Month: April 2020

CSOs CONDEMN FORCED MOVEMENT OF ALMAJIRIS AS ILLEGAL & VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

ABUJA (30 April 2020) – The under-listed civil society organizations and activists working under Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) condemn the on-going forced movement of Almajiris by some states in Northern Nigeria by deporting them to their states of origin.

The deportation of the Almajiris is illegal and unconstitutional because every Nigerian, irrespective of his or her status, is entitled to the full enjoyment of the fundamental human rights in the Constitution. Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to reside anywhere in the country.

A citizen cannot be deported from his/her own country. It is a gross violation of his/her right as a citizen.  It is unlawful for the government of any state to forcefully deport or move any person or group from one state to another against their will.

It is unconscionable that the governments of the concerned states who are supposed to take care of the education and welfare of the Almajiris are maltreating them. The Almajiri phenomenon is purely a result of failure of governance. These children are entitled to their constitutional right to free and compulsory primary and secondary education. Rather than carry out their constitutional duty of providing for the security and welfare of the people, Northern state governors in particular, have allowed Almajiris roam the streets, exposing them to exploitation.

HRAN warns that the continued dehumanizing of these children, will have far reaching security implications for those states in particular and the entire country in general. Nigeria has an obligation to adequately protect and promote the rights of a child under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, duly domesticated in the Child Rights Act.

It is our belief, that rather than bandying the Almajiri system as currently administered, Northern state governments should standardize the school system to compete with their counterparts in countries such as Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, and UAE. We call on them to ensure that these children do not remain on the streets without care or sustenance, or exposed to violations, resulting from the governments’ inadequacies.

These forced movements constitute violations of their right to respect for the dignity of their persons guaranteed under section 34 of the 1999 Constitution and the right to personal liberty protected under section 35 of the Constitution. Also, targeting the Almajiris as a social group for deportation is a violation of their right to protection against discrimination, which is provided under section 42 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

The forced movement of the Almajiris from one state to another is a major public health risk in the context of Covid19 pandemic. The Governors of the Northern states claim that the deportation of the Almajaris is to curb the spread of Covid19 and enforcement of the lockdown orders in the states. On the contrary, the deportation from a state with Covid19 cases such as Kano State without prior testing and isolation, portends grave risks in the spread of the virus across states. Instructively, the five (5) new cases reported in Kaduna few days ago by NCDC, were Almajiri deportees from Kano state.

HRAN urges the governments of these states to put an immediate end to further illegal movement or deportation of people, especially Almajiris and put measures in place to cater for their needs, skillfully equip them, so they can become productive citizens in the future.

Signed

  1. Human Rights Agenda Network
  2. Access to Justice
  3. Carmelite Prisoner’s Interest Organization (CAPIO)
  4. Legal Defence and Assistance Project
  5. Prison Inmate Development Initiative (PIDI)
  6. Child Rights Protection Initiative (CRPI)
  7. Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD)
  8. Justice for Peace and Development Initiative
  9. Legal Resources Consortium
  10. Network for Justice, Kano
  11. Socio Economic Rights Initiative (SERI)
  12. Women Africa

Women Rights Advanc

COVID-19: Bachelet urges States to take extra steps to include people with disabilities

GENEVA (30 April 2020) – Targeted measures are needed to address the disproportionate risks faced by persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the UN Human Rights Office to publish a guidance note for States and other stakeholders on COVID-19 and the human rights of persons with disabilities.

“People with disabilities not only face greater risks from COVID-19, they also are disproportionately affected by response measures, including lockdowns. To address this double risk, we need to be engaging persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 response, and adapting plans to address their needs,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

“People with disabilities are in danger in their own homes, where access to day-to-day support and services may be limited due to lockdowns, and some may suffer greatly from being isolated or confined. These are not unsolvable problems, but they do require specific steps to be taken or exceptions to be made to prevent further harm being done.

“Persons with disabilities face even greater threats in institutions, as care facilities have recorded high fatality rates from COVID-19 and horrific reports have emerged of neglect during the pandemic. Now is the time to support community-based arrangements, wherever possible.”

