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People for sale: Where lives are auctioned for $400

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — “Eight hundred,” says the auctioneer. “900 … 1,000 … 1,100 …” Sold. For 1,200 Libyan dinars — the equivalent of $800.

Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not “merchandise” at all, but two human beings.

One of the unidentified men being sold in the grainy cell phone video obtained by CNN is Nigerian. He appears to be in his twenties and is wearing a pale shirt and sweatpants.

He has been offered up for sale as one of a group of “big strong boys for farm work,” according to the auctioneer, who remains off camera. Only his hand — resting proprietorially on the man’s shoulder — is visible in the brief clip.

After seeing footage of this slave auction, CNN worked to verify its authenticity and traveled to Libya to investigate further.

Carrying concealed cameras into a property outside the capital of Tripoli last month, we witness a dozen people go “under the hammer” in the space of six or seven minutes.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” the salesman, dressed in camouflage gear, says. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”

Buyers raise their hands as the price rises, “500, 550, 600, 650 …” Within minutes it is all over and the men, utterly resigned to their fate, are being handed over to their new “masters.”

After the auction, we met two of the men who had been sold. They were so traumatized by what they’d been through that they could not speak, and so scared that they were suspicious of everyone they met.

Watch full documentary: Libya’s migrant slave trade

Crackdown on smugglers

Each year, tens of thousands of people pour across Libya’s borders. They’re refugees fleeing conflict or economic migrants in search of better opportunities in Europe.

Most have sold everything they own to finance the journey through Libya to the coast and the gateway to the Mediterranean.

But a recent clampdown by the Libyan coastguard means fewer boats are making it out to sea, leaving the smugglers with a backlog of would-be passengers on their hands.

So the smugglers become masters, the migrants and refugees become slaves.

The evidence filmed by CNN has now been handed over to the Libyan authorities, who have promised to launch an investigation.

First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the government’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency in Tripoli told CNN that although he had not witnessed a slave auction, he acknowledged that organized gangs are operating smuggling rings in the country.

“They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it,” Hazam says. “(The smuggler) does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea.”

“The situation is dire,” Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, said in a statement after returning from Tripoli in April. “Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages.”

The auctions take place in a seemingly normal town in Libya filled with people leading regular lives. Children play in the street; people go to work, talk to friends and cook dinners for their families.But inside the slave auctions it’s like we’ve stepped back in time. The only thing missing is the shackles around the migrants’ wrists and ankles.

Anes Alazabi is a supervisor at a detention center in Tripoli for migrants that are due to be deported. He says he’s heard “a lot of stories” about the abuse carried out by smugglers.

“I’m suffering for them. What I have seen here daily, believe me, it makes me feel pain for them,” he says. “Every day I can hear a new story from people. You have to listen to all of them. It’s their right to deliver their voices.”

One of the detained migrants, a young man named Victory, says he was sold at a slave auction. Tired of the rampant corruption in Nigeria’s Edo state, the 21-year-old fled home and spent a year and four months — and his life savings — trying to reach Europe.

He made it as far as Libya, where he says he and other would-be migrants were held in grim living conditions, deprived of food, abused and mistreated by their captors.

“If you look at most of the people here, if you check your bodies, you see the marks. They are beaten, mutilated.”

When his funds ran out, Victory was sold as a day laborer by his smugglers, who told him that the profit made from the transactions would serve to reduce his debt. But after weeks of being forced to work, Victory was told the money he’d been bought for wasn’t enough. He was returned to his smugglers, only to be re-sold several more times.

The smugglers also demanded ransom payments from Victory’s family before eventually releasing him.

“I spent a million-plus [Nigerian naira, or $2,780],” he tells CNN from the detention center, where he is waiting to be sent back to Nigeria. “My mother even went to a couple villages, borrowing money from different couriers to save my life.”

As the route through north Africa becomes increasingly fraught, many migrants have relinquished their dreams of ever reaching European shores. This year, more than 8,800 individuals have opted to voluntarily return home on repatriation flights organized by the IOM.

While many of his friends from Nigeria have made it to Europe, Victory is resigned to returning home empty-handed.

“I could not make it, but I thank God for the life of those that make it,” he says.

“I’m not happy,” he adds. “I go back and start back from square one. It’s very painful. Very painful.”


NBA Should Advocate Better Funding of Judiciary

All said and done it is laudable and must be supported. However as the saying goes no pain no gain. The Federal Government must be ready to do the work to achieve the result.

