Tag: LEDAP

Judicial and Institutional Developments in Nigeria against Atrocity Crimes and the Protection of Victims – Chino Obiagwu

 The context

Since 2012, nearly the entire northeast Nigeria, comprising one-sixth of Nigeria’s 170 million people, has been under severe decimation by Boko Haram terrorists and counter-terrorism by the Nigerian Military. The destructive impart of the armed conflict is huge and tragic:

  • Over 15,000 civilians non-combatants have been killed;
  • Nearly 3m civilians are internally displaced or forced across borders as refugees;
  • More than 6 billion Dollars have been expended in the war without end;
  • Over 75% of children of school age are out of schools as most schools are either destroyed or closed.

The severity of violation of human rights and humanitarian laws are massive.

Boko Haram, a lethal group

Boko Haram is undoubtedly the deadliest terror group in the world. In April 2016, their leader announced its affiliation to ISIS, making it more political and IT driven. They are receiving ISIS assistance that has increased their capacity to roll out propaganda messages, and monitor movements of Nigerian military and civilian populations. They recruit children as young as 8 years and psycho-drill them into suicide bombers, with capacity to monitor their movements when being trained or sent on terror missions. The rate of child soldiers engaged in combat in the northeast for Boko Haram is higher than any other armed group in human history. The sophistication of Boko Haram’s armory, and the precision of their attacks on targets when they strike, suggest considerable military professionalism, which smack of mercenary support.

Cutting out funding to Boko Haram has been a strategy Nigeria has failed to mobilize world’s support.

Violations by the military

At the same time, the Nigerian military have responded with high-handed violence, leading to death of thousands of innocent civilians. The ordinary Nigerians who live outside the northeast could justify military excessive use of force as ‘necessary in the war’ but reports show that both sides of the conflict are committing atrocity crimes, especially war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A recent post on the blog of Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), the parent coalition of Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC), clearly depicts the dire situation of massive violations of humanitarian laws and very high rate of impunity. It also shows the near-impossible expectation of ICC’s intervention to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed by both sides.

Despite compelling evidence, no-one has been held accountable for these war crimes [committed since 2013 by Boko Haram and Nigerian military]. This incident [a 2014 killing of 600+ suspected members or supporters of Boko Haram by the Nigerian military and government-backed Civilian Joint Task Force in broad day light in Bama Borno State] sheds light on an under-reported pattern in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram. Security forces have committed serious violations of humanitarian law throughout the conflict. These crimes have not been investigated and their perpetrators remain unpunished. War crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Nigeria – a party to the Rome Statute – fall within the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) jurisdiction. The ICC Prosecutor has opened a preliminary examination into atrocities committed by both sides, but is rightly waiting to see whether Nigeria will begin domestic investigations. In this context, could the ICC’s involvement galvanize Nigerian politicians to hold their own accountable?

The evidence is mixed. A Rome Statute domestication bill intended to punish perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity continues to be debated. During his first week in office, Nigeria’s President Buhari pledged to investigate the military’s crimes. However, in the 18 months that have elapsed since that promise was made, the government has provided no information on how or when these investigations will be conducted. In the absence of genuine national proceedings, the ICC Prosecutor must decide whether to open her own investigations. [But she is in a dilemma]. At a time when the African Union has backed a “strategy for collective withdrawal” from the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor will be loath to open investigations into one of the ICC’s most reliable supporters.[1] Yet anyone hoping that the Prosecutor will be spared this decision must contend with three obstacles to domestic proceedings: the extent of the crimes will stretch Nigeria’s criminal justice system; investigations that are likely to expose how the military could have, but failed to stop Boko Haram; and investigations that may lead prosecutors to some of the most powerful individuals in the country. These practical and political roadblocks should put the Prosecutor on notice: the interests of justice and the interests of the ICC are likely to diverge

The Extent of the Crimes

The ICC’s preliminary examinations are based on evidence of mass arrests, torture, and summary executions committed systematically and repeatedly by security forces, resulting in thousands of deaths and disappearances. A UN report found evidence that detainees in military custody were denied food and water and, as a result, died on a daily basis. Research by Amnesty International reported that more than 7,000 men and boys died in military detention between 2011 and 2015 due to this abhorrent treatment.

The ICC Prosecutor will only open investigations if Nigeria is unwilling or unable to do so domestically. The scale of the crimes alone will test the ability of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, which already struggles to ensure due process. According to the National Human Rights Commission, 35,889 people in prison are awaiting trial, or 70% of the prison population. These figures do not include thousands of suspected Boko Haram fighters, who are detained by the military. Nigeria’s international partners have pledged their assistance to help investigate and prosecute these suspects, but military violations do not appear to be on the agenda. Nigeria would need to devote significant resources to investigating military crimes committed over several years, across three states, when witnesses are likely to be among 2.3 million displaced people. The chances of the justice system being able to handle such investigations in the near- to medium-term are slim.

The Military’s Failures

The second problem is that investigations will force a re-assessment of the military’s crimes. The horror inspired by Boko Haram’s abuses has led some to rationalize military violations as the ‘excesses’ of over-zealous soldiers, doing ‘whatever it takes’ to defeat an existential threat. But the military’s violations are not an unfortunate and unintended consequence of its determination to win the war. Such euphemisms are deeply misleading. They call to mind soldiers, in the heat of battle, using disproportionate force in a firefight. In fact, the crimes being considered by the ICC occurred outside of battle, when there was no threat to person or property

Current framework for judicial action

The current judicial framework in Nigeria to address atrocity crimes and redress to victims can be discussed under the following headings: the current laws, institutional structure, investigation and prosecution capacity, courts and capacity to adjudicate, and political challenges

a. Current Laws

 Outdated penal laws without atrocity crimes

Nigeria is yet to domesticate the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court[2]. Being a dualist state, international crimes are not part of its domestic penal laws. The current applicable laws are the Criminal Code (enacted in 1945 and applicable in southern states) and the Penal Code (enacted in 1924 and applicable in northern states including the northeastern states). These Codes provide for the offences of murder punishable by death as well as treason or waging war against Nigerian State, also punishable by death. No crime of war crimes, genocide[3] or crime against humanity is provided. Many of the cases of killings by suspected Boko Haram members are charged under the Penal Code, or sometimes the Criminal Code depending on the location of the assault.

New anti-terrorism law did not go far with atrocity crimes

In 2011, Nigeria enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act, (amended in 2013) which punishes the crime of terrorism as well as the offences of supporting, financing, encouraging and supplying materials to terrorists.  The Act is strong in criminalizing support to Boko Haram, but it is weak as a tool to attack terrorism because it has very broad definitions of elements of the offences it created. Thus, apart from the conviction and sentence to life imprisonment of Kabiru Sokoto and his co-accused, who masterminded the 2013 Christmas day bombing near Abuja, no other notable terrorist has been successfully prosecuted and convicted under PTA. Activists have criticized[4] the Act for containing provisions that contradict the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution. In particular, the Act suspends the rights of suspects to access to their lawyers, relations and independent medical treatment. In 2014, NCICC commenced a suit at the Federal High Court to strike down provisions of the Act that offend the Constitutional provisions. The case is pending at the Court of Appeal (NCICC v Attorney General of the Federation.).

New SGBV crimes created 

Another legislation that regulates atrocity crimes and redress to victims is the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, which punishes violence targeted at women and children, or group of vulnerable people. Assaults or mistreatment of IDPs fall within these provisions.

