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IHRDA, LEDAP train Nigerian Lawyers, CSOs on litigating women’s rights

23 March 2017

IHRDA and local partner LEDAP are organizing a training workshop in Nigeria from 22-23 March 2017 on advancing women’s rights using international legal instruments.

The workshop brings together about 30 lawyers and women’s rights CSOs. It seeks to equip participants with knowledge and skills on the use of international human rights instruments, notably the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, to promote and defend women’s rights in Nigeria.

It is expected that, after the training, participants will be able to evoke these international instruments in cases brought before domestic courts, and increasingly litigate women’s rights violations before supranational human rights mechanisms such as the ECOWAS Court, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The project is funded by NED.

PRESS RELEASE-LEDAP CONDEMNS ARREST OF PREMIUM TIMES PUBLISHER AND STAFF

LEDAP hereby condemns the arrest and detention of the publisher of Premium Times, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi and a female journalist, Evelyn Okakwu following feud between the newspaper and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, on alleged defamatory publications.

LEDAP reiterates that freedom speech and freedom press are indispensable to any democratic government. It is evident that these acts of intimidation and harassment of the members of the press for information they lawfully disseminate has become very prevalent under the current administration. While we firmly agree that laws against defamation are limitations to freedom of expression, it is a matter for the court to decide not the Nigerian Police Force. This has been long decided by the courts in the cases of Chike Obi v. DPP, and Olawoyin v. AG Northern Nigeria.
LEDAP is worried that the press cannot be made to live in the apprehension of punishment or arrests for publication which offends the sensibilities of certain persons, even when the publication is justified within the bounds of the law. This would leave the public with information that has been vetoed by those in high places and would certainly be against the tenor of the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

LEDAP therefore condemns the arrests as undemocratic, unlawful and unwarranted and demand that the arrested journalist be released within 24hours. We equally urge President Muhammed Buhari, to call the Chief of Army Staff, members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and officers of the Nigeria Police Force to order. The rule of law must at all times be respected by this administration. Nigeria’s democracy has come too far for such flagrant abuse of constitutionally guaranteed rights.

 

 

Signed

Adaobi Egboka

Executive Programmes Director

THE GUARDIAN-LEDAP condemns execution of prisoners in Edo, seeks repeal of death penalty

Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the killing on December 23, 2016 of three death row prisoners in Benin City prison.

As a result, LEDAP has called on the Nigerian government to stop all death penalty executions forthwith.

It urged the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to amend the Criminal Code and Penal Code as well as the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act to remove death sentence as punishment for crimes and replace it with life imprisonment or term of years sentence.
The prisoners were reportedly executed on account of death warrants signed by Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

Those executed were Ogbomoro Omoregie, Apostle Igene and Mark Omosowhota.

They were all convicted and sentenced to death nearly 20 years ago by military tribunals under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree as amended, LEDAP said.

According to a statement by the National Coordinator of LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, the executed prisoners had earlier petitioned the governor, protesting their proposed execution.

“In an earlier petition submitted to the Governor by the executed prisoners on December 21, 2016 through LEDAP, protesting the plan for their execution, the prisoners had pleaded with the Governor to shelve the planned execution because there is a pending case at the Court of Appeal brought by all death row prisoners in Nigeria against their execution. This appeal has not been decided and it was therefore, illegal to carry out the executions,” he said.

LEDAP, he said, is appalled that the earliest social duty of Governor Obaseki upon assumption of office was the execution of his citizen on death row. “We reiterate that all prisoners, including those sentenced to death, retain all the fundamental rights endowed on all citizens by the 1999 Constitution.

This was re-amphasized by the Court of Appeal in the case of Peter Nemi v Attorney General of Lagos State in 1994.

“The Supreme Court of Nigeria also held in Nasir Bello v Attorney-General of Oyo State that a prisoner cannot be legally executed while his case is pending in court. In so far as an appeal against the sentences of the death row prisoners in Nigeria are pending in court, to the knowledge of the prison authorities and the government who participated in the high court proceedings before the appeal, there is no legal justification for the Edo executions, moreso when it was carried out cruelly on a day to the eve of Christmas.”

The group frowned at the action based on the fact that Edo State government carried out the execution despite the declaration by Nigerian government at its 2009 and 2014 Universal Periodic Reports (UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council that Nigeria has put in place a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Obiagwu said the December 23, 2016 execution of these three prisoners, as well as the similar execution of four prisoners on June 21,2013 by the same Edo State government have undermined Nigeria’s declarations to the international community for death penalty moratorium.