What do you mean by this?

That means painstaking investigations, equipping and training their personnel in the anti graft agencies and raising awareness amongst the citizens to ensure their buy-in and active co-operation.  Attempting to take a short cut such as the recent ‘Ex Parte’ order forfeiting funds belonging to depositors without BVN, is an example of a shortcut that will lead to an arid desert, which can never be fruitful. How do you appropriate monies belonging to citizens because they have not complied with a CBN directive? It simply beggars belief! I am an administrator in an Estate that has not been settled over 20 later. So, if there are bank accounts belonging to the deceased, the beneficiaries will lose their entitlement because they could not wake up the dead to be finger printed? What about Nigerians in the Diaspora with bank accounts in Nigeria? Many are not in touch with Nigeria and unaware of these directives. There are so many different scenarios that can result in the lack of a BVN on an account through no fault of the bank or the depositor.

How  can anti-graft war be strengthened to  reduce loss of high profile cases?

The outcome shows that the EFCC may have rushed to Court without taking their  time to investigate and prepare for the cases. Strategic preparation is the key to victory in any litigation, including prosecution for financial crimes. For instance, the EFCC generally will  charge the accused with numerous counts of various offences at the same time. As you well know, the onus is on them to prove each and every count,  but  I would approach it differently.

How would you approach it?

I would take just one or two counts that I am certain I can prove to the very high standard required in criminal prosecution, that is, “beyond reasonable doubt’ and ensure that I adduce sufficient evidence to achieve a conviction on one or the other or both. The more cases the EFCC lose, the more the tendency to impunity so they really have to make more of an effort to ensure a higher success rate as a deterrent.

Should EFCC  focus be limited to financial crimes?

Corrupt politicians are also more often than not, accused of financial crimes and, therefore, come under the purview of the EFCC, when, as it invariably does, the alleged act of corruption involves money. I don’t think the issue is who prosecutes, rather it is how well they prepare their cases  before rushing to court.

Presumably, legal opinions are sought prior to the decision to prosecute. That’s usually the case with prosecutions initiated by the Attorney General’s office, at least, at state level where I assist with prosecution. If that is the case, a lawyer from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) usually provides his legal opinion. Naturally, the MoJ lawyer is often not a subject matter expert and, therefore, not fully conversant with all the factual elements required to succeed. It is important that in complex financial transactions, they enlist the help of subject matter experts before  hand. You can be assured that the defence, usually much better funded, will have subject matter experts working with the lawyers as consultants and providing expert opinion where necessary. Funding is key to success. The EFCC has to be better funded to enable the agency pay counsel.

You recently promoted a mega law firm, Primera Africa Legal (PAL) . Can you give us insight into what informed the formation of the mega law firm?.

I would not describe us as a mega law firm when our global competitors  have lawyers and partners in their thousands. There are law firms with income in the billions of dollars, and we are tiny compared to them and yet, we have to compete with them. The formation of PAL is driven by the need to serve our clients better on a truly national scale from the North to the South and everywhere in between.

What do you consider to be the greatest challenges facing commercial law practitioners in the country?

The greatest challenge is the economy. We are not insulated from the effects of the recession as commercial lawyers. When business slows down due to the various factors that we know led to this recession, it impacts on the number of transactions and, therefore, on the transaction advisers too.

What is the global perspectives in the current operations of the law firm?

We are part of an ever smaller and interconnected world. Our competitors, law firms from other jurisdictions, who are already playing in our space whether we like to accept it or not, are generally far better resourced than we are. This is because they have modernised their rules to allow none lawyers invest in law firms and some law firms are even  quoted on the stock exchange.

In Mexico for instance, they allow none Mexican law firms to invest in their local law firms although these investors are not permitted to practice in their jurisdiction. It is something we have to consider in this jurisdiction if we want to hold our ground against the foreign law firms.

How do we strengthen the whistle blowing policy to make it more efficient and effective?

A robust whistle blower protection scheme in addition to the cash incentive will increase confidence in the system. And that’s what we  need! The British police get some of the best results in the world and that is due to the confidence the citizens have in their local Bobby. They know that he will not reveal his sources and if need be, will go to any length to protect the whistle blower. That confidence means that people are eager to assist the police if they are aware of any criminal activity. This is where we need to be, where Nigerians feel confident enough to approach the police to report any criminal activity around them, not just corruption in high places.

What is your view about agitations?

