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The National Conference, The January Uprising And The Labour Civil Society Coalition

By Jaye Gaskia
In the last few days the FGN has released its working document for the convening of the National Conference. We now know the government is proposing 492 delegates, of which 46 will be nominated by the President, 108 by governors [that is each governor will nominate 3 delegates], 1 by the FCT [which presumably cannot be nominated without the consent of the president], and another 26 by the Federal Government [as if the President and the FCT are not part of the Federal government]. In total though the number of government nominees is 181.
We also now know that the conference will sit for no more than 3 months, and that the only thing presumably off limits is the unity of Nigeria. And to add to the ambiguity of the government, the conference is to advice the government on how its recommendations might be implemented. In other words, the government is leaving the decision as to whether its recommendations should be processed by the NASS or validated through a open referendum.
There is so much to be said about the way and manner that number of delegates have been allocated to different organisations and constituencies. Nevertheless, my focus today is on the dialectical and unbroken connection between the demands we made during the anti-military struggle, as well as the implicit demands we made during the January Uprising; and the current concession in playing to the gallery by the current regime and dangling the national conference, in this symbolic year of the centenary of the amalgamation.
The same forces which formed the core, the driving and most consistent force of the anti-military and June 12 revalidation struggles, were also central to the January Uprising; in fact by the time of the January Uprising of 2012, they had reached a position, where they were in direct and actual leadership of the uprising.
These alliance of social forces and formations, had come to be known as the Labour Civil Society Coalition, by the time of the January Uprising, and it was as thus that the alliance waged the battles inherent in that uprising. For the avoidance of doubt, and for reasons of historical clarity, these alliance of social forces, these labour civil society coalition, is made up of the two Labour Centres [the NLC and TUC] and two pro-labour citizens’ coalitions [JAF and UAD].
The government, and the entire ruling class [including those of them who became emergency activists and came to plead for podium space during the uprising] recognised that the government and the order over which it was presiding was almost overthrown by the deepening ferment of uprising in January 2012. And somehow in the event of the overthrow, a Sovereign National Conference could very well have been convened by the victorious uprising to fill the vacuum in governance and reorganise society.
Much more than ourselves however, the government and the entire ruling class does recognise and seem to be fully aware of the potency of the power of the mass movement. And this recognition and awareness is now demonstrated in the concessions made to the popular masses and exploited subordinated classes and their organisations, not only with the offer of convening a national conference [cheeky as that offer is], but also in rejecting for all intents and purposes the idea of an ethnic conference, and embracing the position of ordinary Nigerians that we are first and foremost defined by our material condition of existence and not by our ethnicity.
But even more significant is the implicit, if not explicit recognition of the labour civil society coalition. In our recent history, this is the alliance of social forces that has consistently challenged the exploitative misrule of the ruling class, and their treasury looting spree. This was the coalition that coordinated and prepared for the January Uprising, it was the coalition that negotiated on behalf of the Uprising with the Government [the whole government, including state and federal government as well as executive and legislative delegations; with all the major political parties also represented].
To this historic coalition, the current regime has conceded 48 of the 492 delegates positions; 12 to the NLC, 12 to the TUC, and 24 to Civil Society  – that is 12 each to JAF and UAD].
In the first instance although this is a concession to the popular movement, the arrangement and mathematical calculations of delegates made by the FGN is such that Pro-FGN, and therefore Pro-PDP delegates will constitute an overwhelming majority in the conference. Nevertheless, 48 is a significant minority, and if the 48 delegates of the Labour Civil Society Coalition, can conclude within the conference, a broader alliance, much as they did in 2012 during the January Uprising, then the number of pro-people delegates could very well get to up to a third of the conference.
Given that the FGN has also listed several other civil society organisations by name, including NBA, NAWOJ, NUJ, NANS, NYCN, NMA, etc among others, and given that many of these specifically named civil society organisations participated in the January Uprising and coordinated within a broader alliance with the Labour Civil Society Coalition, concluding a pro-people alliance within the conference should not be too difficult a task to undertake.
Two or three explicit facts in the government schedule lead us to make the implicit interpretation that is being made. First, government actually names other civil society organisations by name; second, it went on to now specifically mention a civil society that it allocated 24 delegates to; third, it allocated the same number of delegates, that is 24 delegates, to the combined labour team, as well as to what it referred to as civil society.
We are convinced and persuaded that these 48 delegates were a concession to the labour civil society coalition of the January Uprising [ NLC, TUC, JAF & UAD – each bloc with 12 delegates apiece].
We are not only convinced about this, we also claim this, and insist that one very sure way to actively and proactively engage with the National Conference process is to ensure we have a significant present inside the conference, as well as mount a significant mass mobilisation through mass nationwide rallies outside the conference, and throughout its duration in order to have any chance of realistically influencing its decisions and outcome.
At the very least we can come out with a minority report, with the basic building blocks for a new constitutional order, and around and upon which we can then build a popular mass political party as the real alternative to the parties of the light fingered, gluttonous and inept treasury looting ruling class – ConservaThieves and ProgressThieves alike!
There will be some ultra left radical within civil society who will insist that we should stand aloof from the conference and continue to shout powerlessly from the roof top outside. To them we say, we cannot hope to undertake the task of transforming society with the masses without being present in their most decisive battle fields.
Since hopefully they understand the language of marxism, and the recognise and respect the example revolutionary experience; to them we commend the example of the Bolsheviks in the conservative Russian Duma [assembly] during the period between the 1905 revolution and the first world war. The Bolsheviks, under Lenin’s leadership used the Duma as a revolutionary tribune to promote the cause of revolution and the people.
We are proposing an adaptation of these tactics. Just as the attitude of the Bolsheviks changed to the Duma after the 1905 revolution, our attitude to conferences such as this one ought also to have been transformed by the experience of the January Uprising. Our duty is to seize the space and use the floor of the conference as a revolutionary tribune, a tribune of the people.
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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HIV and AIDS, Ethics, Human Rights and the Law

