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Unlawful Killings in Nigeria: It could have been me

By Rommy Mom esq

After the hearing of my case in the Makurdi High Court on the 9th of May 2013, I was billed to leave for Abuja on the 10th of May, 2013.

There were reports the previous day of tension on the Makurdi – Abuja route owing to the killings of about 44 Police Officers by militias 2days earlier in Nassarawa State. Vehicular movement was difficult owing to blockages on the road by their angry widows assisted by youths. As is the practice, the widows assisted by youths (read thugs) were ever ready to cause mayhem.

Given the deaths suffered by the police, and the fact that the resulting action, whether legal or illegal, was in sympathy with the police, the police were expectedly not interested. They were after all, mourning their reportedly 44 killed colleagues. Never mind that in good times the police are equally helpless.

On this Friday, 10th May 2013, I made the necessary calls, reasonably ascertained the route to Abuja from Makurdi was safe, packed my bags, and started the four hour drive to my home in Abuja.

The drive was smooth except for the rather heavy traffic I was driving against. Wondered aloud why the opposite traffic was heavy, but put it down to the weekend and folks leaving Abuja for deserved rest in their home states.

An hour and half into my journey on the outskirts of Akwanga, a town two hours to Abuja, I ran into motorists all parked and obviously anxious. I pulled to the shoulder of the road, and my worst fears were confirmed. The road was blocked.

The widows were back on the road and this time heavily fortified by armed thugs I was told. And so we waited hoping that by some miracle, we would continue our trip. I understood some other motorists were parked far ahead of us and we were in a very safe zone.

An hour into the wait, pandemonium broke, cars screeching and reversing as the hoodlums commenced violent acts of breaking vehicle wind screens and setting some ablaze. Yours truly of course did a deft U turn and headed back to Makurdi, stopping only after about 20 kilometers when I saw other vehicles parked at obviously a safe distance from Akwanga. About 100 vehicles were parked in the area. We commenced another wait.

This turned out to be a bad decision, very bad decision. Approximately 30 minutes into the wait, two truckloads of hoodlums arrived at break neck speed. Humans, thirsty for blood, militias, jumped out wielding axes, sticks, stones and a few locally made pistols and guns.  One of those trucks parked right BESIDE my vehicle and about 30 yards from I was standing, hell broke loose.

People began running into the bush, while the hoodlums lashed at them; the sound of glass breaking as they smashed windscreens, screams of women and children; it was, in one word, terrifying.

It, for me, was the first time I was coming directly into such violence and seeing same, first hand.

I was rooted to the spot, could not move but stood watching everything, and noting everything. Only one thought crossed my mind. Dying a violent death is one thing I had always feared given living in Nigeria in recent times. For us who travel within the country so often, this has always been a fear I nursed. Now it seemed tp be coming true and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

In the madness that was playing out, there was a sudden chill, when almost everyone ran into the bush except for a few of us including me. A dark spectacled Hoodlum approached me, ‘what are you still doing here?’ he barked. ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ I heard myself answer. Suddenly there were three of them asking questions at the same time. I answered none. ‘Where is your car,’ they asked? I pointed to the Dark Honda, yards away, which was miraculously yet to be vandalized.

‘What do you think of the dead policemen?’ I was quizzed. ‘They should have been provided bullet proof vests and more importantly the authorities should have had a better plan,’ I said. One slammed his hand on my car and asked why I didn’t tell that to the government. The Chief amongst them (it seemed) yelled that I take my car and drive off. Mumbling words of appreciation, I got in the car, hoping they would not change their minds, turned the ignition and drove off shaken and sick to my stomach.

The point was made to me finally.

In the last 12 years of our democracy almost 800,000 Nigerians have died in such gruesome barbaric displays of violence for absolutely no fault of theirs, innocent people.

Government has been totally unable to provide its most basic obligation: security.  It has progressively gotten worse in the last 3 years.  This is the plight of Nigerians today. Harsh reality used to be, once you set out on a trip, you were anxious about bad roads, robbers and unscrupulous security agents.  Now there is a new addition: Militias and hoodlums.

MEND, Boko Haram and OPC alongside a motley of violent groups, from Fulani herdsmen, to tribal warlords, have taken over the country. We live and breathe at their mercy while paying taxes to a non-functional government.

Of what relevance is Government in Nigeria one is tempted to ask? We dig our boreholes for water, buy Generators for power, employ Guardsmen for our homes for security, attend private hospitals when ill and send our kids to private schools for quality education.

Where then is the place of Government? Of what relevance is Government in Nigeria? The situation and challenge calls for a Leader who truly is passionate and has a vision for effecting positive change and not enriching himself, kinsmen and friends in situations where corruption is King, and the Rule of Law, nonexistent.

Until Nigeria is blessed with such a leader, the downward spiral continues.

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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Governanace

 

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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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