Challenging procedures of the courts

The procedures to enforce these laws had, before 2015, been the Criminal Procedure Code (enacted in 1924) and the Criminal Procedure Act (enacted in 1945 for enforcing the Criminal Code). These laws are too obsolete to meet the challenges of 21st century terrorism crimes.

Happily in 2015, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was passed, aimed at improving the investigation and prosecution of crimes in the country. Laudable provisions are contained in the new Act to reduce delays and empower the investigators, prosecutors, defence and courts. One of such is section 232, which provides that the court must protect witnesses in terrorism and other violent or sex crimes, and where necessary, evidence of witnesses may be taken in chambers, shielded in screen, voice-disguised or by video link. Also identities of witnesses and victims should be protected in terrorism trials. So also the provision in the Act that victims can be compensated in the criminal proceedings and that criminal trial should not be paused or stayed because a party intends to appeal against any decision taken by the court within the proceedings, called interlocutory appeals. This has been the main cause of delay in criminal trials in the country.

Not yet impactful reforms

Despite these innovations, there has been little progress in investigating and prosecuting atrocity crimes. The situation of high violence, low prosecution and gross impunity remains. E.g.

  • In 2015, State Security Services reported that over five thousand suspected members of Boko Haram are in their custody. Only a handful have been charged and prosecuted since then. As many more are daily arrested in the renewed onslaught on the terrorists, the detention population of the terror suspect must have doubled by March 2017[5].
  • On March 14 2014, Boko Haram fighters attacked Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri and released about 650 men detained there on suspicion of being members of Boko Haram. In retaliation, the military was alleged to have rounded up and extra-judicially killed the re-arrested escapees in several hundreds. Their mass graves were widely reported by CSOs. To date, no soldier or commander has been held to account for this crime, report of investigation of the allegations made public.
  • Amnesty International reported in 2017[6] that hundreds of men, women and children are holed up in dire custodial conditions in many detention place including in 7 Battalion, a new military facility purpose-built to deal with Boko Haram menace. Similar military custodial facilities exist across the country with little or no civil oversight.
  • We can safely say that over ten thousand suspects are in custody waiting to be tried, and only a few are put to trial. Such high state of lack of capacity and commitment to prosecute suspects fuels dissent, and contributes in radicalization of those who otherwise were innocent.

There is no stronger basis for ICC’s intervention than the apparent inability or unwillingness of Nigeria’s national judicial system to deal with such massive atrocity crimes committed on both sides of the armed conflict.

b. Institutional structure

Police and the military

The institutions for investigating atrocity crimes are the Police set up under the Police Act 1945; the State Security Services and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency set up under the Nigerian Security Agencies Act 1992, (formerly Nigerian Security Organization Act 1978).

The military set up under the Armed Forces Act has responsibility only to investigate military offences committed by persons under service law. They are not authorized to deal with investigation and prosecution of crimes or engage in civil policing. They are not even authorized to keep custody of crime suspects, including suspected war criminals and terrorists. At the moment, the military’s involvement in policing has resulted in distorting its role, and negating its standard operational guide for engaging with non-combatants in armed conflict.

The Nigerian government has also set up special anti-terrorism forces, including the Joint Task Force, and anti-terrorism unit of the military and police, which are tasked with tracking terrorists and their supporters/financials.

Special counter-terrorism initiatives

In order to control funding of terrorism, the government has enacted the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, as well as the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, which are aimed at tracking movement of illicit funds in the formal sector, combating money laundering and financing terrorism. The Prevention of Terrorism Act punishes concealment of suspected terror-fund by banks and financial institutions. However, without international cooperation, policing terror funding within Nigeria’s weak bank tracking system remains futile.

Redress to victims – promises not kept

With respect to redress to victims, the government set up in 2014 the Presidential Task Force on the Northeast[7] and the Foundation for the Support of Victims of Terrorism[8]. The Trust Fund has attracted over 15 billion in pledges from the private sector as at December 2016, and nearly half of those pledges have been paid to the Fund. In reality, most victims, especially the IDPs are not resettled, even to return to communities already cleared of terrorists.

NCICC is currently in court in a class action on behalf of over three thousands IDPs for judicial orders forcing the Trust Fund to rehabilitate them and account for use of collected funds.

 Safe School Initiative (SSI)

There is also the Safe School Initiative[9], aimed at returning children to schools and taking those in most endangered areas to other states schools. Again, accountability for this laudable programme has remained unreported. CSOs need to play active role to see that these initiatives achieve their purposes.

Other institutional structure that have supported victims of terrorism in Nigeria, and addressed the effect of terrorism include:

  • National Emergency Management Agency, which has done greatly in managing nearly daily incidents of bombings, displacements, destructions of communities, etc
  • National Refugee Commission, that has mandate to handle displaced persons and refugees, and has contributed in setting the policy for state and federal government
  • National Human Rights Commission, whose mandate is to monitor and protect human rights of citizens, including victims of terrorism and of other forms of human rights violations.
  • Other executive initiatives exists, such as the offices of the special assistants or advisers to the President of humanitarian services, on IDPs, on the northeast; the Office of the National Security Adviser, among others.

c. Investigation and prosecution capacity

The police, State Security Service, and the special anti terrorism agencies have responsibility to investigate crimes committed in the country including terrorism crimes. The military have responsibility to investigate its officers and soldiers who are alleged to have committed crimes in their work. The Attorney General of the Federation and Attorney-General of the State have the ultimate responsibility for prosecution of offences in the country (federal or state offences respectively). Before 2016, the prosecution of terrorism offences was carried out solely by legal officers in the office of the AG of the Federation, and few times, external lawyers were briefed. In 2016, the AG of the Federation set up the National Prosecutions Team, made up of senior lawyers from the private bar as well as lawyers in the ministry of justice. The goal is to increase the number of cases prosecuted in order to clear the backlog. There is no doubt that with the huge case backlog in the courts, it will take a medium and long terms to see the impact of the team.

Prosecution of terrorism offences have not been progressing. Worst still, the investigation and prosecution of crimes allegedly committed by military are not known or reported. The impunity rates are very high, underscoring the need for the ICC to re-evaluate its reluctance to open investigations in to atrocity crimes in the country.

d. Courts and capacity to adjudicate,

The Nigerian courts are overworked, and suffer from huge case docket. An average day in a high court will involve up to 20 cases for a judge, and the judge takes notes of proceedings in long hand. This slows down the proceedings. And with nearly an hour spent for part-hearing of each of the listed cases, it is not practicable to attend to half of the cases on the court’s list. The result is continuously increasing backlog of cases. Unless drastic measure is taken, there is simple no feasible way the courts can take on the several hundreds of persons awaiting trial for terrorism charges, as well as the over 35 thousand awaiting trial in the prisons for ordinary crimes. The capacity of the courts are overstretched, and though the government have introduced the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and a new National Judicial Policy, all geared towards reducing delays in criminal proceedings, it will take considerable investments in infrastructure of the courts and the recruitment of new personnel to see significant breakthrough in reducing the rate of impunity for atrocity crimes. There is also need for government to increase its political will to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by the military, police and other agencies as well as by the government-backed Civilian JTF.

 e.  Political challenges,

 Poor political commitment to end impunity for the military

Many observers may seem to agree that there is slow political will for government to investigate crimes committed by its own forces in the northeast. It is argued that these violations are necessary fall out of the war, but Nigeria is state party to all relevant treaties regulating armed conflict, even in context of non-conventional armed conflict as is taking place in the country. There is responsibility to see that members of the armed forces who are alleged to commit crimes are investigated and prosecuted to the highest level of command.