Lawyers’ Alert work in HIV and AIDS is restricted to principally two thematic areas, Human Rights Education and Rights Enforcement through litigation/Advocacy. Secondly massive education and capacity building on Preventing Mother To Child Transmission, PMTC.  We believe successfully preventing and eliminating Mother to Child Transmission will be a key step in wiping out new infections and ultimately end AIDS.

Our involvement began in 2003, when Lawyers Alert organised a workshop in Benue State on HIV and AIDS in relation to Human Rights. The theme of the workshop was “HIV and AIDS, Ethics, Human Rights and the Law”. The workshop was for Persons living with HIV and AIDS, NGO’s and Policy makers with the support of the British Council. The workshop sought to explore positive living against the backdrop of the law and human rights in Nigeria, using Benue State as a case study.

 

Following the workshop it was established by participants that there indeed exist a lot of human rights violations by the state and non state actors in principally the rights to health, education and employment with regard to especially women and children.

 

Following this cardinal finding by participants, in 2004, Lawyers Alert carried out a situation analysis on HIV and the Law in Benue wherein we published  booklet titled “HIV and AIDS: A Legal Framework” where we explored the relationship between Human Rights and the treatment of persons living with AIDS.   This book is the product of engagement with the community of persons living positively and legal institutions. It became crystal clear that while Government has beautiful and well laid out plans in States Strategies, political will often do not match the strategy papers.

Owing to frustrations of non implementation of strategy documents, Lawyers Alert alongside the Community of person+ explored the idea of creation of obligations on the state and private hospitals, schools and industries with regard to women and children so this can be enforced.  Only a law can achieve this, and this has been the struggle since 2005, to have a Non Discrimination Law passed by the State that will regulate and create obligations on routine testing of pregnant mothers, early infant diagnosis, adequate Medicare for mothers and children living with AIDS, access to education and non discrimination at workplaces, etc.

Legislation in these areas will go a long way in preventing mother to Child transmission, eliminate discrimination, enhance access to education, and guarantee employment for women.