Indeed, it is most worrisome. Words can be extremely hurtful and we need to be mindful of what we say about each other if we truly want to continue to live together as one nation. The politicians have led the country in this direction with their incendiary remarks every time we have an incident of inter tribal violence. Sadly, it has become so ingrained that it is now almost our default mode to make derogatory statements about our fellow Nigerians because of their tribe, religion or gender.

We have to start reversing this trend and in this case, I would urge us to actually believe that; “Change begins with me”. Think about the words we use and the origin before we use them. For instance, why are we still referring to grown up men and women as ‘house boys’ and ‘house girls’? Domestic workers are productive members of our society as deserving of our respect as lawyers or any other profession. There is dignity in labour and we must bear this in mind always. Ask yourself, honestly, do I judge competence and even  character by this primitive yardstick called tribe? How do we employ in our businesses? At PAL, we employ on merit and every tribe is represented in our offices in Abuja and Lagos. This shows that there are capable Nigerians in every part of the country and from every tribe of the nation.

How do you think we can restructure Nigeria within the ambit of the law?

Well, what is it that we wish to restructure in the first place and what do we mean by restructuring? This is a new buzz word for politicians and I really think we should examine this very critically before jumping on the band wagon. The three tiers of government have a lot of independence from each other, it is up to each tier to protect its constitutional powers from encroachment by another, and we will find if this is done, that what we actually have in place at the moment, is more than sufficient. If we restructure, whatever this means, and do not implement, there still would not be much progress.

The Judiciary has been generally referred to as the last hope of the common man. Can you honestly say that about  Nigerian judiciary?

The judiciary is still the last hope of the common man, no question about that. I am very encouraged by the changes the  current CJN has instituted. We are already seeing the results of these specialised courts. The corruption trials are moving along much faster, as criminal matters. I am an active practitioner  in the courts across the country on a very regular basis and I have to say that the judiciary has been much maligned. Our Judges work tirelessly to dispense justice at the expense of their health and well being in a lot of cases. The working conditions are abysmal.

How do we correct this?

We need to invest more in this very important arm of government and the Bar should advocate better funding for the courts. We are there every day, we see the decaying infrastructure, we see the overworked registry staff and we say nothing. Rather, we prefer to stand outside the court rooms in our wigs and gowns advocating our cases before the media. It’s atrocious and sadly seems to have become the norm in this jurisdiction. In England, you would never hear a Barrister who is directly involved, comment on a case to the media whilst it is sub-judice. And even after that matter is concluded, the only comment would be to read a statement on behalf of the client.

By: John Austin Unachukwu
The Nation News


Jurist advocates constitutional democracy

Justice Justice Chima Centus Nweze of the Supreme Court has called for strict adherence to constitutionalism. He said it was the only way to
guarantee effective democratic governance.

Justice Nweze spoke at the 16th Justice Idigbe Memorial Lecture, which held at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), where he was the guest lecturer. Its theme was: Constitutional Adjudication For Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria: The Role of The Supreme Court.

The jurist said there was tendency towards “judicialisation of politics”  in which societal decision-making becomes more judiciary-oriented. He said the 1999 Constitution places a major responsibility on the judiciary as democratic watchdog.

“The Judiciary could rightly be viewed as the sentinel duly consecrated to guard the cherished principles of democracy enunciated in the constitution.

“The implications of this guardianship role are two-fold: the constitution makes the judiciary the ‘watch-dog’ of the other arms of government, that is, its role is to keep each arm within the confines of its powers.

“It demands that the court’s should void any exercise which does not comply with the constitutionally-prescribed manner of its exercise.

“The other, and more cogent, implication of the guardianship role of the judiciary is that the constitution, by the said investiture of guardianship, espouses a dynamic concept of the role of the judiciary.

“Like its 1979 precursor, the 1999 constitution concedes sovereignty to the people of Nigeria. Instructively, the constitution concedes to the judiciary the eminent and most enviable position of arbiter between the government and the people,” Nweze said.

Justice Nweze, who holds a Ph.D, said unlike the period of 1960 to 1963 and 1979 to 1983 where in certain disputes, courts declined jurisdiction in certain political matters, the situation has changed with the 1999 Constitution.

He said:  “Indeed, a two-time governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, owed his first term in office to this new attitude. Again, unlike the previous attitude to what is loosely called impeachment, that is proceedings culminating in the removal of either the President, Vice President, Governor of his deputy, a process which was classified as a political cauldron dripping with the kind of miasma that could drench the court and denude the sustained public confidence in its moral section, the judiciary has frontally confronted the castrating influence of that doctrine. It has considerably curbed its monumental fans. Hence, it has enlarged the leeways of permissible encroachment on the canvass of the doctrine.”