See more at:

m.guardian.ng/features/ledap-condemns-execution-of-prisoners-in-edo-seeks-repeal-of-death-penalty/

PRESS RELEASE: LEDAP Faults NBA on Arrested Judges, says Judges Cannot Step Aside

Lagos 22 October 2016: The Legal Defence & Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the statement credited to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. A. B. Mahmoud SAN calling on the judges and justices of various courts arrested by the State Security Services on 7th and 8th October 2016 to step aside until the end of the investigation on the allegations against them.

The NBA’s call negates the constitutional rights of the judicial officers to presumption of innocence, and overlooks the true purpose of the attack on the judges by the executive, which was to intimidate and brow-beat the judiciary into total submission to the whims and caprices of the executive arm of government.

NBA’s call for the suspension of these judges is more worrisome in situation where the association is not also calling for the investigation and prosecution of Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transport, and other persons in government or connected with the ruling party who have been accused by the judges of attempting to bribe them and interfering with administration of justice.
LEDAP is convinced that the State Security Services acted beyond its powers in searching the premises of the judicial officers and in arrested them, because its enabling statute limits its duties to the detection and prevention of crimes against the internal security of Nigeria.

It is wrong for the NBA to rely on such illegal and provocative raid and arrest of the judges to demand that they are suspended pending investigations on the allegations against them. Such suspension of the judges will give cloth of legality to an illegality. The State Security Service has no powers under the National Security Agencies Act or any other law to undertake investigation and prosecution of corruption and economic crimes. There is no way the judicial officers who were unduly and unjustifiably molested, embarrassed and intimidated by the SSS are expected to step aside or be suspended because of the illegal raid on them. Rather, LEDAP expects the NBA to be vigorously calling for the arrest and prosecution of the officials of the State Security Services who authorized, or participated in the unlawful attack on the judges.

The NBA, as the umbrella association of lawyers, including the judicial officers, and the voice of the legal profession, has the legal and moral duties to protect the integrity of judicial officials and the independence of the judiciary. To make a u-turn from its initial stand, in which it strongly condemned the search and arrest of the judicial officials, and now to call for their suspension or reclusion, is an unfortunate compromise on due process and independence of the judiciary.
Judicial officers, by the nature of their judicial calling, are voiceless. Thus, only the NBA can stand and speak for them. If the NBA turns its back on judicial officials at this time that the executive wants to brow-beat and denigrate the judiciary and the legal profession, it portends great danger to the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria.

LEDAP wishes to remind the leadership of the NBA that the right to presumption of innocence is a cardinal principle in justice delivery, and if the judicial officials are forced to step down, they would have been accused and adjudged guilty even by a body that is not authorized by law to do so.
LEDAP calls on the President of the NBA to withdraw this part of his delivery in the statements credited to him at the valedictory session of Hon Justice Denton West, and to continue to stand with the progressive elements in the justice sector to demand the prosecution of the officers of SSS that unlawfully attacked and arrested the judges. If there is an allegation against any judge, it should be sent to the NJC who is constitutionally mandated to handle the discipline of judicial officers, and if such complaint is found to involve commission of crime, refer the case to the appropriate agency authorized by law to investigate and prosecute such crime.

The NBA under the new leadership of A. B. Mahmoud SAN should work with the NJC to improve on its compliant-management system rather than allow the executive arm of government to interfere with the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Chino Obiagwu
National Coordinator

TOPE OLUWASILE’S STORY

Tope Oluwasile was arrested on the 30th June 2002, on allegation of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death by the Lagos High Court. The Court of Appeal, Lagos had on the 9th December, 2013 delivered
judgment in his favour and found him innocent, following the appeal filed by his lawyers at Legal Defence and Assistance Project – (LEDAP).

The case against Tope Oluwasile brought at the high court,  The case against him was that on the 30th day of June 2002 along the Railway Line beside the Ikeja Local Government Secretariat, he conspired to rob and robbed while armed with a kitchen knife, one Sergeant Ishola Isiaka of his handset and sim card valued at N20,000 (Twenty Thousand naira) . However, Mr.Oluwasile claimed he was innocent. He stated at the trial court that he was arrested on the 30th June, 2002 while he was plying his trade as a commercial bus driver during a police raid at Shogunle bus stop, Ikeja. He was charged along with three other persons whom he only met for the first time in custody. Nevertheless he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Following the appeal against his conviction and sentence, filed by LEDAP, a panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division to wit; Honourable Justices J. S. Ikyegh, M. M. Saulawa and C. E. Iyizoba on the 9th of December, 2013 unanimously allowed the appeal.

