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THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN NIGERIA: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

BY: D.U INNOCENT ESQ.

Human-rights

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There has been an outcry, on the gross violation of human rights that has ravaged Nigeria in recent times. These violations have led to massive loss of lives, properties and the displacement of families and communities. These violations have also led to the rise in the insecurity and the volatile nature of our society presently. It is important to note that victims of these violations are innocent civilians whose lives are being disrupted and even destroyed. Who should we hold responsible?

The European Union reported at the end of 2018, that 7.1 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 850,000 people in Borno are estimated to be in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. The conflicts between farmer communities and herdsmen escalated markedly in 2018, becoming the deadliest crisis in Nigeria with thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands internally displaced. While the root causes are fundamentally economic and lack of governance, the violence increasingly takes on a worrying ethno-religious dimension.
Federal and State governments are being criticized for the failure to ensure security, rule of law and for not addressing the widespread impunity. [1] The brutal violation of Human Rights in Benue, Nigeria which occurred in January 2018 caused by decades of old communal conflicts between nomadic herdsmen and farmers in the Middle Belt further exacerbated the security situation in the country. As at least 1,600 people were killed and another 300,000 displaced as a result of the violence.

In June 2018, at least 84 people were killed in double suicide bomb attacks attributed to Boko Haram at a mosque in Mubi, Adamawa State. The heightened political tensions ahead of the 2019 elections led to the violations of human rights of Nigerians through Abductions, suicide bombings, and attacks on civilian targets by Boko Haram. At least 1,200 people died and nearly 200,000 were displaced in the northeast in 2018.[2]

As of 2019, 1.8 million Nigerians have fled from their homes and are internally displaced, the majority in Borno State – the epicentre of the crisis. 80 per cent of internally displaced people are women and children, and one in four are under the age of five.   [3]                                                                                                              Civil societies have led campaigns against arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture exposed human rights abuses by security agencies, including by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).[4]

On the 11th of October 2019, the Punch Newspaper reported that the ECOWAS Court indicted the Federal Government over 2018 Benue Mass killings. This judgment was given by a three member panel of the Community Court of Justice ECOWAS with suit number: ECW/CCJ/APP/16/18. The judgment was presided by Justice Edward Asante, President of the Court, Justice Keikura Bangura, and Hon. Januaria Costa.[5]

Between 2018 and 2019 Nigeria has lost millions of human resource to human rights violations both reported and unreported. The above stated scenarios are only a tiny fraction of the reports of human rights violations in Nigeria, as writing about more would turn this piece into a documentary. The list of violations in Nigeria is almost listless and cuts across almost every strata of the society. The government is supposed to be the hope of security for the common man, but today in Nigeria that hope has been shredded in pieces as Nigerians are being violated even in their homes. The apparent case of Nigeria’s hopelessness in tackling human right issues is seen in the plethora of violations by both state and non-state actors.

Article1, 2,3,4,5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right, Chapter 10 LFN 1990 and Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution enshrine the Protection of the Human Rights of Nigerians. The Federal Government is tasked with the responsibility of protecting the Human Rights of her citizens. It is therefore in the interest of the peace and development of our country that our governments should take up their responsibility of protecting the human rights of her citizens.

 “When the fundamental principles of human rights are not protected, the center of our institution no longer holds. It is they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that is secure; and lives of dignity.” – Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

CAVEAT

Lawyers Alert hereby puts our readers on notice that this article is based on the writers opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization except otherwise stated.

[1] https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/nigeria/62580/eu-annual-report-human-rights-and-democracy-world-2018-country-updates-nigeria_en

[2] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nigeria

[3] https://www.unocha.org/nigeria/about-ocha-nigeria

[4] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nigeria

[5] https://punchng.com/ecowas-court-indicts-fg-over-2018-benue-mass-killing/ 

 
 

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WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS

BY CHIGOZIEM ELLEN ONUGHA ESQ

Human-rights

Human rights are those basic rights that every human being upon conception acquires by virtue of the presence of “life”. They are not bought, neither are they alienable. These rights are not defined by time. They do not wear-off upon a person’s committal of an offence (this has exceptions). These rights also are those rights which must be respected for peace to reign in a society.