On the late Justice Chinweike Idigbe, Justice Nweze said the judiciary does not adequately “outsource” the contributions of its eminent jurists.

The reason, he said, was because the dominant discourse in comparative judicial and contemporary scholastic reasoning was shaped by Anglo-American perspective and Eurocentric viewpoints.

His words: “Law teachers and students must be familiar with such names like Jeremy Bentham, John Austin, Lords Come, while in the case of Nigeria those who have contributed substantially have not been heard much of.

“Who can tell me that the contribution of Prof Ben Nwuabuze is not known all over the world? If you Google, you will see his contribution on all the issues. Chances are that if you go through international journals you will see his contributions but they are not embedded in our constitutional development like the Anglo-Amerian viewpoints,” he stated

To address this anomaly, therefore, Justice Nweze said there was the need to ascertain whether justices are able to establish an exportable model like their counterparts elsewhere.

To do this, he said first step is to establish whether the late Idigbe was able to establish an “exportable model”, and reasoning comparable to other forms of judicial reasoning that had dominated and shaped debates in literature.

“Against this background, it would only suffice to erect an aperture through which this distinguished audience could peep into the invaluable store house of the judicial information contained in His Lordship’s (Justice Idigbe’s) judgements,” Justice said.

He described the late Justice Idigbe as a modest man, a very able judge, mentally vigorous, fair-minded, infinitely compassionate and a lovable human being that should be emulated.

UNIBEN Vice Chancellor Prof. Faraday Orumwense, paid tribute to the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), who established the lecture series to celebrate Justice Idigbe.

He praised the university’s Faculty of Law for sustaining it.


Nigerian military stops admission of combatant female cadets

In a major policy reversal, the Nigerian military is set to end the admission of female cadets into the combatant course of the Nigerian Defence Academy.

A set of 20 females, nicknamed Jonathan Queens, were first admitted into the course in Nigeria’s premier military officer training institution during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2011.

It was learnt that the recommendation to end the programme was made by the Armed Forces Council which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.

Buhari had also last week ratified the National Defence Policy 2017 (Revised); Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service Officers 2017.

Recommendation 19 of the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of the Armed Forces of Nigeria was sighted by newsmen on Sunday.

It read, “Phase out the training of female regular combatant cadets.”

A serving general in the Nigerian Army told our correspondent that the military took the decision due to complaints from some unnamed northern Muslim leaders.

The general, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, explained that there were various types of commissions in the Armed Forces namely: Regular Combatant Commission, Short Service Combatant Commission, Direct Regular Commission, Direct Short Service and Executive Commission.

He said, “It is only the Regular Combatant Commission that can give an officer the opportunity to aspire to head any of the services or rise to become the Chief of Defence Staff, while the others have limited career path. If the military is able to scrap this programme, women will never be able to head any of the arms of the Nigerian military.

“The northern Muslim leaders want to prevent a situation where one day, a woman will lead the army and give orders to men.”

Incidentally, it was reported in 2013 that of the first 20 female cadets, only one Muslim, Fatimah Saleh, enlisted. She had also stated that her “Arabic school teacher” had advised her against joining the army.

The general said those pushing for the scrapping of the programme had convince the President that women were not doing well in the programme.

He said, “When we started the training of female cadets in 2011, we never thought it would be successful. When the first set of women cadets graduated from the academy last year, women won three awards, including the best award in the navy category.

“A female cadet, C. Lord-Mallam, won the Navy Gold award which is the highest in the navy category. The Army Silver award, which is the second highest in the army, went to a female cadet, K. O Dayo-Karim. The Air Force Silver award was also won by a female cadet, O. S Ijelu.

“However, some northern conservatives were not happy about it because most of the female cadets are either Christians from the South and northern minority groups or Muslims from the South and Middle Belt.

“Dissatisfied with how things are turning out, the northern Muslim leaders lobbied the military authorities to stop the programme for women.”

The general described the recommendation as an attempt to reverse the gains of the past, adding that it was a setback in the push for gender equality.

He revealed that many of the female cadets were outperforming their male colleagues, adding that their achievements were being suppressed by the military hierarchy.

The general said, “I was informed that the women were trained just like the men were trained. They were not given any preferential treatment. Two of these female cadets beat their male counterparts to win placement at the United States Military Academy in West Point and they are doing well.