Making information about COVID-19 available in accessible formats for persons with disabilities is vital, as is ensuring accessibility of online education, Bachelet added.

The High Commissioner also expressed concerns about discrimination and stigma against persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have been deeply disturbed by reports that the lives of persons with disabilities may somehow be given different weight than others during this pandemic,” she said. “Medical decisions need to be based on individualized clinical assessments and medical need, and not on age or other characteristics such as disability.”

The guidance published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights identifies major concerns and sets out key actions in the context of the pandemic.

The guidance aims to bring awareness of the pandemic’s impact on people with disabilities and their rights; draw attention to some promising practices already being undertaken around the world; identify key actions for States and other stakeholders; and provide resources for further learning about ensuring rights based COVID-19 responses inclusive of persons with disabilities

COVID-19: “No excuse for impunity for those convicted of crimes against humanity” – UN expert on transitional justice

GENEVA (29 April 2020) – Urgent measures to protect against COVID-19 in overcrowded jails should not lead to impunity for persons convicted in many countries for serious violations of human rights, crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes.

“Existing international law prohibits the adoption of measures that create, de jure or de facto, impunity for persons convicted of such crimes,” today said the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabián Salvioli.

“Measures such as amnesties, pardons, exemptions from criminal liability, and benefits in the enforcement of sentences are null and void, and have no legal effect,” said Salvioli, who has just published detailed guidelines to Governments on the issue. “Humanitarian pardons can only be granted in cases of terminal illness of imminent resolution.”

In the context of a pandemic such as COVID-19, where the risk of contagion endangers the health and life of the population, he recalled that “States have a greater duty to prevent violations of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, avoiding overcrowding and ensuring hygiene and sanitation in prisons and other detention centres.”

However, the UN expert on transitional justice noted that these individuals usually enjoy conditions of detention established for security reasons that avoid mass contact, which places them at an advantage in terms of safety and health compared to other persons deprived of their liberty.

“In the current health emergency,” he said, “once general measures have been implemented to avoid overcrowding of the prison population, if the problem of possible overcrowding of persons imprisoned for committing such crimes persists, it is recommended to relocate them to another prison facility where they have safe and healthy detention conditions.”

“If this is impossible, temporary house arrest should be granted, with appropriate controls,” the UN expert said. “However, the individuals must return to prison once the emergency situation has passed, to serve the remainder of their prison term.”

Displaced and stateless women and girls face heightened risk of violence amid coronavirus pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to take lives and change communities around the world, the virus is also creating massive protection risks for women and girls forced to flee their homes, a top official at the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Monday, stressing that global protection staff are on high alert and adapting life-saving support programmes for those subjected to violence. 

“We need to pay urgent attention to the protection of refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls at the time of this pandemic,” said Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Doors should not be left open for abusers and no help spared for women surviving abuse and violence.”

Confinement policies, lockdowns and quarantines put in place to fight the pandemic have led to restricted movement, reduced community interaction, the closure of services and worsening socioeconomic conditions – all factors that significantly exacerbate the risks of intimate partner violence, Ms. Triggs explained.;

Some women and girls may end up confined to their shelters and homes, trapped with their abusers without the ability to distance themselves or to seek in-person support, she said. Others may be forced into survival sex or child marriages by their families.

Life-saving support 

In response, UNHCR is adapting its life-saving support programmes, where possible.  “In some locations, they are now being managed remotely by social workers with the support of trained community volunteer networks,” said the Assistant High Commissioner. 

The agency is distributing emergency cash assistance to support survivors and women-at-risk.  It is coordinating its action across the humanitarian sector to ensure the risks of sexual and gender-based violence are mitigated throughout all sectoral interventions – including the emergency health response. 

In all such efforts, displaced women themselves are involved at the forefront, informing their communities about the risks of violence and providing information on prevention and protective health measures. They are also helping survivors access specialized support. 

