystallized into reactions that have placed the situations in Africa in vicious cycles that qualify for extreme emergencies.

 In Nigeria, the human rights situation is not any different from the general picture that the continent of Africa portrays. The human rights records coming out of and about this country have been gloomy. It is even ironical that the self-acclaimed constitutional democracy that the country assumed since 1999 has not done anything to improve the situation. Across Nigeria, reports abound of unprecedented hostilities to peaceful and legitimate protests, unlawful arrests and detentions without trials, farmers–herders conflicts, banditries and insurgencies leading to abductions, rape and other sexual abuses. All over Nigeria, especially in the North Eastern part, thousands of lives have been lost and a large number of people displaced from their homes thereby leading Nigeria to have one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. The Boko Haram terrorists that have operated almost freely in parts of the country have cut short the educational pursuits of many school girls and other children. It is of particular interest that all these are happening in country where basic access to education is so low.

In recent times, there have been serious attempts by governments and their agencies to stifle the social and other media and to also shrink the civil society spaces. A lot have been done by the two chambers of the National Assembly to pass laws that would muzzle the social media and that which would cede the controls of civil societies to government. Success in this direction would see freedom of expression gravely impeded.

Although some critical pieces of legislation such as the Violence Against Persons (Prohibited) Act, the Child’s Rights Act, the Administration of the Criminal Justice, Act and HIV/AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act have been passed in the last five years or so to booster the rights of the relevant population; not much has been achieved in terms of implementations. These laws being products of the National Assembly will need domestication in the various states to make them operational at that level. As at the last count, no single one of the pieces of legislation has enjoyed domestication in more than half of the 36 states of the federation. This development does not show that things are looking up and going in the direction.

As the world celebrates the Human Rights Day, it would be appropriate to recall that sometime in August 2017, Vice President Osinbajo (then acting as the president) in August 2017 constituted a civilian-led presidential investigative panel to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement. The panel conducted hearings across the country and submitted its findings to the presidency in February 2018. As of December 2020, the content of the report had not been made public. It cannot also be forgotten in a hurry the recent ENDSARS protests that swept across the country and some of the alleged violations and human rights abuses that accompanied them. The popular Lekki killings where men in military uniforms were said to have opened fire on armless civilians is still fresh in our memories. Right now, judicial panels of enquiry are being set up to investigate allegations of abuses against police personnel. While the dusts generated by the controversies surrounding the setting up of the panels are yet to settle, it is expected that the reports to be submitted by same will be considered and implemented. This is the only way we can show the world that we are serious and ready to safeguard the rights of our people.

As the theme for this year’s celebration goes, the world can only recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic only if we all stand up for human rights. The era of standing aloof must be over if we all seek to be free from all forms of oppressions. Lawyers Alert as an organization says it is not over until it is over. We need to be reminded of the popular saying of Edmund Burke that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Written by Bamidele A. Jacobs

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2020 in Human Rights

 

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