There are some other characteristics which make human rights different from other rights. They are:

  • One does not acquire them by virtue of position or office
  • Unlike some other rights, disrespect of human rights may attract dire consequences.

Human rights are both divinely orchestrated and humanly stipulated by laws, so whichever way one looks at it, disrespect of human rights is a sin to both God and human laws.

BELOW ARE WAYS TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS:

  • Education/sensitization of what human rights are, and the various types of human rights
  • Setting-up of structures to help protect these rights. Structures like; relevant laws and policies.
  • Implementation systems, like; courts to address issues of violation of human rights.
  • Development of punishments against persons who disrespect these rights. These punishments would serve as warning to all others against disrespect of human rights.

Gracefully, these systems exist in Nigeria. The only obstacle to achieving a human rights violation free society is “sufficiency”. We may have these systems in place, but we must ask; do we have as much duplicates of these systems enough to go round? The answer is No. Let us take the systems listed above one after the other.

  • Education/Sensitization – there is a saying that goes “until the day one dies, learning never ends”. Some persons even go as far as adding that even upon death, one learns of a different world and for one to be able to stay in that new world which is discovered upon death, one needs to learn things about the new world and keep learning to stay on track. As civil society organizations, we carryout projects on sensitization of persons on these rights, and once the project terminates, the sensitization/education terminates too. Sensitization of persons on these rights should be reoccurring. On this note, Lawyers Alert is doing a good job, because out of the need for this form of education, Lawyers Alert permanently has as its objectives to sensitise persons of these rights.
  • Laws and Policies – There are laws in place to regulate violation of these rights, but implementation of these laws or policies pose a barrier. It may sound a bit cliché, but Nigeria has so many laws that enactment of laws may not be our problems, but implementation is.
  • Courts – For a country like Nigeria with over 200million human population, the amount of courts we have are not enough. And so, issues concerning violation of human rights which should be treated urgently get to be treated without any sense of urgency.
  • Punishments – punishment for violation of these rights sometimes are not commensurate. Therefore, more appropriate punishments need to be developed.
 
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Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Human Rights, humanity, Rights, Uncategorized

 

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Xenophobic Attack in South Africa: An Anathema to the spirit of Africanism

By Sunday Adaji Esq

lawyers lert xenophobia

“Xenophobia” has become the trademark of the South Africans. Over the years, these Africans have continued to revel in killing foreigners, especially Nigerians living in their country. It is obvious that Nigerians have become endangered species in South African.

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It has now been established that South Africans derive pleasure in killing Nigerians living in their country. For reasons that are not clear, they keep doing so with reckless abandon. It was reported that nearly 200 Nigerians have been killed so far within the spate of three years. The situation is worse and may continue to get worse for a long time to come if nothing is done to stop the savagery and barbaric acts.

Recently, what looks like the reason for the xenophobic attack in South Arica was expressed by the country’s Deputy Minister of Police, Mr. Bongani Michael Mkongi who appears in support of the killing of foreigners by his country people. In what looked like a press conference, the deputy minister of police with others, addressed members of the public where he said that 80% of foreigners had taken over their cities, taking away everything that belongs to South Africans. While expressing his annoyance and frustration to justify his support for the dare-devil South Africans; he queried: “Which city in the world will you find 80% of South Africans dominating? You can’t find South Africans in other countries dominating a city up to 80%… We cannot surrender South Africa to foreign nationals.” The video that captured Mr. Bongani Michael Mkongi making the statement is online to aid any verification.

 

The statement of Mr. Bongani Michael Mkongi is a reflection of the opinions and fears of those South Africans that are killing foreigners in their country. We now begin to realise why South Africa Police which are conferred with the statutory duty to maintain law and order and to protect lives and properties have abandoned their duties to participate in the killings of Nigerians living in South Africa.

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It is really pathetic that South Africans take up arms to kill, in cold blood, law abiding Nigerians who lawfully go about their legitimate business in South Africa. It is much more pathetic that this happen under the watchful eyes of South Africa policemen. It is equally sad that South Africa’s government is not doing enough to put an end to this killing of foreigners.