Lawyers Alert has continuously partnered the then State Action Committee on AIDS on issues bothering on human rights and the law regarding HIV and AIDS. We specifically drafted the Bill transforming the State Committee to an Agency so as to make it more effective. The Bill has since been passed into law. Over the years we have effectively participated in the drafting of State strategic Plans for the Agency inclusive of other activities.

Lawyers Alert has represented over 100 person+ in efforts at enforcing or protecting their rights to accommodations, uninformed testing, workplace discriminations etc. We have carried out over 12 workshops, in building capacity and creating awareness on rights of person+ in Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau States.

Regarding PMTC, we are involved in mass community education in changing values especially with regard to Gender. Gender empowerment and elimination of stigma is key to effective PMTC. When the rights of women are respected by elimination of violence, disinheritance, access to education created and jobs provided, with fewer stigmas and discrimination, PMTC will succeed.

We have carried out efforts in these regard through awareness creation/capacity building and community theatre in especially between 2008 to date.

All Lawyers Alert programs have the above main streamed into it.

Lawyers Alert is presently in the process of developing tools to measure the impact of our work in Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau States in the sphere of HIV and AIDs/ Human Rights.

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in HIV/AIDS & HUMAN RIGHTS

 

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EDUCATING/SENSITING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OF OFFENDERS HUMAN RIGHTS: FOCUS ON BENUE, PLATEAU AND NASARAWA STATES OF NIGERIA

EDUCATING/SENSITING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OF OFFENDERS HUMAN RIGHTS: FOCUS ON BENUE, PLATEAU AND NASARAWA STATES OF NIGERIA.

This is a summary of  a three day training workshop on the Application of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules (UNSMR) and Human Rights Standard for the Criminal Justice Sector in Benue, Plateau and NasarawaStates of Nigeria held at the Benue Hotels Makurdi.

Participants were drawn from the Prisons, Police, Judiciary, the office of the Attorney General and Civil Society Groups.

The training workshop was organized by Lawyers Alert with the support of Norwegian Human Rights Funds (NHRF). The workshop was aimed at increasing compliance with International Standard and promotion of best prison practice in three target States involved in a comprehensive inter-sectoral reforms efforts in the criminal justice sector.

 

This report summaries the key points arising from the workshop so that they can be incorporated into the planning and preparation efforts underway for possible replication in others States of the Federation.

REFORMS.

While the portion of the workshop devoted to international standards focused on content, those devoted to planning were aimed at learning a process that could be applied to addressing ongoing needs for improvements and reforms within the criminal justice sector.

 

Toward that end, the following objectives for the workshop were developed:

 

  1. To increase understanding and awareness of the UN Standard Minimum Rules and International Human Rights Standards among participants.
  2. To strengthen and contribute to respect of Human Rights and collaboration among the institutions of the Criminal Justice system.
  3. To empower Civil Society Organization to monitor Human Rights abuses in the criminal justice sector of the focal states.
  4. To develop a monitoring and reporting process to assess progress and identify new and emerging priorities to be addressed.

Following an introduction to the Standard Minimum Rules as a whole, participants were asked to identify key issues to be addressed during the workshop. Participants were divided into four groups. Each was asked to select a category of rules within the SMR on which to focus their planning activities. The process was repeated twice allowing participants an opportunity to examine eight categories in depth, identify one priority problem to be addressed in each and develop a practice plan to initiate reforms.

 

The eight topics selected and the problems within each are listed below. The planning process included identifying short-term solutions (those that could be implemented or begin implemented within six months). Following each problem were the short-term solutions identified by each group to address the problem.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Based on the evaluation results, review and findings from the sector wide forum, the following intervention areas were identified for short and long term impact.

