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Tag Archives: Human Rights and Liberties

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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A ONE DAY SENSITIZATION WITH KABUSA MARKET WOMEN ASSOCIATION ON GENDER BASED VIOLENCE (GBV)

Dated 12Th June 2018.

The problem of gender-based violence (GBV) is an age-long problem in our communities which has led to loss of lives, emotional disorder, psychological torture and other forms of human rights abuses.  These violations happen more in rural areas than the urban areas due to poor access to information, inadequate exposure and anti-human rights cultural practices, leading to an anti-social environment for women and children. Market women who ordinarily carry the burden for over 70% of the Nigerian families and are the economic main- stay of most homes suffer the most. It shows in several ways and not necessarily violent – owing to Market women often non awareness of this, it gradually ebb their sense of dignity and consequent inability to raise citizens who fully appreciate their beings in our homes.

Lawyers Alert as a human rights Organization has identified the gap which has put the lives of many women at the risk of suffering violations and other human rights abuses, and is now engaging market women associations across the country to sensitize them on Gender based violence.

The first of this training held with the kabusa market women – Abuja sorboses. The training which started at about 2:30 PM with over fourty women in attendance was held at the market square and it started with an opening prayer by a delegate of the Market Women Leader, after which a welcome address was taken by the Market Women Leader herself. All the participants briefly introduced themselves. Mr. Yemi Agoro took time to introduce Lawyers Alert as an Organization to the women and also talked about the Objectives of the meeting. Ellen Onugha who is our legal officer took time to talk about legal literacy and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Mr Yemi Agoro and Elvis Torkuma took few minutes to summarize everything in local English in other for the women to understand it better. After the session on legal literacy and Sexual reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), we gave room for comments and questions. The women were excited with our services and many threw questions which we were able to respond to with the rights answers.

One woman stood up and said, she would take it upon herself to educate those who were not present at the meeting. Another woman said initially she thought it was money we came to share to them but what she learnt from us is much more than money. After the feedback session, emphases were made on Lawyers Alert’s pro bono services, mediation, where and how they can access our free legal services and what to do when their rights are violated. This topic was even more exciting and overwhelming to them because even before we could finish this session, we had over six women reporting violations to us at the spot. It was a successful program because from their comments, questions, recommendations and openness to discuss their problems with us at the training ground, we could see that we exceeded their expectations.

 

In conclusion, we recommend more of this sensitization program for market women in other locations because many women do not know their rights and they do not know that these rights can be protected and enhanced. This will lead to more enlightened women in the society and reduction or total eradication of gender-based violence in Nigeria.

 

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CHRISTIANITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

When ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI walked into my office and discussed starting a human rights education project in churches in Makurdi, Benue state, I was amused. Yes, we will have a wide audience and reach, but such must be situated within the Bible to have the impact we normally desire. So I challenged him to posit human rights within the Bible before I will approve the project. He produced a beautiful and compelling argument which I have compressed below. Am glad I approved the project, as Lawyers Alert “Human Rights Education for Churches” project is turning out to be one of our most successful projects. That is a discussion for another day though.

Find below ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI memo to me which am sharing on Christianity and Human Rights…..Rommy Mom Esq

The concept and idea of human rights started at creation when God said, ‘Come, let us make man in our own image and likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish, the birds, and all animals, domestic and wild, large and small.”  So God created human beings, making them in His likeness-  to have dominion over all things. ( see: Gen. 1:26-28, Good News Bible). Little wonder, the Psalmist, awe-stricken by the garb of beauty and dignity conferred on humans by God exclaimed: “When I consider Your Heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man  that you visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honour. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet!” (see: Psalms 8:3-6).

So God is the author of human rights. Fundamentally, human rights are God-ordained entitlement given to humans in order to live a worthy life of dignity and dominion. According to the Indian Supreme Court, ‘’ human rights are calculated to protect the dignity of the individual and create conditions in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest’’. These rights are inborn, innate, and inherent in every person for the mere fact of being human- made in God’s image.

According to the respected Nigerian Jurist  Ben Nwabueze: When we speak of the human person as having an inherent dignity and integrity, it is the spiritual attributes of thought, choice, conscience, the ability to form or hold opinions, to have feelings, emotions, sensations and impulses that are primarily referred to as conferring dignity and integrity on the human person.

