On the 12th-13th of September 2017, Ledap staff attended a two days training on Monitoring and Documentation of human right abuses by the stop torture project group of Amnesty International. The training held at Don Ritz Hotel Awka Anambra.
12 September 2017: The President of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Miroslav Lajčák, outlined the priorities of his mandate during the opening of UNGA 72. The UNGA President said his tenure will focus on conflict prevention, peace, migration and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.
In his acceptance speech, Lajčák identified six priorities for his mandate: people; peace and prevention; migration; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate action; human rights; and quality. UNGA 72 will address the theme, ‘Focusing on people: striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet.’
Delivering his first address to the Assembly in his capacity as President, the UNGA President reminded delegates that the 72nd session would see the negotiation of the first intergovernmental compact on migration and the signing of the first agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Lajčák promised follow-up efforts for maintaining the momentum in implementing and financing the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The UNGA President also identified as important: contributing “a fresh outlook” to the ongoing UN reform; streamlining UNGA’s agenda to make it manageable for all Member States, including the delegations that have small representations; and communicating with youth, media, civil society and the private sector.
At the same event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the UN reform proposals, which the Assembly will consider, will help the UN to adapt and deliver and stressed one key change “must be to empower the world’s women and girls.” Within this context, the Secretary-General said he had launched a roadmap for achieving gender parity throughout all levels of the UN.
UNGA 72’s opening session took place on 12 September 2017 in New York, US. Lajčák is a career diplomat from Slovakia. [UN Press Release] [UN Meetings Coverage] [Interview with UNGA President] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on UNGA 71 Closing]
The General Assembly (GA) is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority. Decisions on other questions are by simple majority.
The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) will convene at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, 12 September 2017. The General Debate will open on Tuesday, 19 September 2017, with a focus on the theme, ‘Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet’.
For more information http://sdg.iisd.org/events/72nd-session-of-the-un-general-assembly-unga-72/
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.
Executive Programmes Director
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.
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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.
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.