 

  1. It was agreed that the Criminal Procedure Code should be amended in the focal States stipulating time limits on the Attorney General Office for Legal Advice.
  2. The Nigerian Bar Association in conjunction with the Justice Sector NGOs should create a network of Pro bono Lawyers in the focal States.
  3. Further workshop should be carried out based on the model of linking training on International Standards and good Prison Management with planning methodologies to put these principles into practice.
  4. The forum resolved that it would be possible to add a Training of Trainers component to this workshop design.
  5. The selection of participants surfaced as a crucial factor for this workshop and must be done carefully for future workshops. Senior Officers with decision making responsibility should be included in the workshop. In addition, it will be strongly advisable that those with relevant technical expertise in the areas that are under consideration should be included as participants ( e.g. the officer in charge or works if the Bore-hole well is to discussed ).
  6. For future similar initiatives, with addition of  a training of trainer component, a minimum of five days in a residential setting to allow for longer working days.
  7. Considerations should be given to planning for a second tier training and planning workshops to focus on needs identified through this process. Based on the current experience, two specific workshops have become:
  8. Basic International Standards orientation to familiarize sector personnel with basic Human Rights standards.
  9. Outreach and planning with external stakeholders and potential partner to plan actions in which they are likely to become involved ( e.g Legal Aid, Counseling, Sports and recreation ).

8.    There was a strong tendency among officer participants to defer to their    own headquarters staff and more often Abuja as the source for solution to what were often local problems. While the rule of the federal headquarters should not be over looked, there is a profound need to redirect the attention of prison officers to problems that can be addressed by their own initiative and focus attention in such as way as to promote site-based problem solving and initiative.

9.      It is important to focus on short-term projects to gap analysis and problem solving. By directing the process toward applications that make it possible to see concrete result within 6 months of planning process, realistic goals and actual accomplishment can be realized.

10.    Once the first rounds of problems are addressed, others should be anticipated and addressed in a similar manner. The process of planning and problem solving is one that should become an integral part of the criminal justice system.

11.    The practical application of human rights and good prison management principles was a very useful technique in transforming SMR from abstract concepts to practical principles that can be applied in Nigerian prisons.

12.    Promote sector wide communication among personnel of the criminal justice sector in the focal states on a practical problems solving level.

13.    Encourage and promote more cordial relationships between inmates and prison officers to promote appreciation as human beings.

 

IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP

Owing to the structural and long lasting impact of Recommendation

Lawyers Alert is saddled with the responsibility of coordinating activities towards the achievement of same in the focal State alongside key stakeholders.

 

Timely follow-up on the network of pro bono Lawyers as evidenced by the planning initiatives begun at this workshop are essential. The NBA Chairman of the various States should immediately agree for the formation of a Strategic Planning Committee and subsequent take off.

 

Regarding all other recommendations a Core Group should be formed comprising Heads of the various sectors from the focal States to move the process forward towards implementing other recommendations.

 

The Core Group will have responsibility for overseeing the final development of the strategic plans, ensuring implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. It will assume an ongoing role in further gap analysis, planning and evaluation.

 

Lawyers Alert remains immensely grateful to the Norwegian Human rights Fund for all the support especially in the realm of Prisoners Rights in the Middle Belt Nigeria and especially BenueState. This present initiative is indeed very ambitious and if the recommendations are implemented will undoubtedly change the plight of the Nigeria awaiting prisoner, who sometimes spends over 10 years in jail awaiting trial.

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Human Rights

 

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In Defence of Abuja Women; http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/08/in-defence-of-abuja-women/

In defence of Abuja women

on AUGUST 5, 2012 · in PERISCOPE
12:07 am

BY BEN AGANDE

Reprieve may be on the way for Abuja women who have been at  the receiving end of alleged harassment by men of the Nigeria Police and Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), as a non-governmental organisation, Lawyers Alert Association, has dragged the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General of the Federation, among others, to court to enforce the fundamental human rights of women in the FCT.

It would be recalled that following the announcement by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board that prostitution is illegal in the Federal Capital Territory, scores of women, some of them innocent, have been arrested on the grounds that they were ‘soliciting’ for men, especially when found in the evening unaccompanied by men.

In one particular incident that provoked outrage in the Federal Capital Territory, a banker had parked her car and went into a shopping mall to pick a few things. As she came out of the car, she was ‘arrested’ by men of the AEPB and the police; bundled into their pick- up van and was detained for two days before her employers intervened and got her released. Victims have been made to suffer untold indignities, including alleged rape by police men who arrest them for the mere fact that they venture to go out at night unaccompanied by men!