Things usually take a downward slope when you don’t take drastic steps to deal with them. Over the years, Nigerian government has not done enough to address the issue and as a result, this evil keeps rearing its ugly head. At the moment, the government of Nigeria has started taking some concrete steps to address the issue. It is reported that President Muhammadu Buhari has sent his entourage to meet with Cyril Ramaphosa, South African president, to see how they can address the issue and put an end to the killing of Nigerians in South Africa. Nigerian government has also made an arrangement to evacuate Nigerians living in South Africa who are willing to return to Nigeria.

Looking at things, the effort of Nigerian government is not likely going to yield the desired result. At best, it may only bring about some palliatives. The fact is, xenophobia has become the trademark of many South Africans. And to lift the trademark off their necks, it will take the intervention of the whole world. There is need to mount pressures on South Africa from all quarters to stop this act. You don’t take it likely with a group of people that have no respect for the sanctity of human lives.

 

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

Introduction

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

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

Goal

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

Objectives

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

Expected outputs

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

Expected outcome

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

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

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

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

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Civil Society/ Media Work Plan:

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

Technical Working Group Action Plan

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

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THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGICAL INVASION: STRIKING A BALANCE

By Elvis Towolawi Esq

In recent history, if there is any strand of human rights that has come under great threat of extinction and extinguishment – it’s the right to privacy; the right to be left alone, especially when appraised in the light of technologically advance global society and the craze for national security. This piece attempts to look at the fast eroding right to privacy in a penetratingly technological world with the view of establishing the need for a balance if we are to continue in a world where human dignity supersedes.

Interestingly, human rights conventions and national constitutions almost universally call for the protection of the right to privacy (see: Article 12 UNDHR 1946; Article 17 ICCPR 1966; Article 14 of the United Nations Convention of Migrant Workers; Article 11 American Convention on Human Rights; Article 10 African Charters on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms etc). However, the challenge is, ensuring the compliance of governments with this duty, particularly with regard to new technologies and in countries where the rule of law is treated with scorn and disdain. (See: Privacy International).

Basically, the right to privacy presupposes a right be alone; that one should be free in terms of one’s private life, home, place of residence and communications. (See Article 12 UNDHR 1946). With the upsurge of information technologies, the right to privacy has been extended to cover the right to “self-decision, self-control of one’s own personal information”.

Privacy is an important right because it is a necessary condition for other rights such as freedom and personal dignity; as often quoted human rights are interdependent and inter-related. Now, respecting a person’s privacy is to acknowledge such a person’s right to freedom and to recognize that individual as an autonomous human being (See: J.J. Britz, Technology as a Threat to Privacy: Ethical Challenges to Information Profession/Web/Simmons.edu/chen/NIT/).

But this right is far from absolute as it can be abridged on security grounds, public health, public safety and the rights of others (see: Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). However, the question is: to what extent is the Government allowed to curtail the right to privacy of its citizenry in order to achieve and maintain national safety and security and public health etc?

The United States of America towers above other states in derogation of its citizenry privacy for national interest, defence and public safety. The National Security Agency is the tool of such acts of curtailment. Being an intelligence agency, its purpose is to monitor the world’s communications through spy satellites, taps on cables and placing listening stations around the world. Now, the NSA can go to domestic companies such as Google, Yahoo, Face book and Microsoft etc who hold massive amounts of information on its citizenry and foreigners which may be of interest to them under any pretext and without a warrant. (See: Privacy International).

Seemingly, the world is staggering towards a classical Orwellian thought – Police State where our mails, phone calls and internet communication and locations are watched and intercepted without our consent and knowledge. Can we say that the world is always in a state of insecurity that individual right to privacy would be pawned to secure and safe-guard national interest? What becomes of the sovereignty of states when another nation plays Big Brother – watches and surveys it’s every moves and that of its citizenry?

No doubt, terrorism and violence has become jet – paced, borne on the wings of technology, and deserves certain stringent measures to curb its hold and volatility; but individual rights, which form the fulcrum of collective rights of states and human dignity should not be brushed aside whimsically at the slightest provocation.

The right to privacy is a shield of individual dignity; states should honour their treaty obligations and be wary of violating such right except and unless when such rights would become a cloak for prosecuting and perpetrating acts of inhumanity, terrorism and violence against individuals, states and humanity.

Elvis Towolawi Esq is an Intern with Lawyers Alert

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Human Rights

 

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