Army Human Rights Office

The military set up in 2016 a Human Rights Complaint Office, aimed at improving civilian redress system. The progress on this laudable initiative has not yet been reported, but it shows the military’s internal willingness to engage with the civil society and the community to improve on its rules and practices of engagement. The CSOs should build on such initiative as window for larger engagement in respecting human rights and humanitarian laws.

Role of the ICC in Nigeria

The ICC prosecutor has the responsibility to step in where the Nigerian government is unwilling and unable to prosecute these crimes. Whether the ICC can risk opening another situation in Africa in face of the blackmail by AU that it is targeting African is left to be seen, but the civil society must continue to put pressure on Nigeria to strengthen its national judicial system for investigation and prosecution and for the ICC to undertake the necessary prosecution where the national system fails. The ultimate goal is the protection of, and justice for the victims. Without adequate redress, Nigeria’s numerous victims continue to suffer double-jeopardy, which Nigeria government and the ICC must address in coming months.

 

6th March 2018

Chino Obiagwu

Chair, Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC).

[1] http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/214461-nigeria-pledges-remain-icc.html.

[2] The bill is pending at the National Assembly. The same bill has been passed by previous assembly and but then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, refused to sign it in 2007. There appear reluctance in the political society to tackle atrocity crimes with the efficiency and commitment it deserved. After all, only very poor people suffer most from the terror carnage.

[3] Nigeria has domesticated the Genocide Convention which prohibits genocide, but not being a penal statute, is not a common basis for criminal charges among prosecutors.

[4] See C.J. Dakas SAN & Chino Obiagwu in ‘A critique of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2011 as amended’, 2013 NCICC publication.

[5] http://dailypost.ng/2017/02/02/boko-haram-3332-suspects-currently-custody/

[6] https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/nigeria/report-nigeria/

[7] https://www.today.ng/news/nigeria/186237/establishes-inter-ministerial-task-force-north-east

[8] http://victimssupportfundng.org/

[9] http://theirworld.org/news/safe-schools-initiative-launched-after-kidnappings-in-nigeria

NEWSLETTER FOR 23RD-27TH APRIL 2018

 

HELLO,
Welcome to another edition LEDAP Nigeria’s Weekly Newsletter which keeps you up to date on the latest Human Rights News and updates in the law, What we are up to and Upcoming Events.
23rd – 27th April 2018

“There can be no peace without justice and respect for human rights.” – Irene Khan

 

NEWS   


NBA Awards LEDAP for Criminal Justice Reforms

Chino Obiagwu receiving the award

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Criminal Justice Reform Committee held its 5th Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, Delta State from the 24th – 27th April 2018. At the closing dinner of the Conference, a number of distinguished stakeholders including, LEDAP’s lead counsel, Chino Obiagwu were honoured for their immense contributions to the progress of criminal justice administration in the country. Read more 

Gov. Al-Makura Signs Bill Establishing Disability Rights Commission
Gov. Umaru Al-Makura of Nasarawa State has signed into law the bill to establish Disability Rights Commission. With the governor’s assent, the government is now working to put up structures and modalities in place to have the commission. Read more

NSCDC Partners with NHRC
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has partnered with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to create conducive environment for people to enjoy their rights without discrimination. Read more

 Amnesty Kicks Against Plan of Onitsha NBA to Give Awards to ‘human rights violators’
Amnesty International (AI) says the proposed recipients of the human rights award by the Onitsha, Anambra state, branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) are undeserving of the awards.The recipients of the awards were listed to include James Nwafor, former commander of the Special Anti robbery Squad( SARS), Mike Okiro, chairman, police service commission; Fasugba Temitope, divisional police officer, Asaba (former DPO at Central Police Station, Onitsha) among others. Read more

Investigate Ekweremadu’s Asset Declaration form, Group Writes CCB

The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Center), a non-governmental and non-partisan human rights and development league, has petitioned the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), demanding the investigation of asset declaration form of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. Read more

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Massacre in Benue, Zamfara – 61 Killed, 82 Houses Razed

61 persons were killed in separate dastardly incidents in Benue and Zamfara States. Whereas 31 persons, mostly women and children, lost their lives in six communities of Guma Local Government Area of Benue State in the hands of suspected herdsmen, another 30 were massacred in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State, by suspected gunmen. Read more

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The World Is Sending Thousands Of Tonnes Of Electronic Waste To Nigeria Illegally

Unregulated dumping of electronic waste has led to environmental degradation and human rights violations, especially in developing countries in Asia and Africa (read: mostly Nigeria) where exporting is easy, labour laws are lax, and communities are poor.  Read more

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Group Develops App to Inform Nigerians of Rights

The Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative (CRALI), a civil society organisation, has developed a mobile application to inform Nigerians about their rights.The mobile application called ‘Know Your Rights Nigeria’ was launched at the United States consulate office in Lagos on Tuesday. Read more

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UN Staff Pension Fund Mired in ‘dirty profits’ from Firms Guilty of Rights Abuses

The United Nations is facing calls for a full review of its staff pension fund after the Guardian uncovered that it has around a billion dollars invested in companies whose activities are or have been incompatible with core UN principles and programmes. Read more

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Oil Company Eni Accused (in Italy) of Causing Floods in a Nigerian Village

The Nigerian community of Aggah has been flooded due to the operations of a company controlled by Eni. It is seeking justice in Italy where the crucial decisions affecting its village are being taken. ”There is a different type of migration flow from Nigeria to Italy, different from the one that sees people fleeing poverty and violence. It is the migration of those who seek justice and demand that Italian multinational companies are judged according to European laws and treaties rather than African courts” Read more

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U.S. Rates Nigeria Low On Respect For Human Rights

The government of the United States has released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 and has rated the Nigerian government very low in terms of respect for fundamental human rights of the citizens. Read the full report here

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Saudi Arabia Executes 48 in 3 months

Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia has executed 48 people so far in 2018, half of them for non-violent drug crimes. Read more

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Rights Abuse – NHRC Demands Urgent Review of Pre-Trial Detention System

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on Wednesday, urged the Federal Government to review the pre-trial detention system, saying available evidence showed excessive use and abuse of the practice in Nigeria. Read more

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NBA Engages Lagos Government on Taxation, Land Use Charge

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos branch has said it would engage Lagos state government on the controversial land use charge, taxation, land documentations and other topical issues in its law week programme scheduled to commence May 5, 2018. Read more

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Simi Decorated as U.S. Human Rights Ambassador
A Nigerian singer, Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye, popularly known as Simi has been endorsed as a U.S. human rights ambassador. Read more

Africa Loses $50 Billion to Illicit Financial Flows Annually– AFDB

While speaking at an event themed, “Strengthening the role of parliament in combating illicit financial flows from Africa (IFFs)’’ in Abuja, AfDB’s Senior Director in Nigeria Dr. Ebrima Fall said if the illicit financial flows are allowed to continue, they could lead to financial crises and widespread poverty on the continent, the latter already happening in some instances. Read more

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Army Denies Human Rights Violations In IDP Camps

The Nigerian Army has denied allegations of human rights violations levelled against them in the course of their duty in Borno state. The allegations, were denied by the Theatre Commander of LAFIYA DOLE, Major General Rogers Nicholas, in a statement on the 26th of April 2018. Read more

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Police Arrest and Detain Melaye’s Lawyers

The Nigerian Police has arrested two lawyers; David Amaefuna Esq and Pius Ufo Inyang Esq of Rickey Tarfa and Co who are members of the legal team of Senator Dino Melaye. The use of unlawful detention to attack the independence of lawyers and the legal profession undermines the rule of law. Read more

 

OPINION 


Will the Death Penalty Protect India’s Daughters From Rape?