Worried by the harassment of the women folk because of the mere fact of their feminity, Lawyers Alert Association, led by Barrister Rommy Mom, instituted a case at the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an “order of perpetual injunction against the defendants to restrain them from the act of arrest of women in Abuja at night on suspicion of prostitution, as such action is without legal basis, unconstitutional, discriminatory and a violation of the human rights of women in Abuja”.

In an interview with Sunday Vanguard,  Mom noted that, apart from challenge faced by women generally, African women have suffered several cultural and social violation and inequality which  hampered their development. He appealed to the court to “send a clear signal that men in authority should not further seek to institutionalise this by passage of arbitrary orders and laws that will entrench these practices”, that have kept women in perpetual oppression.

In an originating summon, the plaintiff noted that the issues for determination was “whether the incessant harassment, intimidation and arrest of women in Abuja at night on suspicion of prostitution is not only unconstitutional but also a violation of women’s human rights”.

Quoting relevant sections of the constitution to buttress his point, Mom posited: “Movement is closely tied to liberty as women can constitutionally move freely in Nigeria whether in the day time or night time. Nothing differentiates the day and night for a particular set of citizens to be targeted at nights for arrest on being sighted. This is discriminatory and violates section 42(1) of the 1999 constitution”.

He argued further: “For women in Abuja to be subjected to arrest, purely on the grounds of their sex/gender at night in Abuja is discriminatory as men can and do move about without any molestation or harassment. We implore the court to note that these restrictions are pursuant to the executive orders of the 1st Defendant (Hon. Minister of the Federal Capital Territory).

“It is clearly  therefore without any basis for the directive of the 1st defendant, a male, to subject women to domination  by men, where men can conduct their businesses and other chores at nights without any fear of molestation, but women cannot, owing to fears of arrest and intimidation by agents of the 2nd  and 3rd defendants (Commissioner of Police FCT and the Inspector General of Police respectively)”.

On the argument that women being arrested is based on the war against prostitution in the FCT, the plaintiff noted: “Prostitution involves very direct act of soliciting. It is our submission that whatever law the defendants are premising their actions on violates the supremacy of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999′.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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LAWYERS ALERT SUES THE FCT MINISTER, AND THE POLICE OVER CONTINOUS ARREST OF WOMEN AT NIGHTS IN ABUJA

LAWYERS ALERT SUES THE FCT MINISTER, AND THE POLICE OVER CONTINOUS ARREST OF WOMEN AT NIGHTS IN ABUJA

 

Lately the Nigeria Police and the Authorities in Abuja the Federal Capital territory have resorted to the practice of arresting women seen outside of their homes at night and prosecuting them on the obsolete law of wandering (read prostitution). The prosecution under the law of wandering, which itself is obsolete, because no law prohibits sex workers. The intention is however to intimidate perceived sex workers, but in the process, hundreds of women are affected and traumatized by arbitrary and dragnet arrests.

Commercial sex even though very high in major cities like Lagos and Abuja is highly frowned at by the Authorities.

Seeking to gain political mileage and also wanting to appear to fight crimes, the Politicians and the Police have lately resorted to intense harassment of commercial sex workers in Abuja. The practice is for the Police officers to swoop on them at nights and arrests dozens. A lot of women who are on other ventures have suffered a lot from this, as the mere appearance of a woman without a male escort at night can lead to arrest without questions. Several women have suffered this indignation. A female Banker was recently arrested when she parked her car and strolled across the street for Toiletries. It took the intervention of her employers next day for her to regain freedom.

As earlier espoused because the Police have no law to charge these women, they are charged under the obsolete law of wandering at night. Women are now being detained and imprisoned on this account. Curiously men “wandering” at night are not arrested.

Women arrested are sometimes raped by the arresting officers and let to go home. Their only offence, at least by the constitution of Nigeria is that they are females who dare to come out at night. Prostitution is stritu sensu not an offence in Nigeria.