Governments also have a critical role to play. “To preserve lives and secure rights, Governments, together with humanitarian actors, must ensure that rising risks of violence for displaced and stateless women are taken into account in the design of national COVID-19 prevention, response and recovery plans,” Ms. Triggs said.  

This means ensuring that critical services for survivors of gender-based violence are designated as essential and are accessible to those forcibly displaced. These include health and security services for survivors, psycho-social support and safe shelters. Access to justice for survivors must also not be diminished. 

Given the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions now facing many refugee host countries, Ms. Triggs said support from donors will be critically needed to preserve the essential services that prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including those provided by local, women-led organizations. 

“We must stand with displaced and stateless women and girls” the Assistant High Commissioner said, urging Governments to place all women and girls’ safety first as they respond to the pandemic. 

COVID-19 could lead to millions of unintended pregnancies, new UN-backed data reveals

They estimate that the number of women unable to access family planning or facing unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices, could “skyrocket” by millions due to the crisis.

#COVID19 is disrupting life as we know it.

47 million women may lose access to contraceptives if the #coronavirus lockdown carries on for 6 months.

Learn more in these new @UNFPA findings: http://unf.pa/cov 

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“This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally”, said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director.

“The pandemic is deepening inequalities, and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies and their health.”

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNFPA works to serve the unmet need for family planning, and to stamp out gender-based violence and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. It also focuses on ending all preventable maternal deaths.

Limited access to services

The research was conducted by UNFPA, in collaboration with Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and Victoria University in Australia.

COVID-19 is having an enormous impact on women and girls as health systems become overloaded and facilities close, or provide a limited set of services which they need. At the same time, many women and girls also are skipping important medical check-ups for fear of contracting the virus.

Disruptions to global supply chains could lead to significant shortages of contraceptives, the partners said, while gender-based violence – already on the increase due to the pandemic, as UN News reported earlier this month – is expected to rise still further as women are trapped at home for prolonged periods.

Unable to plan families

Globally, around 450 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries use contraceptives, according to UNFPA and partners.

They project that if health services remain disrupted and lockdowns continue for six months, some 47 million in these countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives, resulting in around seven million unintended pregnancies.

© UNFPA Myanmar/Yenny GammingUNFPA is expecting more cases of violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and unintended pregnancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There also will be 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence during the same period, with a further 15 million more cases expected for every three months the lockdowns continue.

The pandemic has also affected programmes to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM), and the experts estimate two million FGM cases may occur over the next decade that could have been averted.

Similarly, an additional 13 million child marriages could take place this decade as the crisis has disrupted efforts to stop this practice.

Putting women and girls first

UNFPA is working with governments and partners to prioritize the needs of women and girls of reproductive age during the pandemic.

Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

The agency is focused on strengthening health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement.

“Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs”, said Ms. Kanem, the UNFPA chief.

“The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported.”

You lack powers to evacuate Almajiris, CSO tells Governor

Recall that last week, Governors Umar Ganduje and Simon Lalong of Kano and Plateau states respectively approved the evacuation of nearly 20,000 children to their states of origin over fears they might fuel the spread of Coronavirus, COVID-19, in their domains.

However, Concerned Nigerians in a statement on Wednesday by its convener, Prince Deji Adeyanju, said the repatriation exercise was not only poorly thought-out but also contravened the provision of Section 41 of the Constitution.

The group, therefore, called on the Federal Government and the security agencies to halt further evacuation of citizens away from any part of the country. The statement read in part, “The state governors erred by deporting the children. It is reprehensible and irresponsible for any government to deport its citizens especially vulnerable children whose lives maybe endangered in the process of deportation.

“The deportation of these Nigerians by state governors is unconstitutional. Section 41 of the CFRN guarantees the rights of every citizen to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof and no citizen shall be expelled or refused entry. “Nigeria is a nation governed by law and order and unconstitutional acts like this must be condemned by all and sundry.