In India’s ongoing project to combat child sexual assaults, the weekend was filled with cheer, or gloom, depending whom you speak to. The death penalty was approved as a punishment for the rapists of girls below the age of 12, following an ordinance that amended an existing criminal law. Many in the country cheered while many others questioned how the death penalty would function as a deterrent. Read more

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The Insanity of the Death Penalty

”Crimes punishable by death are based on passion and emotion, not reason. They do not result from a conscious cost-benefit analysis where a person considers the fact that if they commit a certain act, they could be put to death.” Read more

 

India’s Death Penalty for Rapists of Young Girls could Push Offenders to Kill
With the majority of rapes committed by someone known to the victim, the new law could drive offenders to murder to avoid detection. Read more

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Musings On U.S. Damning Report

This 48-page report prepared and made public by the United States Department of State was unequivocal about persistent impunity at all levels of government in Nigeria, lack of transparency of the Buhari administration and massive corruption by government officials under Buhari’s watch. Read more

LEDAP@WORK 

LEDAP Submits Report to Human Rights Committee

LEDAP together with Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative, and Women Enabled International have submitted an NGO report for the Human Rights Committee’s development of a List of Issues for Nigeria. This report focuses on rights abuses against women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria and Nigeria’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights towards this group.

 

LEDAP Releases Statement on 62nd Ordinary Session of the ACHPR

LEDAP has released its statement on the 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Right holding in Noukatt,Mauritania  from April 25 – May 9 2018. The statement examines Nigeria’s compliance with human rights standards and principles as it relates to Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis;  Violent extremism and the Right to Life; and Gender Inequality. Read full statement here

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Chino Obiagwu Speaks at Law Week, NBA Makurdi branch

Chino Obiagwu, Lead Counsel, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, presented a paper on the theme, “Incorporating International Crimes into the Corpus of Criminal Justice System in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges,” at the Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi branch on the 23rd of April 2018. Read more

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LEDAP Launches Torture Project in Partnership with UNDEF


LEDAP has launched its  Torture Prevention Project Targeting Police – In partnership with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and the National Committee against Torture. The project is aimed at tackling torture and ill treatment in policing. The project will be located Lagos, Adamawa and Yobe States, as well as at the Federal Capital Territory. For more information and the call for expression on interest for consultancies, reach out to info@ledapnigeria.org or pamela@ledapnigeria.org

LEDAP, National Judicial Institute, and AfricaLii commence Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii) 
Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii) is aimed at bringing legal materials, all laws and case decisions in Nigeria free of charge to the public. The official launch is coming up soon but the NigeriaLii portal currently contains several thousands of case decisions, statutes, rules of court, and other legal materials. Visit the NigeriaLii website here

 

PeepIntoTheLaw   


Man Sentenced to Death in Ekiti

An Ekiti State High Court on the 26th April 2018 sentenced a man, Kingsley Okorowande, to death by hanging for armed robbery. Read more

 

Lagos Chief Judge Launches Small Claims Court

As part of efforts to fast track justice delivery in commercial disputes involving small claims, the Lagos State Judiciary, on Monday inaugurated Small Claims Courts. Read more

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There is no Time Limit Within which an Application for Leave to Appeal as an Interested Party May Be Brought

The Court of Appeal has held in the recent case of ONUKAGHA & ANOR v. OKOROAFOR & ORS (2018) LPELR-44080(CA),  has stated that one who applies for leave to appeal, as an interested party, does not need extension of time to seek leave to appeal. Read full judgement here.

 

EVENTS  


Nigeria To Host 3rd International Chamber of Commerce Africa Conference On International Arbitration In Lagos

This conference will provide an indispensable update on developments in the region and will be the most important gathering for the African arbitration community. The conference will hold from the 18th – 20th June 2018. For early bird registration click here

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Facebook: Seeking Proposals for Global Literacy & Accessibility Challenge Grants

In order to better understand and address global literacy and accessibility issues, Facebook is currently inviting the academic community to respond to a call for research proposals in the field of literacy and accessibility. Read more

 

 

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LEDAP’S STATEMENT ON THE 62ND ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS

STATEMENT ON THE 62ND ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS HOLDING IN  NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA FROM APRIL 25 – MAY 9 2018.

Executive Summary

The human rights situation in Nigeria from the 33 year military rule to the 19 year civilian administration makes an interesting subject for review in view of the dire situation in Nigeria viz-a-viz counter insurgency war, ethnic mass killings, and violent extremism prevalent in the country.

This statement urges the Commission to review Nigeria’s compliance with its human rights obligations under the Banjul Charter which the Country has adopted and domesticated; and other international human rights instruments in line with the under listed areas of concerns and also, adopt the recommendations stated therein.

The statement examines Nigeria’s compliance with human rights standards and principles as it relates to Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis;  Violent extremism and the Right to Life; and Gender Inequality.

Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis.

The 9 year insurgency in the country has greatly exacerbated rights abuses in Nigeria. Online and offline reports reveal that counter-insurgency operations have led to rights violations and abuses by both state and non-state actors. These rights violations range from torture to enforced disappearances, arbitrarily long detentions, summary executions and extra-judicial killings, detention incommunicado and also sexual and gender based violence.

Creditably, Nigeria has adopted and domesticated the Banjul Charter as its national law, there is still an obvious poor level of implementation of this law as the unrestricted rights of Nigerians recognized under the Charter and guaranteed by the Constitution of the FRN are still not adequately protected.

There still exist, recorded incidences of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and  detention incommunicado, perpetuated by state actors in response to terrorism and adequate redress mechanisms do not exist for victims because impunity thrives when there is no political will to punish offenders irrespective of their status or affiliation.

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project, between 2015 – 2017 through its identification mechanism has been able to identify and file 142 fundamental human rights cases in Northeast Nigeria bordering on unlawful arrest and prolonged detention, torture and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

To further buttress these points, LEDAP in rendering support to a loosely organized movement of over 300 people seeking the release and re-union with their family members who were abducted by men of the Nigerian army since 2015 has adopted various strategies to seek redress for these victims including writing to the National Assembly and Presidential Panel demanding for public hearing on behalf of the 276 persons detained by the military since 2015. So far, nothing has been done.

There is a more urgent need for the government to make conscious and concerted efforts to better protect and promote the rights of citizens.

Recommendations

  • The Nigerian security operatives need to review their rules of engagement to mainstream human rights standards and principles during counter-insurgency operations.
  • With the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act 2017, government needs to collaborate with NGOs to facilitate implementation and adoption at the states level.
  • There is also a need to adopt rules and regulations that will strengthen the legal framework on torture in Nigeria and also support the training and re-training of security operatives in the country to maintain human rights standards.
  • We urge the government to officially gazette prisons and detention facilities available in the country to enhance accountability on incidences of torture, enforced disappearances, and detention incommunicado.

Violent Extremism and the Right to Life

The right to life is the most basic right provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and under the Banjul Charter.

Acknowledging the efforts that have been made by the government to fight insurgency in the country, the upsurge in violent extremism and land grabbing attacks by herdsmen is an uprising which if left unchecked, will lead to a total annihilation of Nigerians and will undoubtedly affect the West Africa Region and African Continent. Almost everyday, Nigerians are killed in their numbers in flagrant disregard for the right to life. News of horrendous and gruesome killings especially in the North Central and North West regions of Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Southern Kaduna, etc have inundated the media space. The government needs to take a decisive stance and action to end mass killings and crimes that have infiltrated the country.