“It is unfortunate that while the western world and even other African nations are progressing, Nigeria is going backwards.”

In 2010, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, had ordered the military to allow females interested in becoming combatant officers of the Nigerian armed forces to be admitted into the NDA for the first time ever.

The then Minister of Defence, Adetokunbo Kayode, had said other countries in Africa were “already doing it and they are not better than us.”


NEWSOgonis blow hot over killings by policemen escorting stolen fuel, condemn Shell

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people (MOSOP) has condemned the “killing of 3 youths” of Luebe community in Ogoniland on Sunday, November 12, 2017 by men of the Nigeria Police.

Fegalo Nsuke, Publicity Secretary, in a statement on Tuesday said the group’s checks revealed that the youths had attempted to stop the police from escorting illegally-mined petroleum products through their community en-route Ndoki in Oyigbo local government area of Rivers State.

e noted that the Luebe killings is very regrettable because the youths rose against the pipeline vandalism masterminded and prosecuted by men of the Nigeria Police.

“They showed that the crime for which the government and Shell has accused the Ogoni community is a crime by a criminal gang that is enjoying the protection of the Nigeria Police”, Nsuke continued.

“The Ogoni people are disheartened that the killing of our people by state security and the policies of government is dangerously and increasingly pointing to a deliberate state–backed genocide against the our people.

“We note with regret, the impunity that characterizes the killings and abuses perpetrated by Nigerian security forces against the Ogoni people.

“Very recently, over 35 persons were killed in Ogoniland in a military raid preceding the last re-run elections. The national assembly launched a probe into the incident.

“The report has not been made public. Last month, precisely on October 6, Nigerian soldiers shot at peaceful protesters in Tai, no one has been held to account for the shootings nor has Shell, the company that has sponsored this shooting and several others ever been questioned over her activities in Ogoniland.

“While we call on the Nigerian government to properly investigate and prosecute every erring officer involved in the Luebe killings, we demand an end to the mindless and seemingly deliberate killing of our people by Nigerian security forces.

“We expect the security forces to protect our people and not kill them. We therefore want to make clear, our strong disgust against the impunity that has characterized human rights abuses by security men in Ogoniland and demand and end to this.”


Extra-judicial killings: Two Nigerians killed in South Africa in 48 hours

The Nigerian community in South Africa has confirmed the vicious killing of two members in that country within 48 hours, barely a month after President Jacob Zuma was honoured by the Imo Government.

In October, a Nigerian man was shot dead in South Africa over an alleged 300 Rand (about N7,500) parking lot debt.

No fewer than 116 Nigerians have been killed in the country through extra-judicial means in the last two years, according to Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

A dependable source close to the Nigerian community told the News Agency of Nigeria on telephone from Johannesburg on Tuesday that the first recent victim, Ikechukwu Edmond, 40, was killed on November 11.

The source said the deceased, a businessman and native of Ihembosi, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra, was killed in front of his house on Amant Street, Malvern, Johannesburg.

It quoted a witness and neighbour of Mr. Edmond, Sibongile as saying that six men came to their house and started breaking doors and taking out their personal effects.

“When she (Sibongile) raised alarm, they started beating her. When Ikechukwu came in and saw what was happening, he brought out his phone to call the police.

“A member of the gang took a brick and hit him in the face and he fell down. When the police arrived, he was already dead,” the source told NAN.

According to the source, police said they have commenced “investigation’’ into the death of the businessman.

The second victim, Eluka Agu, native of Ihiala also from Anambra, was allegedly robbed and then beaten by some South Africans at Oliven, Centurion on Monday.

Sources said the police came and took him away to his house for a search.

“The victim pleaded with the police to take him to the hospital for treatment but they refused.

“After searching his house without finding anything, he died as a result of the severe beating’’.

As usual, the Nigerian community in the area which expressed worry about the incidents, had vowed to take up the matter with “appropriate authorities’’, the source added.

Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa, while reacting to the gruesome killing of a Nigerian, Tochukwu Nnadi, by police in South Africa which has brought the number of Nigerians massacred in the country to 20 in 2016 alone, had described it as “unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria.”

“The barbaric behaviour of the perpetrators is not only unacceptable, but also calls for urgent attention by diplomatic authorities in Nigeria and South Africa,” she said, reiterating President Muhammadu Buhari’s call to Nigerians to avoid crimes such as drug peddling which attracts stiff penalties, sometimes death.

Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa urged the South African government to ensure that justice prevailed by carrying out investigation and bring the culprit to book.

NAN also reports that on October 11, Jelili Omoyele, a 35-year-old mobile phone technician, was shot dead in Johannesburg while Olamilekan Badmus, a 25-year-old from Ogun, was also killed at Vaal Vreneging, near Johannesburg.

On the same day, a third Nigerian identified as Ifeanyi, a chicken seller, was accidentally shot in the head by the police.

On October 15, Imo Governor, Rochas Okorocha unveiled a statue in honour of South African President Jacob Zuma, who witnessed the event.

Apart from the statue, a road was also named after Mr. Zuma with a traditional title of Ochiagha Imo by Eze Imo, Samuel Ohiri, to crown the state honour bestowed on him.

During the military administration of the then Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria spearheaded the struggles that ended Aparthied in South Africa.

Among other efforts, the military administration of Mr. Obasanjo, a general contributed $3.7 million to a fund set up to help tackle apartheid in South Africa and also committed personal donation of $3,000 to the fund.

All Nigerian civil servants and public officers at the time made a 2 per cent donation from their monthly salaries to the fund while Nigerian students skipped their lunch to make donations, and by June 1977, the total contribution to the fund had reached $10.5 million.

Between 1973 and 1978, Nigeria contributed $39,040 to the UN Educational and Training Programme for South Africa and in 1976, Nigeria boycotted the 1976 Olympics and Commonwealth games in 1979 as part of protest against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

From 1960 to 1995, according to available records, Nigeria spent over $61 billion to support the end of apartheid more than any other country in the world.

The late Sunny Okosun of Nigeria composed a song called “Fire in Soweto” in 1977 to show support for the fight against apartheid.


Law Prison congestion as denial of human rights: What FG is doing

According to Nelson Mandela, “no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”

Most inmates come out more miserable than they were when they first got to prison while some come out deformed with no compensation for those who have been wrongly detained. Whereas if you have been wrongly detained for about 10 years in places like the USA, you are paid compensation, in Nigeria you are not even given transport fare.

Such governmental organisations as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACN) that should have risen to ameliorate the situation are starved of funds with which to work. The NHRC for example receives over a million complaints yearly but gets about N1.2 billion annually from the Federal Government out of which over N800 million is used to pay salaries while it cost not less than N50,000 to investigate each complaint.

Rising from its meeting in June 2017, the National Economic Council (NEC) directed state governors to tackle problems of prison congestion in their states by taking measures to ease prisons congestion. The stance of the NEC followed an exhaustive brief on the prisons in Nigeria by the minister of interior. The summary of the resolution of the meeting was that the condition of prisons in Nigeria was no longer tolerable and something has to be done.

Consequently, the NEC directed the governors to take certain measures to ease the congestion of prisons. Such measures include the following: Signing the execution warrants for death row inmates or commuting such sentences to jail terms; engage their chief judges to free as many as may qualify for release under agreed terms; do all within their powers to salvage prisons in their domains including the deployment of the private sector to help. NEC also advised that the Federal Government should consider the public private sector collaboration as option for prisons reform.

Recently, at the stakeholders committee to oversee the implementation of the Federal Executive Council’s directives to fast track decongestion of prisons held in Abuja, chaired by Justice Ishaq Bello, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) also stated that to manage the prison system in a fair and humane manner, national legislation, policies and practices must be guided by the international standards developed to protect the human rights of prisoners.

About 70 per cent of inmates in Nigerian prisons are awaiting trial and it is embarrassing and an indictment to the national justice system because it contradicts international standards including those provided in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that provides for the limited use of pre-trial detention when certain conditions are present.

The minister lamented over the alarming state of the prisons, over crowding of inmates and the unconducive environment which actually had defeated the primary purpose of the prisons as reformation centres.

“The current state of our prisons is unfortunately very alarming. There is no gainsaying that the facilities are vastly over crowded with inmates and the environment mostly not conducive, thereby defeating the primary purpose of the prisons as primarily reformation centres,” he said.

Dr. Joe Odumakin once said that she was detained for nine months at various detention centres without bathing, adding that state officials should visit prisons without notice, if they are serious about prison reforms.

Every remand warrant in Nigeria carries with it the proviso that the superintendent in charge of a prison shall produce the prisoner named in the remand warrant as at the date and time indicated in the warrant. This function is cardinal to the success of criminal justice delivery in any society.