Now, these rights are recognized all over the world as belonging to humans- whether black, white, brown, yellow or red; whether rich or poor; educated or uneducated; believer or non- believer. And these rights are provided for and protected in our Constitution which is the supreme law of the land; and in the African Charter and the International Bill of Rights. They are your benefits as sons and daughters of God and citizens of Nigeria. No one can take these rights from you recklessly and with impunity; be it Government or man. These rights beautify our existence on earth and give our lives a meaning.

Clarity demands that we highlight the rights which every Nigerian is entitled to for ease of remembrance and enforcement in the Court of Law. These are the rights:   (1) RIGHT TO LIFE ( no one can take your life without justification under the Law)  (2)RIGHT TO DIGNITY OF HUMAN PERSON ( that is, no person shall be enslaved, tortured, or required to perform forced labour; or subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment); (3)RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTY;(4) RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING ( That is, the right to be heard before condemnation if one is accused of a crime or wrong. After all, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, He heard their ‘defenses’ before chasing them away from His presence with respect even though He’s Omniscience ( see: Gen.3:8-13).  So’ why should a man be judged without hearing his own story?) (5)RIGHT TO PRIVATE LIFE AND FAMILY.     (6)RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION (every man has the right to think, and hold doctrines and ideology without fear; worship without force or disturbance his own God) (7) RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND PRESS.(8) RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION.(9)RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT AND RESIDENCE IN ANY PART OF COUNTRY ( That is, a Nigerian citizen can go anywhere he fancies in the nation, stay wherever he wants and cannot be deported or banished from any part of the country as was done by the Lagos State Government for any reason except disaster or crisis.) (10)RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF DISCRIMINATION on whatever grounds: be it sex, religion, tribe, language, or even social status; everyone is entitled to equal treatment and opportunities to enjoy the goodness of the land. (11) RIGHT TO ACQUIRE AND OWN LANDED AND IMMOVABLE PROPERTY ANYWHERE IN NIGERIA. And properties cannot be compulsorily acquired by the State without adequate compensation and in line with the Law.

Yet the question is and reasonably too,  if we humans and citizens of Nigeria and the World have such rights, why do indignities, harassment and victimization persist? The answer is with us: ignorance and fear. The Holy Writ affirms this—‘’ my people perish for lack of knowledge’’. And when knowledge comes, freedom comes: ‘’ for you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free’’. Whenever you know that these rights of yours are violated or there’s a threat of violation, feel free to approach the nearest Court, lawyer of judicial office for redress, ‘’ for its God’s minister to you for good; for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is God’s minister and avenger to execute wrath on him that practices evil’’ (see: Romans 13:4) Do not your rights be trampled upon by anyone. Human rights are God-given rights which human agency can help enforce their enjoyment.

.At LAWYERS ALERT we strive to be the voice of the voiceless and plead the cause of the poor and needy.’’ (see: Psalm 31:8-9) Remember, God gave you these rights for a life of dignity and dominion; so don’t allow anyone deprive you of them. No bird can build a nest on your head except you let it. As the mantra at Lawyers Alert goes, Know and Enforce your rights.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI is an Intern at Lawyers Alert

 

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Human Rights

 

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Nigerian human rights lawyer profiled in International Day to End Impunity campaign

Mr. Mom, who is President of the Makurdi-based non-governmental organization, Lawyers Alert, is being threatened because he is asking questions, using the Freedom of Information Act, about how much Benue state received from the Federal Government and other sources as support to flood victims in 2012 and how a N500 million federal assistance was spent, since no victim of the floods in the state had been paid. 

Rommy Mom is being threatened for asking questions about how much Benue State received from the Federal Government as support to flood victims in 2012.
Rommy Mom is being threatened for asking questions about how much Benue State received from the Federal Government as support to flood victims in 2012.
 

For the first time ever, Nigeria entered theImpunity Index of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ), released on May 3, this year, in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day. The Impunity Index is an annual ranking of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.

Nigeria is one of five countries around the world to be highlighted in this year’s global campaign to end impunity. The other countries are Cambodia, Egypt, Turkey and Ecuador.

In launching the IDEI campaign, IFEX is asking its members around the globe, as well as other individuals and organizations, to participate in its “23 Actions in 23 Days” by taking actions hosted on the website; www.daytoendimpunity.org, which will serve as the campaign hub from November 1 to 23.