On this note, we urge the Commission to review Nigeria’s obligation to protect lives and properties in line with efforts that have been made to strengthen its security apparatuses in order to meet its foremost responsibility.

On death penalty, it’s a truism that it doesn’t act as a deterrence in the criminal justice sector and it targets mostly indigent people.

It has become imperative for a nation wide moratorium to be called on the death penalty and positive de-jure measures taken to abolish same.

Recommendations

  • Strong positive measures need to be taken to address insecurity in the country including adopting MECHANISMS that prioritize conflict resolution and peacebuilding while making efforts to bring perpetrators of these international crimes to justice. Right to life is sacrosanct and the government needs to respect and value human lives as much as much as they value and promote their political agenda and gains.
  • In doing so, we urge the Nigerian government to protect indigenous people’s and minority group rights as this will go a long way to address the mass killings arising from land grabbing and farmers/herders clashes.
  • We also urge the Nigerian government to abolish the use of death penalty in criminal justice administration and facilitate reforms made in the criminal justice sector for effective administration of justice.

 

Gender Inequality

Irrespective of Nigeria signing and ratifying the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, otherwise known as the Maputo Protocol, not much affirmative actions have been made to address issues fostering discrimination against women in the African region.

Women and girls still face a lot of rights violations including but not limited to various forms of SGBV, child marriages, SRHR violations such as high maternal and morbidity rate, lack of access to adequate health care facilities, inadequate representation in the political and governance structure of the country, etc.

Recommendations

  • We urge the government to domesticate the Maputo Protocol adopted in 2003 so that Nigerian women can partake in the political, social, and economic processes, protect their reproductive health rights and eliminate all forms of discrimination against them.
  • In addition, we implore the legislature to expedite actions to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill into Law in order to promote the 35% affirmative action clause for women.
  • Local instruments and framework established to protect the rights of women in Nigeria should be strengthened so that Nigerian women would be empowered to take their place of pride in the region.

 

NBA Awards LEDAP for Criminal Justice Reforms

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Criminal Justice Reform Committee held its 5th Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba, Delta State from the 24th – 27th April 2018. At the closing dinner of the Conference, a number of distinguished stakeholders were honoured for their immense contributions to the progress of criminal justice administration in the country.

Mr Chino Obiagwu being presented with the award by Delta State Attorney-General, Mr Peter Mrakpor
Mr Chino Obiagwu being presented with the award by Delta State Attorney-General, Mr Peter Mrakpor

The national coordinator of LEDAP, Mr Chino Obiagwu was one of those honoured for his outstanding contributions in the reform of criminal justice administration in Nigeria. According to the NBA, the award was made in recognition of Mr Obiagwu’s role as the Chairman of the National Working Group on the Reform of Criminal Justice in Nigeria between 2004 and 2009, which prepared the first draft of the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill (ACJA) that was eventually passed into an Act of the National Assembly in 2015.

Chino Obiagwu (left) and the other awardees

Other awardees at the well attended conference were Prof Yemi Akinseye-George SAN who was the secretary of the working group and later secretary of the Panel on Justice Reform, Fola Arthur Worry, a member of the Working Group and former Director of Public Prosecutions of Lagos state, Deji Adekunle the DG of Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and a champion of ACJA, as well as the current President of NBA Mr. A.B. Mahmoud SAN, J.B. Daudu SAN and G. A. Tetengi SAN who were the past chairmen of the NBA Criminal Justice Committee. Also honoured was the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa for his support to NBA’s criminal justice reform initiatives.

Institutional awards were also given to the MacArthur Foundation for supporting criminal justice reform over the years and to Yaradu’a Center.

NEWSLETTER FOR 2ND – 6TH APRIL 2018

 

HELLO,
Welcome to another edition LEDAP Nigeria’s Weekly Newsletter which keeps you up to date on the latest Human Rights News and updates in the law, What we are up to and Upcoming Events.
2nd – 6th April 2018

“Without justice, there can be no peace”– Martin Luther King J.

NEWS   

Nigeria, EU, UNODC Renew Commitments against Terrorism

The ongoing fight against terrorism in Nigeria received a boost as the European Union unfolded a three-year funding plans commencing this month. Read more

Nigerian site Invites Reports of Human Rights Abuses

A new website launched by the Women’s Rights and Health [WHER] Initiative, a Nigerian civil society not-for-profit organization, allows people report any type of human rights violations in Nigeria. Read more

UN Condemns Attack on Civilians in North-East Nigeria

Denouncing an attack on civilians in Nigeria’s restive north-east region, a senior United Nations humanitarian official has called on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and ensure the protection of civilians. Read more

 

Measles Outbreak in IDP Camp Kills Seven Children
The outbreak of measles at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at Abagena in Makurdi, Benue State has claimed the lives of not less than seven children. Read more

 

Kids Behind Bars (2)
The Nation Newspaper investigates in the second part of this series, the plight of the children born in prison. Read more

 

Illegal Migration: EU, Edo Govt Partner To Evolve Solution

The European Union Parliament says it will partner Edo Government to evolve solution to illegal migration which is common to the union and the state. Read more

 

USAID Releases Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #11, Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 

The US Agency for International Development has released Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #11, for the fiscal year 2018. The report look at conflict, government response and humanitarian responses in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad basin countries including Nigeria. View the report here

 

ActionAid Wants Sexism Tackled in Police, Public institutions

ActionAid Nigeria has urged government to address persistent institutional sexism in the Nigeria Police Force, Judiciary and other public institutions. Read more

 

Maternal Health Crisis: CSO Urges Action On Bill Gates Statement

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) has urged Nigerians, particularly the women and youth, to demand accountability from authorities, so as to address Nigeria’s huge maternal health challenge. Read more

 

EU prepares Nigerian women for 2019 polls

The event hosted by the EU to mark this year’s International Women’s Month, brought together eminent female politicians and other politically-conscious women and civil society actors from across the country to discuss the fate of women politics. It had had the theme, “How do Women Win Election in 2019?” Read more

OPINION 

Nigeria’s Troubling Counterinsurgency Strategy against Boko Haram (1)

“The state response to Boko Haram remains flawed in other key ways. Consider its approach to intelligence. The Nigerian military and police have been partnering local militias, such as the Civilian Joint Task Force, and relying on them and paid informants to find out who is a Boko Haram member. The CJTF claims are often the dominant, if not sole, basis for raids and arrests, yet such intelligence is often completely unreliable, unverified, and random, motivated merely by desire for further financial payments or as a means of revenge for previous perceived grievances against local rivals.” Read more

Female Genital Mutilation: Persecuting Noncompliance

FGM is most common in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and prevalent among girls between the ages of 15 and 49. As at 2016, an estimated 200 million women in 30 countries (27 of these countries are in Africa) were circumcised (UNICEF, 2016). Read more

Photo Essay: What next for the millions uprooted by Boko Haram?
Over the course of nine years, the Boko Haram insurgency has fractured families and claimed lives across the Lake Chad region, causing untold suffering. Four photographers visited camps run by the Red Cross to document the impact of a conflict that has left 8 million people in dire need. View the pictures here

LEDAP@WORK 


Participation in NBA’s Criminal Justice Confab

LEDAP will participate in the Nigerian Bar Association’s  Criminal Justice Confab holding on the 25th-26th of April. LEDAP’s lead counsel Chino Obiagwu, who is also the alternate chair of the NBA Human Rights Institute, will be speaking on the Administration of Criminal Justice Law and state level lessons at the forthcoming high level conference on criminal justice reform. To register and find out more, click here.