The practice of arrest, detention and imprisonment of women on this account is now gaining popularity as women are increasingly coming under some sort of siege in cities like Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Ibadan. Women rights to freedom and liberty is now gradually being eroded and marginalized on account of suspicion of sex hawking. Recently an Abuja court sentenced to jail several women on this account. Daily Trust of Friday, June 3, 2011 page 63, www.dailytrust.com.

As earlier stated, these actions are as illegal as they contravene the constitution. The need is now urgent to legally challenge the constitutionality or otherwise of these actions to put an end to it.

The Police normally charge these women in the lower courts and not the High Courts where their actions cannot be legally closely scrutinized. The lower courts are courts of summary trials.

Lawyers Alert has now approached the Abuja High Court to have the court make a declaration that this is constitutionally illegal.  Thousands of women will be the beneficiaries and the court decision will no doubt be an Authority or Locus Classicus on women rights in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. A favorable decision of Court will be a reference for lower courts and also the police to desist forthwith from these acts.

This proposed Action is urgent, because women are continually been sent to prison on almost weekly basis. Freedom and liberty is by far one of the most precious rights and the continuous illegal denial and abuse of this makes this matter very urgent in being addressed. Left to the authorities and time to rectify this situation might take years alongside the spillover effect in its spread across other regions in Nigeria.

 

Law and Advocacy are two key strategies presently being put to use by Lawyers Alert in advancing women rights in several spheres be it political, economic or social.

The present case fits into Lawyers Alert broader strategy in terms of advancing the rights of women to move freely and not be subject to any restraint, abuse or harassment so long as they are within the laws of the land.

Find below our Argument in Abuja High Court

IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

HOLDEN IN ABUJA

SUIT NO ……………………………          

 

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN RIGHTS OF MOVEMENT IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

IN THE MATTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES 2009

 

BETWEEN:

LAWYERS ALERT ASSOCIATION

 

AND

 

1        HON. MINISTER OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

2        COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

3        INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE

4        NIGERIA POLICE FORCE

5        ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

ORIGINATING SUMMONS TAKEN OUT PURSUANT TO SECTIONS 35, 41 AND 42 OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION AND ORDER 2 OF THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULES 2009 AND ARTICLES 2 AND 19 OF THE AFRICAN CHARTER OF HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS

PLAINTIFFS WRITTEN ADDRESS/ARGUMENT IN SUPORT OF ORIGINATING SUMMONS

FACTS

Following the pronouncement of the 1st Defendant to rid Abuja of prostitutes, the 2nd and 3rd Defendants, through members of the Nigeria Police Force commenced the mass arrests and harassment of women seen at nights in Abuja. The sole reason for these arrests is that these women are seen at night as the arrests do not occur in the afternoons.

Men are however not arrested.  The practice has continued throwing fear into women of going out at nights for fear of arrest and molestation by the police.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

Whether the incessant harassment, intimidation, and arrest of women in Abuja at nights on suspicion of prostitution is  not only unconstitutional but also  a violation of women’s human rights.

ARGUMENT

Every Citizen is guaranteed the right of movement without restrictions at ALL times of the day by the Constitution of the Federal Republic. This is especially stated in 35(1) of the Constitution  which expressly provides thus

“Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.”

The exceptions as provided by the Constitution for the denial of these rights are limited to instances of compliance with a sentence of a court, failure to comply with order of Court, or at other instances which certainly do not extend to arrest of women to rid a town of prostitution or arrest of women when seen at nights.

Furthermore, Section 41 (1) of Constitution provides that:

“Every Citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.” Emphasis provided.

It is submitted that movement here is closely tied to right of liberty as women can constitutionally move freely in Nigeria whether in the daytime or nighttime. Nothing differentiates the day and night for a particular sect of citizens to be targeted at nights for arrest on being sighted. This is discriminatory and violates Section 42(1) of the Constitution which provides

“A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person –

(a)   Be subjected either expressly by, or in the application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government , to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of religion, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject, or

The above section clearly prohibits any restriction or enjoyment of any rights ordinarily accorded to citizens like liberty, movement etc in the implementation of any law, executive or administrative act based on grounds like sex .i.e. gender.