In the judgment, Court resolved all the issues raised at the appeal in favour of the appellant. In particularly, the court found that the case of the prosecution was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

This is another case that calls for an in-depth re-evaluation and urgent overhauling of our Criminal Justice System, especially as it relates to the use of capital punishment due to the high and continuously growing number of wrongful convictions in the country.
In a study in 2011, LEDAP found that 46% of the cases in which appellants were sentenced to death were overturned on appeal, giving indication of a high possibility of wrongful convictions.

LEDAP uses this medium to call on the Nigeria government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replacing same with life imprisonment.

IDOWU SHOBOWALE AND KABIRU OMOLADE’S STORY

Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade were arrested on the 29th December, 1996 on allegation of murder. The two were subsequently convicted and sentenced to death on 13th November, 2003 by the Lagos High Court.

The case against Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade at the high court was that they participated in a fight between members of the Apostolic church, Bayeku and the followers of Igunnuko of the same village on the 21st December, 1996 which led to the death of one Pastor Oluwatosin Olaide. The Prosecution’s case was that the fight started when the Igunnuko worshippers invaded the Apostolic church’s compound during a revival service at the church and a fight ensued between the church members and the Igunnuko worshippers. The two, Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade, with one Olabisisi (3rd accused person at the trial court) were members of Igunnuko worshippers who took part in the fight. The case of against Idowu Shobowale was he came to the scene of the fight when he heard of the fight just to take away his child who was attending the church service and denied participating or instigating the masquerade to enter the church. Kabiru Omolade also confirmed that Idowu did not attack the deceased or take part in the fight and is not a member of the Igunnuko worshipper. Kabiru further stated in his evidence that even though he is Igunnuko worshipper and participated in the fight, that he did not stab the deceased. At the end of the trial in 2003, the trial court found them guilty and sentenced them to death.

 

Following the appeal against their conviction and sentence, filed by LEDAP, a panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division to wit; Honourable Justices Rita Nosakhare Pemu, C. C. Nweze and J. S. Ikyegh today, the 13th May, 2013 unanimously allowed the appeal of the two appellants and set aside their conviction and sentence to death in a landmark judgment. In the judgment, the Honourable court resolved 5 out of 7 of the issues raised at the appeal in favour of Idowu Shobowale and Kabiru Omolade, the appellants in the appeal. In the end, the court particularly found that: the prosecution failed to prove that it was the act or omission of the Appellants that resulted in the death of the deceased; that the contradictions in the 3 key prosecution witnesses cast heavy doubt on guilt of the appellants and finally that the case of the prosecution was not proved by the prosecution and therefore that the decision of the trial court which found the appellants guilty of murder of the deceased was against the weight of evidence adduced at the trial.

 

This is another case that calls for an in-depth re-evaluation and urgent overhauling of our Criminal Justice System, especially as it relates to the use of capital punishment due to the high and continuously growing number of wrongful convictions in the country. In the research conducted by LEDAP recently, the statistics raised from reported cases of convictions and sentences to death in Nigeria between 2006 – 2011 shows that 48 out of 113 (more than 39%) death sentences appealed within the period were set aside by the apex courts.

 

LEDAP uses this medium to call on the Nigeria government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replacing same with life imprisonment.

CHRISTOPHER TOBI OKOLIE’S STORY

 

Christopher Tobi Okolie, a former student of the Federal Technical College, Ilesha was arrested in 2000 when he was accused of committing the offence of murder while he was involved in an altercation with a few of his neighbours pertaining to a Discman player.. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death in March, 2006.

“Death row is a hard place; it’s the grace of God one needs to survive there”.

Following the appeal against his conviction and sentence, filed by LEDAP, a panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division on 7th February, 2011, quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial, but this was not enforced and LEDAP filed an application for a discharge before the Hon. Justice O. A. Taiwo, thus enabling the young man to regain his freedom after 14 years in prison. With tears of joy in his eyes, Okolie, who has a good command of English Language, attributed his being alive to the grace of God. His constant phrase was “Death row is a hard place; it’s the grace of God one needs to survive there”.