LEDAP, National Judicial Institute, and AfricaLii commence Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii)

Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii) is aimed at bringing legal materials, all laws and case decisions in Nigeria free of charge to the public. The official launch is coming up soon but the NigeriaLii portal currently contains several thousands of case decisions, statutes, rules of court, and other legal materials. Visit the NigeriaLii website here

 

LEDAP and Imo State Judiciary ACJA Bill Workshop

 In the last week of April 2018, LEDAP will partner with the Imo State Judiciary to hold a two day stakeholders workshop towards the  adoption of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in Imo state.

PeepIntoTheLaw  

Death Penalty: 

 

Court Sentences Traditional Ruler to Death by Hanging

One of the highest ranking chiefs of Uvwie Kingdom in Delta State, Chief Newton Agbofodo, has been sentenced to death by hanging. The Delta State High Court in Asaba sentenced Agbofodoh, who is the community head of Ekpan, Uvwie Council Area of Delta State, after he was found guilty of all four count charges  preferred against him, including murder. Read more

 

Court sentences man to death for stealing seven bottles of beer and one packet of Rothmans cigarette

An Ekiti State High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti has sentenced a man, Raji Babatunde, to death by hanging for stealing seven bottles of beer and one packet of Rothmans cigarette. Justice Cornelius Akintayo, in a judgment delivered on Wednesday, found Babatunde guilty of armed robbery for being in possession of axe and cutlass at the scene of the robbery. Read more

 

Court Judgements:

Certificate Of Authentication May be Dispensed with when Tendering Computer Generated Evidence

In the recent Court of Appeal judgement in BRILA ENERGY LTD v. FRN (2018) LPELR-43926(CA), SANKEY, J.C.A while delivering the lead judgement, addressed the issue of whether a certificate of authentication always has to be tendered, he held that “where such certificate [certificate of trustworthiness of the computer used in printing the documents] is not produced, it has been held that oral evidence of a person familiar with the operation of the computer can be given of its reliability and functionality; and that such a person need not be a computer expert.” Read the full judgement here.

How To Determine Whether Or Not A Person Is A Juristic Person?
In the recent Court of Appeal case of ENGINEER EMMANUEL CHUKWUEMEKA OKEKE v. NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL (2018) LPELR-43781(CA), OGUNWUMIJU, J.C.A. in delivering the lead judgemnet in this case held that to determine whether or not a person is juristic person, it is not the specific name under which a person is sued that decides whether or not the person is a juristic person. What determines this issue is whether or not a natural person exists who bears that name or a similar name or had in fact hitherto bore that name. If it is a creation of statute, it is the recognition of that artificial person under an extant law that is relevant. Read the full judgement here

 

EVENTS  

Open Society offers Media Grants [West Africa]

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is accepting proposals to support initiatives in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Possible target areas include journalism, justice reform and the rule of law, the democratic practice and more. Proposals must promote investigative journalism and free, quality and independent media. The deadline is April 30. Find out more here

 

NIALS Offers Alternative Dispute Resolution, Dispute Management And Negotiation Skills Course
The Course is to expose lawyers in the private and public sector to the simple use of ADR as a means to resolving disputes other than the traditional court and administrative forums. It Provides insights into the Law and Practice of Arbitration in Nigeria and the Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, It also examines the Place of ADR in the Legal Profession and so many others. The course will hold at Ayo Ajomo Auditorium, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of Lagos Akoka, Lagos from the 2nd – 4th May, 2018. Read more here

 

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NEWSLETTER FOR 26TH -30TH MARCH 2018

 

HELLO,
Welcome to another edition LEDAP Nigeria’s Weekly Newsletter which keeps you up to date on the latest Human Rights News and updates in the law, What we are up to and Upcoming Events.
26th – 30th March 2018

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”– Nelson Mandela

NEWS   


UNHCR Urges the Cameroonian Government to Respect Human Rights

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed to the Government of Cameroon to respect the human rights of all citizens for the sake of peace. Read more

Nigeria-Morocco Pipe: Forty NGOS Condemn it

Forty Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) including ones from Nigeria and Morocco have condemned a 2016 plan to link both countries by gas pipeline. Read more

UNPO Submits Report for Universal Periodic Review on Nigeria

On 27 March 2018, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) jointly submitted a report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the occasion of the 31st session of the Universal Periodic Review, during which Nigeria is under consideration. This report draws attention to human rights violations occurring in Ogoniland with a particular focus on violations resulting from oil exploitation in the Niger Delta region. Read more

Group Condemn Alleged DSS Attack on NBA

A pro-democracy and good governance group, Concerned Nigerians, has condemned the alleged raid on the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch by the Nigerian Police and the DSS. Read more

Human Trafficking: Centre for African Development Trains 120 Law Advocates

The Center for African Development in collaboration with the  National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) trained 120 Law Students on anti-human trafficking. Read more

Civil Society, Lawyers Defy Police, Stage Anti-Tax Protest

Civil society groups and members of the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) defied the police on Thursday to protest the controversial Land Use Charge and other taxes rolled out by the Lagos State Government. Read more

Court Jails Slave Owners for Up to 20 Years in Mauritania

A court in Mauritania has sentenced two slave owners to between 10 and 20 years in jail. Human rights activists have celebrated the ruling, which they say is the harshest anti-slavery decision in the country’s history. Read more

SERAP Condemns Nigerian Government Offer Of Amnesty To Boko Haram Members

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned offer of amnesty by President Muhammadu Buhari to ‘repentant’ members of Boko Haram terrorist sect, urging the Federal Government to instead ensure that victims of atrocities of the insurgent group get justice. Read more

Seven Energy Reaffirms Commitment to Security, Human Rights
Seven Energy, the leading indigenous integrated gas development, production and distribution company in south east Nigeria, has reaffirmed its commitment to implementing the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative (VPI) when it hosted the Steering Committee of the VPI at the Seven Energy Security Forum in Eket, Akwa Ibom State. Read more

CSNAC Petitions EFCC, Seeks Investigation Of Communication Minister, Adebayo Shittu

The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC),which  is a coalition of over 150 anti-corruption organization, has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to beam its eagle eyes on the financial records of the Minister of Communication, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, following allegations of corruption leveled against the Minister by one of its aide. Read more

Operation Python Dance: ICC to Investigate Killings of IPOB Members

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has indicated that it will investigate the September 2017 invasion of a community in Abia State, Nigeria by soldiers of the Nigeria Army during a military exercise codenamed Operation Python Dance. Read more

Inibehe Effiong Sues Akwa Ibom Government over Non-Release of Report, White Paper on Reigner’s Church collapse

A Lagos-based Legal Practitioner and Human Rights Activist, Mr. Inibehe Effiong has filed a lawsuit against the Governor of Akwa Ibom State and the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State seeking the leave of the court to compel the state government to release the Report and White Paper of the Judicial Commission of the Inquiry into the Reigners Bible Church building collapse. Read more

OPINION 

‘No women, No growth’: Regressive Laws Prevent Economic Equality, says study

Legal barriers that prevent women from working or limit their opportunities to own a business are having a negative impact on global growth and economic equality, a World Bank study has found. Read more

Blackmail, Prejudice and Persecution: Gay Rights in Nigeria

“Gay people in Nigeria mostly socialise in homes, where gatherings take place between friends and networks of friends. But the trust afforded by these closed spaces is increasingly fragile.” Read more

Ogoni: Death and Prison will not Remedy the Need for Human Rights

Far from presenting a solution for systematic violation of human rights affecting minorities in the Ogoniland region, the Nigerian government has proposed to build a jail and a cemetery as a measure to appease civil unrest. Rather than attempting to cover the real problems, Abuja should aim to comply with the country’s obligation towards the communities living in Ogoniland, ensuring that the respect for environmental conditions and fundamental rights is observed. Read more

Individualised Activism With No Structural Analysis Offers Only Half Solutions

The world’s problems cannot be solved by individual activists and campaigners alone. We need to challenge the system that fuels authoritarianism directly. Read more

“Young people are not just the future of Nigeria. They are Nigeria today.”