The children are protected by law and their freedom to move and live in any party of the federation without being hounded or harassed by the state must be upheld. “The founders of our democratic republic demanded that the constitution protects us against government limits on our freedom of movement and assembly as guaranteed in section 41”.

The group also berated those in power for failing to care for the children over the years, saying the menace of street-begging and other ills ocassioned by the Almajiris were products of leadership failure and decades of negligence on the part of the government.

“These kids wouldn’t have been on the streets begging if money meant for their education had not being stolen or embezzled. “Education is the key to success and every child has the right to qualitative education. It transforms lives, breaks the cycle of poverty and provides a pathway for a better future.

These children deserve a better future and the government must ensure they are given one. “It is also pertinent to note that the state governors do not have the powers under the omnibus section 45 of our constitution to revoke the right of freedom of movement guaranteed in section 41. Their actions are unconstitutional,” the statement added.

Source: Vanguard

NHRC partners CSOs on online platform for reporting rights violations

Nigerians can now report human rights violations and get real time response from the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC. This can be done via an online platform that has been developed by the NHRC to document, report and investigate human rights violations in Nigeria.

The tech-based platform, developed in partnership with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA, Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, Department for International Development, UKAID, and Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, allows users to upload pictures of events, with indication of location, time and nature of violations.

Theuser is also able to input other information like the name of the alleged violator(s) and victim(s) and other real time information that can be further verified by the responders. The online platform is also able to collate, analyse and generate results and data for the reports and provide dash-board information for the public.

“The commission’s primary mandate is the monitoring and investigation of human rights violations. This includes the publication of annual state of human rights report for the country; this platform is, therefore, key to efficiency and effectiveness in the discharge of the mandate of the commission”

The online platform will not just help victims report abuses and abusers, it will bring the individuals and agencies behind any human rights violation to account. The platform will also be used by the Commission to scale up its efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of its functions, even as CSO partners and citizens are encouraged to file reports.

Source: Vanguard

COVID-19: NLC to El-Rufai: refund 25% deduction or else…

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Kaduna State has rejected deduction of 25 per cent from salaries of senior civil servants in the, asking Governor Nasir El-Rufai to return the deducted fund or face action from the Union.

Kaduna State Government had at the weekend announced it would deduct 25 per cent from salaries of civil servants receiving above N67,000 to provide palliatives for vulnerable residents who don’t work for the government and are affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Suleiman argued the deduction ought to have been done with the consent of the labour union and function as voluntary donation rather than forceful deduction.

According to him: “Sequel to the deductions of 25% on the salary of all civil servants in Kaduna state, effective from April, 2020, labour in Kaduna State unequivocally rejects this deduction. This is because the Union was not consulted on the issue nor consented to the deduction.

“Article 8 of the International Labour Organization Protection of Wages Convention, 1949, (No.95) provides that deduction from wages shall be permitted only under conditions and to the extent prescribed by the National Laws or regulations or fixed by collective agreement or arbitration award.

“Section 5(1) of the Labour Act Cap 1.1 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 provides thus: “Except where it is expressly permitted by this act or any agreement or contract with a worker for any deductions or wages to be paid by the employer to the worker or any payment to the employer by the worker for or in respect of any fines provided that with the prior consent in writing of an authorized Labour officer a reasonable deduction may be made in respect of injury or loss caused to the employer by the willful misconduct or neglect of the worker.”

“Labour in Kaduna State is not against the provision of palliatives to the poor to cushion the COVID19 lockdown from the salaries of civil servants in Kaduna State but wish to state that, it ought to be carried along, and such deductions or contributions should be made voluntary not compulsory.

“As responsible working groups who are conscious of the predicament of the average citizens of Kaduna state, we are disposed to committing much higher for the wellbeing of the less privilege if the need be and proper process is followed.

“In view of the above, Labour in Kaduna state calls on the Kaduna state government to stop the 25% deduction henceforth and should return the 25% salary already deducted from the workers.

“Failure to comply with the above will leave the labour in the state with no option than to explore other possible avenues within the purview of the law.”

Source: The NigerianLawyers