Taking remand prisoners to court is one of the most important functions in the criminal justice chain because without the prisoners in court, their cases can hardly be expected to go on. This therefore places the onus on the prisons to make sure that all prisoners due for court sessions are produced as such.

According to impeccable sources, at the end of 2016, the fleet capacity of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) stood at just 268 vehicles in various stages of disrepair and dysfunction. These are vehicles that are supposed to cater for the prisoners going to about 5,022 courts scattered all over the 774 local government areas of the country.

These 268 vehicles in the prisons inventory include those burnt in the war against insurgents in the north-eastern part of the country and quite a sizeable number rendered unserviceable by the lack of funding that has characterised prisons administration for a very long time. The paucity of escort duty vehicles in the prisons has surely affected the ability of remand prisoners to attend courts because 268 vehicles cannot service the 1,121 courts operating in the 774 LGAs of the country.

When these matters are presented on a national landscape, they may appear a bit tolerable but when placed within the framework of the operations of a state command, the grim picture appears in full. Take the FCT for instance, the prisons serving the FCT are Kuje, Suleja, Keffi and Dukpa Farm Centre. The Farm Centre seldom holds pre-trial prisoners. So the prisons serving the ATPs in the FCT are Kuje, Keffi and Suleja. Kuje prison with a capacity of 560 now has a population of 800 inmates out of which 560 or 70 percent are awaiting trial. It serves four local government areas of the FCT and attends to the needs of 90 courts in these areas.  Sadly it has only three  Green Maria mini trucks at its disposal.

Suleja, with a capacity of 250 inmates now has a population of 415 inmates out of which 249 or 60 percent are awaiting trial. It also serves the four LGAs in the FCT in addition to three other LGAs of Niger State. Suleja services 38 courts in these areas but the logistic strength of that prison is  three mini vans.

With such flawed consideration of the need for the prisoners in custody to access justice with dispatch means that we presently lack capacity to deliver on such issues which other jurisdictions in Africa have taken for granted.


Court remands Suswam’s e-aide, others in prison over alleged diversion of N16.6bn SURE-P, LG funds

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday remanded in Suleja Prison, Niger State, a former aide to former Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State and two other officials of the state for allegedly diverting fraudulently Benue State’s N16.6bn.

The Attorney-General of the Federation’s office, which filed nine counts against the defendants, alleged that the three men diverted the sum of N16.6bn from Benue State’s bank accounts, dedicated for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme and the Joint Allocation Account for Local Government funds.

The money was allegedly diverted by the defendants between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015, the day Suswam completed his second term in office.

The first defendant is a former Special Adviser to the ex-governor on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Solomon Wombo.

Wombo doubled as the Chairman, Joint Allocation Account for Local Government Committee in the state.

The second is a former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Asen Sambe, who served as the Secretary to the Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee.

The third defendant is a former Director of Accounts and Finance in the state’s Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Isiah Ipevnor.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered that the three men be remanded in Suleja prison pending when they would meet the bail conditions imposed on them shortly after they pleaded not guilty to the nine counts on Monday.

After the arraignment on Monday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aminu Alilu, urged the court to remand the defendants in prison pending the hearing and determination of their bail applications and their trial.

But noting that the alleged offences were bailable, Justice Dimgba directed both the prosecution and the defence teams to meet, agree and propose the terms and condition of the bail the court could impose on the defendants, other to save time.

After a short meeting outside the court room between the prosecution led by Alilu and the defence team led by Mr. Innocent Daa’gba, a set of bail conditions and terms were presented to the court.
Justice Dimgba accepted the conditions but made some alterations including imposition of an additional surety instead on one for each of the defendants as suggested by the two parties.

The judge also imposed another condition that one of the two sureties to be presented by each of the defendants must have a house in Abuja worth the N100m bail sum to be imposed by the court.

Generally, the court granted bail to the defendants in the sum of N100m each with two sureties in like sum.

The judge ruled that one of the sureties should be a civil servant not lower than Assistant Director in any state of federal ministry or other government establishment.
He ruled that the other surety could be a private businessman or woman who owned a property in the municipal area of Abuja with worth sufficient to cover the N100m bail sum.

The civil servant to be presented by each of th defendants must also present to the court their, first letters of appointment, last promotion letters, and their staff identity cards or driver’s licences.

The court also directed that the defendants must deposit with the court their passports and other traveling documents.