For women in Abuja to be subjected to arrest, purely on the ground of their sex at nights in Abuja we submit is discriminatory as men can and do move about without any molestation or  harassment. We implore the court to note that these restrictions are pursuant to the executive orders of the 1st Defendant.

The Courts have been enjoined by the Preamble of the Fundamental Rights( Enforcement Procedure) Rules , 2009   under 3 as Follows:

“3.The overriding objectives of these rules as follows:

(a)   The constitution, especially Chapter IV, as well as the African charter, shall be expansively and purposely interpreted and applied, with a view to advancing and realizing the rights and freedoms contained in them and affording the protection intended by them.”

We therefore implore the Court to expansively interpret the above sections of the law in advancing the rights of women in Nigeria and protect women from abuses and discrimination owing solely to the fact that they are women.

The relevant sections of the constitution as quoted finds amplification in Articles 2 and 19 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which adumbrates the sanctity of  equality and equal treatment without discrimination where it is stated thereof:

Article 2

“Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without discrimination 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 19

“All peoples shall be equal; they shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by another”

The rights and freedoms as provided for in the African Charter falls on same grounds with the relevant ones as guaranteed by the Constitution, only in this instance its amplified.

It is clearly therefore without any basis for the directive of the 1st Defendant , a male, to subject women to domination by men, where men can conduct their businesses and other chores at nights without fear of molestation, but women cannot, owing to fears of arrests and intimidation by Agents of the 2nd and 3rd Defendants.

For women to be indiscriminately harassed and arrested in Abuja because they are seen exercising their rights of movement is therefore a breach of the Constitution and the African Charter.

We concede the Constitution does not make these rights absolute, but it expressly provides the instances and circumstances where these rights can be restricted as quoted under the exceptions under Section 35 of the constitution.

Where therefore the Defendants are contravening these rights outside these accepted instances it is submitted this amounts to violation of women rights in Abuja.

The Defendants may make the arguments that the women arrested at the directives of the 1st Defendant are premised on his war against prostitution in Abuja. However nowhere are women going out or seen at night is interpreted as prostitution. Prostitution involves very direct act of soliciting, in this instance all that is required for an arrest is for the women to be seen at nights.

It is therefore submitted that the actions of the Defendants is simpliciter  to harass women by denying them freedom of movement, liberty and discriminatory solely on ground that they are women  thereby occasioning inequality before the law and subjecting women to men.

CONCLUSION

Over the years women have suffered several cultural and social violation and inequality which has hampered the development of our women, sisters and mothers in especially Africa. We urge the court to send a very clear signal that men in Authority should not further reason l to institutionalize this by the passage of arbitrary orders and laws that will continue this practice.

We urge the court be swayed by the preamble of the Fundamental Rights( Enforcement Procedure) Rules , 2009   which enjoins the courts to expansively and purposely interpret and apply Chapter IV of the Constitution with a view to advancing and realizing the rights and freedoms contained in them and affording the protection intended by them.

Women need this protection and they should be treated in like and equal manner as their male counterparts for after all we are all Human beings.

Dated  this 18th day of  June 2012

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Women Rights and Gender

 

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Lawyers Alert’s Mandate Protection Project

An Over view:

Most often, campaigns into offices in Nigeria and indeed Africa are usually not issue based and even when specific undertakings and/or commitments to the electorate are made, the Electorate are not sufficiently equipped nor empowered to engage government and demand accountability.

The Mandate Protection project basically seeks to build the capacity of the electorate towards demanding for accountability and transparency from the elected officials based on specific campaign promises.

Benue and Nassarawa States of North Central Nigeria was served as pilot states for this project in the build up to the 2007 general elections. The project funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), sought to enhance and promote the empowerment of the citizenry and accountability in governance which has been the bane of under development in West Africa and other under developed countries.

