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Stand with Rommy Mom, Human Rights Lawyer,Nigeria, sign the petition for his safety

In mid-2012, Nigeria was besieged with floods that resulted in many people losing their lives, livelihoods and homes. Benue State, one of the worst hit during the floods, received N500 million (approx US$3.2 million) in federal aid money. Yet, no money has been paid out to the state’s residents thus far, propelling human rights lawyer Rommy Mom to take the authority in charge of disbursing funds, Benue State Emergency Agency, to court using the Freedom of Information Law.

Mom, who heads an NGO called Lawyers Alert based in the state capital Makurdi, requested information on what happened to the funds. On 28 May 2013, Governor Gabriel Torwua Suswam reacted angrily by attacking Mom with damaging and condemnatory statements in a phone-in programme on state-controlled Radio Benue.

That same day, Mom received phone calls from people close to the Governor advising him to quickly leave Benue or risk his life. He fled Benue that night.

Mom had every reason to take the threats seriously. According to local NGO Media Rights Agenda (MRA),”Benue state has a politically tense environment, so such a statement from a leader is an invitation for an attack on Rommy Mom.”

“Since the threat to my life, I have been forced to carry out my work from outside of Benue. This has not been easy, but it is part of the sacrifices and challenges of making accountability and transparency a currency in governance. The Freedom of Information Act is a critical starting point,” said Mom.

Despite his petition to the Benue State Commissioner of Police and Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, the threats to Mom have gone uninvestigated making it too risky for him to return home.

Stand with Rommy Mom and ask Governor Suswam to publicly assure his safety, so that he can return home and continue his work without fear.

kindly visit to sign the petition  https://daytoendimpunity.org/take_action/index.php?day=18

 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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ANAMBARA STATE GUBER ELECTIONS: ELECTORAL BODY AND THE POLICE FAIL NIGERIANS AGAIN, SAYS CSOs

Nigeria Civil Society Election Situation Room, an election monitoring team, has slammed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the conduct of Saturday’s Anambra state governorship election which is yet to be concluded.

The electoral body suspended the final collation of results of the election until Sunday afternoon, following its earlier decision to reschedule the poll in 65 polling units in Obosi, Idemili North local government.
In its final report on the election released Sunday noon, Election Situation Room said INEC had repeated too many common mistakes that the expectation of Anambra election serving as a litmus test for 2015 general election, has not been fully realized.
“It is our overall impression that the conduct of the elections leaves a lot to be desired and reflected the lack of competence on the part of INEC in the conduct of elections,” the group said. “The several failings of past elections identified in previous observer reports seem to have repeated themselves…”
The group, a platform of civil society organizations working on election observation, managed by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, said INEC has no explanation for late distribution of election materials as observed at several polling units.
“The Situation Room is concerned that INEC is still not able to deal with the perennial challenge of late distribution of election materials and commencement of accreditation and voting.
The group decried the “gross incompetence” of INEC officials charged with distributing election materials.
“This incompetence manifested in the reported mix up of the election materials for areas such as Idemili North LGA…Although INEC has rescheduled elections in a number of polling units in the worst affected areas, such mix up affects the integrity of our electoral process,” it said.
The group also criticized INEC for not deploying election officials in sufficient numbers to some polling units.
“We received reports that in some polling units, election officials were recruited at the election venue and deployed without any form of training,” it said.
It also criticized the commission for the disenfranchising many voters who could not find their names on the approved list.
The group said despite media report suggesting large turnout of voters, the real numbers were far less.
“Although various reports in the media suggest high turnout of voters based on the sometimes large crowds seen milling around some polling units, the actual accredited voters based on our observations fell far short of the numbers of registered voters in the respective polling units,” it said.
Curiously the Civil society situation room  praised security agents for conducting themselves in a professional and commendable manner. “This is in spite of reports that security officers deployed from outside Anambra State were not adequately provided with food and shelter.” The report added.

In a different report however, the Justice and Equity Organisation (JEO)  issued a report that Anti- democratic forces have unleashed their latest retrogressive onslaught, less than forty-eight hours to the Anambra Gubernatorial election, at civil society activists and groups officially accredited by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the premises of Disney Hotels, Km 4, Owerri-Onitsha road, Owerri, Imo State. The statement reads “Our Organisation, the Justice and Equity Organisation (JEO) accredited as observer in the Anambra Governorship elections of 16th November, 2013 was the victim of police repression and political game.

To ensure efficiency and credible observation, we have organised a pre-election training and briefing session for our Observers. The occasion was also used to distribute election observation paraphernalia to our agents for the Saturday elections. While this peaceful and unobtrusive process was ongoing, a team of police men, acting ostensibly to protect the interest of some evil minded people swooped on the hotel, arrested all the 180 observers, mobilised by our organisation from across the country and carted away the INEC-provided election observation identification tags among other valuables.

This urgent public notice therefore became expedient in view of the very reliable information at our disposal, on a planned purported police stage-managed drama, wherein the arrested activists would be paraded as hoodlums and common criminals. In fact, the Police is set to display some arms and ammunition to press home its chicanery on the intent and gathering of the comrades.

We are using this medium to appeal to members of the public and the Inspector-General of police to as a matter of urgency call the Police to order. The conduct of an election should not and cannot be an excuse to declare a state of emergency on the people who are supposed to come and exercise their franchise freely. The undue militarisation of Anambra State and its environs had been a cause of concern to well-meaning observers. This high-tension situation informed our choice of Owerri for our training and briefing of mobilised observers. This arrest and detention of well-meaning Nigerians, who have sacrificed their time and comfort for voluntary service in the interest of the nation must be roundly and soundly condemned by all.

We are by this statement further calling on Mr. President, the National Assembly, Party leaders, Inspector-General of Police, the Press, INEC and Nigerians for their intervention ahead of the election.

We hereby admonish the Police authorities to order the immediate release of our members to forestall undue tension during and after the election.”

Whichever way, INEC and the Police have yet again failed Nigerians in election management.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Governanace

 

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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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