Observing that something new will be featured on the website every day between November 1 and 23, IFEX said: “We’ve created multimedia resources to help people understand the problem and find ways to add their voices to a global network of activists working together. Through infographics, videos, online interactive experiences, articles, country profiles and interviews, we hope to engage more people than ever in this campaign that strikes at the very roots of the injustice and insecurity that silence expression.”

IFEX explained that it especially hopes the campaign will help draw attention to and encourage action in support of five individuals who will be profiled on specific days during the campaign, and then again on 23 November, the International Day to End Impunity.

Those to be profiled ahead of the IDEI are: Yorm Bopha, a Cambodian human rights activist and protester, on November 4; Eren Keskin, a Women’s rights activist and lawyer in Turkey, on November 7; Doaa Eladl, an Egyptian cartoonist on November 12; Martin Pallares, an Ecuadorian journalist on November 14; and Rommy Mom, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, on November 18.

IFEX is working with its Nigerian member, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), to draw national and international attention to the plight of Mr. Mom. MRA will be coordinating activities in Nigeria in the lead up to the IDEI, particularly on November 18 and 23, including providing details of Mr. Mom’s case and calling for public support on his behalf to ensure his safety and enable him return to his home state to continue his work.

The IFEX impunity campaign website also features an interactive map that will plot all campaign events and actions planned or undertaken by IFEX members. The hashtags for tweets are: #IDEI#endimpunity and #23Nov.

 

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Corporations: human rights’ real enemies?

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Corporate misconduct is well-known and wide-spread. For example, Shell has been complicit in forcefully chasing the Ogoni people of Nigeria from their homes to gain access to oil and is still responsible for the devastation of the environment and health caused by numerous oil spills in the region. Nestlé promoted its ‘infant formula’ milk powder and discouraged breast feeding in developing countries which lead to major health problems for the children as the parents used unclean water to make the milk. More recently, in Bangladesh, where the buildings of cheap textile industries collapsed, clothes are produced for all major brands without any respect for labour rights of the employees.

International human rights law does however acknowledge that not all perpetrations are directly being committed by states, but had to bend over backwards to come up with a solution for the state-based human rights framework which didn’t allow obligations for non-state actors. The solution to the problem was found in the magic concept of “positive obligations” (also “the obligation to protect”, in addition to the classic “obligation to respect” human rights). Instead of making non-state actors such as corporations directly responsible under human rights law, human rights bodies started to hold states accountable not only for their conduct, but also for the conduct of private actors which operated on their territory. If certain non-state actors, including corporations and, even, individuals, violate, for example, my human right to privacy, the state is responsible for not having prevented this behaviour by, for example, adopting laws prohibiting the said conduct. This has led to ridiculous situations where states are held to have violated human rights law because paparazzi took pictures of certain persons (Von Hannover v. Germany before the European Court of Human Rights).

Consequently, non-state actors do not at all face the consequences of violating human rights. In addition, corporations are not confined within the borders of one state, but they operate worldwide through subcontractors and subsidiaries, which are separate entities which makes it even harder to hold ‘parent corporations’ operating abroad accountable at all.

However, international law has shown that it is not impossible to put direct obligations on actors other than the state. Under international criminal law individuals  are internationally accountable for certain crimes they have perpetrated, regardless of national boundaries. Humanitarian law applies to certain armed groups when they have a certain amount of control over the territory they are operating in. Moreover, international human rights law is applied to corporations through domestic litigation. The best example is that of the US Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreign individuals to address human rights violations committed by corporations abroad.

Nevertheless, international human rights law as such does not (yet) impose binding obligations on corporations. There only exist multiple voluntary codes whereby corporations themselves can decide whether they sign up or not, and even when they violate the code they won’t face consequences such as court proceedings. The latest of these voluntary frameworks is the one introduced by the UN, namely the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which, however, places the primary responsibility for human rights on the state.

To my mind it is therefore feasible – with the necessary political will – to conclude binding treaties to regulate human rights violations by corporations. Moreover, this is even a necessary route to take if we want corporations to take human rights seriously. The human rights framework clearly needs to be updated, if it wants to stand a chance against its 21st century enemies

Culled from Humanimal Rights

 

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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