The methodology for achieving this included the creation of State Mandate Coalitions, capacity building training, networking, engagement with government (executive and legislative), public enlightenment/empowerment programs, media and town hall meetings.

 

The objectives of the project was substantially realized. In both States, Civil Society partners came together to form  Mandate  Protection Coalitions, elected its Officials and forming their own structures of management. . A 3 day capacity building workshop was held for members of the coalition for both Benue and Nassarawa States.  The essence of the training was to equip members of the coalition to effectively and efficiently engage elected political office holders to in order to bring about a positive change in the Nigeria polity. This project was first of its kind regarding realization of documented campaign promises.

The project impacted greatly on the 2011 elections in the States. In Nassarawa state the then Governor Akwe Doma lost re-election as he failed to deliver on the documented promises while  in Benue State,  the incumbent Governor party lost a substantial number of seats in the state and federal parliament owing to awareness and demand of the civil society no doubt enhanced by this project.

PROJECT ACHIEVMENTS AND OUTPUTS

AS a resullt of the project, remarkable achievements have been recorded. Below is a list of the achievements

(a)   Formation  of Mandate Protection Coalitions in the 2 States of Benue and Nassarawa.

(b)   Capacity of the Coalitions in the two project states built and nurtured to effectively engage Government.

(c)   In Benue State as a direct result of the Coalition efforts Government set up a committee comprising local NGOs to assist harmonize the State Economic Blue print styled BenSEEDS. This was no mean feat as since assumption of office efforts have been made to refocus government on the need to continue with the SEEDS process which is a more comprehensive development plan in order to attract donor support once more. Major Donors had left Benue due to an apparent lack of commitment by the then government.

(d)   Another achievement is the report of the people’s assessment on delivery on campaign promises. The report serves as a strong advocacy tool for both legislative and executive advocacy.

(e)   Civil Society Groups in the project States are now geared in one unified direction towards participatory governance and accountability

(f)     Government engagement with the electorate has been enhanced in Benue and Nassarawa States

 

Lessons Learnt:

 

Lawyers Alert and NAWYCCA  learnt and benefitted immensely from  this project. Key is the need for networking and working together. Owing to this project both organizations have met severally and in the course of this work shared information, skills and knowledge that is mutually beneficial and organizationally invaluable.

We also learnt the how effective Coalitions can be when working together with a sense of purpose. The States Coalitions are effective, passionate and eager to deliver making State governments  responsive.

The value of early preparation is also evident. Even as the Coalitions are engaged in this project they are also poise to impact on the 2015 General elections. The ideas generated in this direction are well thought out as against the “rush, rush” approach which is traditional in Nigeria regarding civil society engagement in the electoral process.

For Lawyers Alert particularly, this has enhanced our administrative skills of administering a wide reaching project in two states involving virile coalitions.

      APPRECIATIONS

Lawyers Alert is thankful to OSIWA for this partnership and looks forward to more fruitful efforts in the service of humanity.


 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Governanace

 

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Lawyers Alert

Lawyers Alert is a Civil Society Organisation that is non-partisan and non-profit made up substantially of Lawyers and other professionals committed to the entrenchment of democracy, rule of law and socio-economic development of residents of Nigeria.

It was founded in 2000, and became operational in 2002. It is registered according to the laws of Nigeria and BenueState. We are headquartered in Makurdi, Benue State with offices in Abuja.

Our vision is the entrenchment of virile democracy in Nigeria alongside its’ attendant gains.

Our mission is the empowerment of the citizenry through knowledge of their Rights and accessible means of enforcing same in a secured environment.

In 2002, Lawyers Alert, which is Benue based, identified the need for a State Network of NGOs, to create a forum for Civil Society Organisation in the state to meet and share information, knowledge and skills. The idea was to also provide a forum for cooperation and coordination in terms of advocacy in the state.  Following this Lawyers Alert brought together about ten NGOs to form the Benue NGO Network, BENGONET.  Today BENGONET is a viable State Network with about 52 member Organisations, a functional office and Staff. Lawyers Alert provided office space for the network for 2 years and also chaired the network till late 2006.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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