MONDAY ILADA PROSPER

 

The Court of Appeal, Benin Judicial Division, Edo State on the 9th day of July, 2014 granted Monday Ilada Prosper his freedom, following the Legal Defence and Assistance Project – LEDAP taking over his action.

Monday Ilada Prosper, who was a driver at the time of his conviction, worked with his master without pay for 3 months. One day, he stopped the car, poured sand on his master’s face and absconded with his bag of money. This led to his arrest few months later and was thereafter charged with armed robbery, convicted and sentenced to death in 2008.

Following the appeal against his conviction and sentence, filed by LEDAP, a panel of Justices of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division, frowning at the harsh Judgment of the lower court discharged and acquitted him on 9th July, 2014. Irrespective of the Judgment of the Court of Appeal, Monday Ilada Prosper finally worked out a freeman on the 16th February 2015 having spent additional 6 months in prison as a result of corruption in the system as officials kept demanding for money to process his release.

With tears of joy in his eyes, Monday Ilada, recounted his experience in prison and on death row and pleaded with the Nigeria government to put an end to Death Penalty for the sake of innocent souls.

According to his lawyer, Chino Obiagwu; “this is another opportunity to reiterate our calls for an in-depth re-evaluation and urgent overhauling of our Criminal Justice System, especially as it relates to the use of capital punishment. We cannot continue to be sentencing innocent persons to death, only for the appeal court to upturn the judgment after a decade or more when the appellant must have served unlawful sentence and deprivation of his personal liberty in the prison.

LEDAP uses this medium to call on the Nigeria government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replacing same with life imprisonment.

WILLIAMS OWODO’S STORY

Image result for williams owodo ledap

Williams Owodo was arrested on the February 1, 1995 with 4 other persons on allegation of murder and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death on 5th December, 2003 by the Lagos High Court. Williams, now 33, was 16 years old at the time the alleged offence was committed in 1995.

The case against Williams Owodo was that he was part of a group of young boys who fought and stabbed the deceased which resulted in the death of the deceased. The prosecution contended that Williams was among the 8 other boys who were playing cards in the neighborhood but spread dried cassava flour on the nearby street as bait to rob people.

They had common intention that anyone who stepped on the cassava would be challenged, providing them the opportunity to rob such a person of his or her property which included the deceased person. The defence of Williams that he was playing football with his friends when they saw a crowd watching some people fighting. He later left for his home and was on his way when a police van stopped beside him and he was pushed into the van and taken to Ajeromi Police Station and was then tortured into signing a false confession. Many other persons were also raided and arrested that evening and brought to the police station. Some of those arrested paid money to bail themselves out. He had no money with him to pay for his bail, and could not reach his parents. He was unable to afford a lawyer, and so at the trial, the judge sentenced him to die for his supposed crime. He spent 18 years in custody for a crime he did not commit.

“I was hopeless,” said Owodo. “At a point I almost committed suicide

In a well-considered judgment that resolved all the issues in favour of Williams, the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division unanimously allowed the appeal; discharged and acquitted Williams Owodo of his conviction and sentence to death after 17 years of the arrest and remand of Williams.

The court particularly held, amongst others, that there was no was eye witness that testified and linked the death of the deceased person to the act of the accused, Williams Owodo. The High Court failed to conduct a trial within trial when the accused person gave evidence that he was beaten with a rod and forced to sign the written statement that the lower court relied on to convict and sentence him to death.

More so, at the time of the incident, the accused person was underaged and ought to have been taken to Juvenile Court for trial. The High Court erred in law to have relied on the age of the accused person, Williams Owodo, as at the time of the trial instead of his age as at the time the incident occurred.

According to his lawyer, Chino Obiagwu; “again like we said earlier this year following the outcome of the appeal of Olatunji Olaide, this is a case that calls for an in-depth re-evaluation and urgent overhauling of our Criminal Justice System, especially as it relates to the use of capital punishment. We cannot continue to be sentencing innocent persons to death, only for the appeal court to upturn the judgment after a decade or more when the appellant must have served unlawful sentence and deprivation of his personal liberty in the prison. This is very pathetic in the sense that a juvenile like Williams in this case should not have been charged with a capital offence in the first instance. Well, it is good enough that Williams was able to write and make his WASSCE papers in prison while on death row and is currently studying Co-operative Management at the Kirikiri satellite campus of the National Open University.”

LEDAP uses this medium to call on the Nigeria government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replacing same with life imprisonment.