The judge ordered that the defendants mustt not travel outside the country without an express permission of the court sought through a motion on notice that must be serve on the defence.
But despite the defence lawyer’s appeal that the defendants be remanded in police custody pending when they would be able to fulfill the bail conditions, Justice Dimgba ordered them to be remanded in prison.

Meanwhile, before the parties went into the meeting on the bail conditions, on Monday the prosecuting counsel, Alilu, informed the judge that the case ought to be filed in the division of the Federal High Cour in Makurdi, Benue State, where the alleged offences were committed, but for the prevailing insecurity in the state when the case was filed on August 1, 2017.

He conceded that the security condition in the state had improved considerably since then.

But Alilu, who said all the defendants, the witnesses and members of both the prosecuting and defence teams were all resident in Abuja, urged the court to assume jurisdiction and continue the trial.

He also cited the provisions of section 102(1)(c) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, to back his prayer.

The defence counsel, Daa’gba, agreed with the prosecution’s prayer that the court should assume jurisdiction to continue to hear the case.

In addition to section 102()(c) of ACJA cited by the prosecution, Daa’agba also referred the court to the provisions of section 385 and 386 of the same law.
But in response, Justice Dimgba asked parties to the case to go back to reflect on the issue, noting that it was possible that the case could be more speedily determined in Makurdi where there were far less number of such high profile corruption cases than they were in Abuja.

The judge then adjourned until December 18.

The total sum of N16,604,314,604.01 allegedly diverted by the defendants was said to be owned by the 23 Local Government Councils of Benue State.

Out of the N16.6bn, the defendants allegedly, between June 15, 2012 and May 29, 2015, diverted N7,032,333,506.28 from the state’s “SURE-P Local Government component” bank account into the account of Benue State Local Government Joint Account with the aim of concealing the money and for their own personal benefits.

The defendants were also said to have, between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015, diverted the sum of N5,342,028,098.73 paid into the state Local Government Joint Account by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation of the state.

They were also said to have between, June 15, 2012 and May 29, 2015 diverted another sum of N4,230,953,000 from the state’s Local Government Joint Account into the Benue State Association of Local Government of Nigeria “with the aim of concealing the money being property derived directly from corruption”.

The prosecution accused the three defendants of diverting the sum of N16.6bn in violation of various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act.

The AGF office accused the defendants of “conspiracy to transfer property derived directly from corruption contrary to Section 18 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15 of the same Act.

The defendants were also accused of “transfer of property derived directly from corruption contrary to Section 15(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under the same Section of the Act”.

They also face charges of “conversion of property derived directly from corruption contrary to Section 15(1)|a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under the same Section of the Act.”

They are also charged with offences of “obtaining by false pretence contrary to Section 1 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, Cap A6 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act”.

The charges read in part, “That you Solomon Wombo (m), former Special Adviser to former Governor Gabriel Suswam on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Chairman, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of 30 Spring Road Sun-city Estate, Abuja; Asen Sambe (m), former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of No 1 Kungo Sambe Street, Judges Quarters Makurdi; and Isaiah Ipevnor (m), former Director of Accounts and Finance of BNA 1305, Off Abu Shuluwa Road, Makurdi, Benue State, between June 15, 2012 and May 29, 2015 at Makurdi, Benue State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did transfer a total sum of about Seven Billion thirty two million, three hundred and thirty-five thousand, five hundred and six naira, twenty-eight kobo (N7,032,333,506.28), from Benue State Sure-P Local Government Component Account number 0760175012 domiciled with the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) into Benue State Local Government Joint Account number 2017241513 domiciled 1with the First Bank of Nigeria the aim of concealing the money, being property derived directly from corruption.

“That you Solomon Wombo (m), former Special Adviser to former Governor Gabriel Suswam on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Chairman, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of 30 Spring Road Sun-city Estate, Abuja; Asen Sambe (m), former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee of No 1 Kungo Sambe Street, Judges Quarters Makurdi; and Isaiah Ipevnor (m), former Director of Accounts and Finance of BNA 1305, Off Abu Shuluwa Road, Makurdi, Benue State, between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015 at Makurdi, Benue State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did covert a total sum of about five billion three hundred and forty-two million, twenty-eight naira and seventy-three kobo (N5,342,028,098.73) meant for the twenty-three (23) Benue State Local Government Councils paid by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation into the Benue State Local Government Joint Account number 2017241513 domiciled with the First Bank of Nigeria, which you withdrew in cash With the aim of concealing the money, being property derived directly from corruption.”