Increasing youth representation in Nigeria’s closed political system will be an uphill battle, but Not Too Young To Run activists are ready to fight. Read more

Signing of Court Processes By a Law Firm: A Review of the Recent Case of Heritage Bank V. Bentworth

This write-up seeks to clarify the decision in the Heritage Bank Case with consideration given to the position of the courts on the proper person to sign court processes under Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act and the implication on proceedings arising thereupon. Read more

LEDAP@WORK 


A LinkedIn to Combat Rights Abuse?

LEDAP’s lead counsel, Mr. Chino Obiagwu spoke with IRIN  about how a new website, named Who Was in Command, which helps track police and military personnel by publishing the names, ranks, and command responsibilities of security forces in Nigeria, Egypt, and Mexico, has made his work a lot easier. Read more


Participation in NBA’s Criminal Justice Confab

LEDAP will participate in the Nigerian Bar Association’s  Criminal Justice Confab holding on the 25th-26th of April. LEDAP’s lead counsel Chino Obiagwu, who is also the alternate chair of the NBA Human Rights Institute, will be speaking on the Administration of Criminal Justice Law and state level lessons at the forthcoming high level conference on criminal justice reform. To register and find out more, click here


LEDAP, National Judicial Institute, and AfricaLii commence Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii)

Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii) is aimed at bringing legal materials, all laws and case decisions in Nigeria free of charge to the public. The official launch is coming up soon but the NigeriaLii portal currently contains several thousands of case decisions, statutes, rules of court, and other legal materials. Visit the NigeriaLii website here

LEDAP and Imo State Judiciary ACJA Bill Workshop
 In the last week of April 2018, LEDAP will partner with the Imo State Judiciary to hold a two day stakeholders workshop towards the  adoption of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in Imo state.

PeepIntoTheLaw  

Copyright Infringement: Court Awards N10m Against WEMA Bank, In Suit By Nigerian Model

A Federal High Court in Lagos has awarded the sum of N10 million in damages, against Wema Bank Plc, in a suit by an American-based Nigerian model, Nneoma Anosike, over infringement of her intellectual property. Read more

Lagos Government to Challenge Court Order Suspending Consumption Tax Law

The Lagos State Government has said it will appeal an injunction of a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, which temporarily restrained it from enforcing the provisions of the 2017 Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant (Fiscalisation) Regulations 2017. Read more

Journalist, Carl Umegboro Sues Abuja DisCo, Demands N292m for Libel and other Infringements

A writer and journalist, Carl Umegboro has sued the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Plc “AEDC” before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory demanding the sum of N292, 465,000:00 (two hundred and ninety two million, four hundred and sixty five thousand naira only) aggregately for nuisance, trespass to chattel, infringement of fundamental rights, defamation of his character and special damages.Read more

Court Bars Osun State Government From Arresting and Prosecuting NBA Chairman

The Osun State High Court sitting in Ilesa on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 barred the Osun State government and its agents from arresting, persecuting or prosecuting the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Chairman, Ilesa branch, Barrister Kanmi Ajibola. Read more

Appeal Court Ends 30yr-Old Chieftaincy Battle In Rivers Community

The Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt has upheld its earlier judgment, which declared King Benson Mgbowaji Egwenre Oruk XVII as the legitimate Okan Ama of Ataba Kingdom in Andoni Local Government Area Of Rivers State. Read more

EVENTS  


3rd Regional Congress Against the Death Penalty

The African Congress will be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on 9-10 April 2018. Over 300 participants are expected. LEDAP’s lead counsel, Mr. Chino Obiagwu will be speaking on the topic, “Africans on death row in foreign countries, a consular duty” at the second workshop on the 10th of April from 3pm to 4pm. Read more

Nigerian Bar Association Section on Legal Practice Conference
The NBASLP Conference will hold on the from the 12th -13th of April 2018 at the NBA Port Harcourt branch house, bank road,Portharcourt,Rivers State. The theme of the conference is “RE-THINKING AND RE-TOOLING LEGAL PRACTICE FOR THE CHALLENGES OF OUR TIME.”

Two Day Consultative Stakeholder Meeting on Strengthening the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice

The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) in partnership with TrustAfrica has invited stakeholders to a two day consultative meeting on “Strengthening the ECOWAS Court of Justice and enhancing Access to Justice in the West Africa Sub-Region” The event will take place on the 11th to the 12th of April 2018 at Rockview Hotels, Abuja.

Open Society offers Media Grants [West Africa]

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is accepting proposals to support initiatives in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Possible target areas include journalism, justice reform and the rule of law, the democratic practice and more. Proposals must promote investigative journalism and free, quality and independent media. The deadline is April 30. Find out more here

2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize call for nominations

The 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize will be given out at the United Nations in New York on Human Right Day, 10 December. Nominations are open until 6 April 2018. The prize to recognize individuals or organization for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights is given out every five years. Read more

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Newsletter for 19th – 23rd March 2018

 

HELLO,
Welcome to another edition of LEDAP Nigeria’s Weekly Newsletter which keeps you up to date on the latest Human Rights News and updates in the law, What we are up to and Upcoming Events.
19th – 23rd March 2018

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King

 

NEWS   


Group Writes UN, Wants Herdsmen Attacks Treated As Terrorism

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the UN Security Council and its members urging them to: “treat the atrocities by herdsmen as terrorist acts, in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2349 (2017), which addresses Boko Haram’s presence in the Lake Chad Basin and calls on all states to combat all forms and manifestations of terrorism….” Read more

Falana Faults NNPC’s Rejection of FOI Request – Refusal to Disclose Financial Details

A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Sunday criticised the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), for rejecting a Freedom of Information request on its operations and finances. Read more

Islamic State Faction in Nigeria Follows Boko Haram’s Playbook: Kidnapping SchoolgirlsAccording to the Wall Street Journal  ISIS West Africa Faction and not  Boko Haram was responsible for kidnapping the Dapchi Girls. Read more

President, VP, Governors, Legislators should Disclose Salaries 

The Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Kaduna State, Shehu Sani, yesterday charged Nigerians to demand for compulsory disclosure of salaries and allowances of the President, Vice President. Secretary to the Government of the Federation, governors, state legislators and chairmen of councils. Read more

LITE-Africa, CFLI Partner on Security, Human RightsThe Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITEAfrica) which, true to its objectives, held a two-day sensitization workshop on Voluntary Principles (VP) and United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Security and Human Rights, in Abuja. LITE-Africa, with support from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiative (CFLI), is implementing what is termed, the Strengthening Voluntary Principles in-country Implementation in Nigeria. Read more

Nigerian Army Failed to Act on Warnings before Schoolgirls Abducted, Amnesty says

Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian army of failing to act on “advance warnings” given a few hours before Boko Haram militants abducted 110 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria last month. Read more

Thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians Continue to Flee to Nigeria

Thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians continue to flee violent crackdowns by government forces. The U.N. refugee agency has registered more than 20,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria’s Cross River, Taraba, Benue and Akwa-Ibom states. An overwhelming majority are women and children. Read more

 

Nigerians Berate FG, DSS over Abduction of Lagos Port WorkerSome Nigerians have berated the Federal Government after operatives of the Department of State Services, Lagos State Command, allegedly abducted a port worker, Moruf Ajao, in the Aguda, Surulere area of Lagos. They said the act was a backward step to the military era when there was disregard for the constitution, rule of law and human rights. Read more

UN Says Executions, Torture, Slave Markets Persist In Libya 
Armed groups continue to  execute and torture civilians in Libya in almost complete impunity seven years after the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the UN human rights office said on Wednesday. Libyans and migrants are often held incommunicado in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions, and reports persist of captured migrants being bought and sold on “open slave markets”, the UN said in a report to the Human Rights Council. Read more

Justice Ministry, Women Affairs Pledge Commitment to the Passage of Disability Bill into LawFederal Ministries of Justice, Women Affairs and Social Development on Tuesday in Abuja respectively pledged renewed commitments to the passage of the Nigerian Disability Bill into law. Read more

How 104 Abducted Dapchi Girls Regained Freedom

The Federal Government yesterday explained that the release of 104 out of the 110 Dapchi schoolgirls abducted last month by the Boko Haram sect was secured through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country. Read more

Human Rights Watch Warns Libya To Resist Rushing Into Elections

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday warned Libya to resist rushing into elections this year because the country is too violent and authorities cannot guarantee freedom of assembly or free speech, which are essential for a vote. Read more

Presidential Committee Frees 80 prisoners in Jigawa

No fewer than 80 inmates were set free from prison by the presidential committee on prisons reform and decongestion in Jigawa State. The prisoners who were serving different terms convicted on civil and criminals cases regained their freedom after their individual fines were settled. Read more

Cambridge Analytica’s Ruthless Bid to Sway the Vote in Nigeria

“It was the kind of campaign that was our bread and butter,” says one ex-employee. “We’re employed by a billionaire who’s panicking at the idea of a change of government and who wants to spend big to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Read more

NBA, NGO Signs MoU On Pro Bono Legal Services In Nigeria
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Friday in Abuja, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote free legal services in Nigeria with the Justice Research Institute, an NGO. Read more

Nigerian Anti-Corruption Group wins UN Award

A Nigerian anti-corruption youth group, the Creative Youth Initiative Against Corruption (CYIAC), has emerged the winner of the Innovative Category of the first UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action Awards. Read more

OPINION 


Should Nigeria have a Sex Offender Registry?
“If we have a registry that one can go quietly, report and register one’s complaint and the offender is invited for interrogation and when found culpable, he or she is punished; victims will be interested in reporting their ordeal to relevant authorities and seek help.” Read more

Where Is the Gold From?

This week is the start of Baselworld, one of the world’s largest jewelry and watch fairs. Visitors will learn a lot about new watch and jewelry design. But how much will they hear about the human rights conditions under which gold and other minerals for jewelry and watches have been mined? Read more

 

Fighting corruption: Time for Nigeria to Take the Gloves off “Nigeria is making significant inroads into the fight against corruption. Charges are being brought against people in Nigeria for corruption and fraud allowing significant amounts of cash to be recovered.” Read more  

Time To Re-Think Opposition To LGBT RightsThe Nigerian state continues to oppose same-sex marriage and the respect for human rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) persons locally and internationally. Read more

LEDAP@WORK 



Participation in NBA’s Criminal Justice Confab

LEDAP will participate in the Nigerian Bar Association’s  Criminal Justice Confab holding on the 25th-26th of April. LEDAP’s lead counsel Chino Obiagwu, who is also the alternate chair of the NBA Human Rights Institute, will be speaking on the Administration of Criminal Justice Law and state level lessons at the forthcoming high level conference on criminal justice reform. To register and find out more, click here.


LEDAP,National Judicial Institute, and AfricaLii commence Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii)

Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii) is aimed at bringing legal materials, all laws and case decisions in Nigeria free of charge to the public. The official launch is coming up soon but the NigeriaLii portal currently contains several thousands of case decisions, statutes, rules of court, and other legal materials. Visit the NigeriaLii website here

LEDAP and Imo State Judiciary ACJA Bill Workshop
 In the last week of April 2018, LEDAP will partner with the Imo State Judiciary to hold a two day stakeholders workshop towards the  adoption of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in Imo state.

 

LEDAP Undertakes a Baseline Assessment of the Rate of Compliance & Awareness  of the  ACJA in the F.C.T.  

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project in partnership with the E.U funded Rule of Law (RoLAC) programme and the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) recently began a practitioner survey to identify the level of awareness and the extent of implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in the Federal Capital Territory. Read more

LEDAP’S Suit Against the Securities and Exchange Commission & 1 Other, Adjourned for Judgement

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project on the 20th of January, 2016 filed an action at the Investment and Securities Tribunal against the Security and Exchange Commission and The Nigerian Stock Exchange challenging the power of the Security and Exchange Commission in allowing states government raise bonds in the open market. Read more

LEDAP Submits Universal Periodic Review Report on  the Human Rights Situation in Nigeria

LEDAP has submitted a Universal Periodic Review Report on  the Human Rights Situation in Nigeria to the Office of the Human Rights Council. The report focuses on issues such as, Unlawful Arrests and Detention, Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Enforced Disappearance, Detention Incommunicado, Death in Detention, Extra Judicial Killings and the Slow Judicial Process in the Prosecution of Fundamental Human Rights Cases in Court.

LEDAP Writes Attorney General of the Federation for Release of Suspects Discharged by the Court
About 800 Boko Haram suspects were discharged by the Court during the second phase of the trial of Boko Haram Suspects held from the 12th to the 16th of February 2018 at Wawa Military Cantonment, Kinji, Niger State for want of sufficient evidence to charge them to court. However, these persons are still being detained at the detention center. LEDAP has written to the Attorney General of the Federation demanding the unconditional release of these detainees.

PeepIntoTheLaw  

Court Stops Lagos State Government from Enforcing Hotel Tax Law

The Federal High Court in Lagos has restrained the Lagos State Government from enforcing the provisions of its new Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant (Fiscalisation) Regulations 2017. The law introduced a five per cent consumption tax in addition to a five per cent Value Added Tax on every purchase or service rendered by hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets, event centres, bars and nightclubs. Read more

Obaseki signs Edo Criminal Justice Administration Bill into Law 

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has signed the Edo State Criminal Justice Administration Bill into Law.
Obaseki, who assented to the bill at the Government House, in Benin City, the Edo State capital on Tuesday, said, “The law would strengthen the protection of the rights of citizens and ensure fair and speedy administration of justice.” Read more

Kano to get Appeal Court

The Federal Government will establish an Appeal Court division in Kano State, President of the Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has said. Read more

Sergeant to Die for Extra-Judicial Killing

A Bayelsa State High Court sitting in Yenagoa has sentenced a police sergeant, Jilla Lannubo, to death by hanging for the extra-judicial killing of Oruyegha Grand at Agudama on May 13, 2017. Read more

Signing of Court Processes By a Law Firm: A Review of the Recent Case of Heritage Bank V. Bentworth

This write-up seeks to clarify the decision in the Heritage Bank Case with consideration given to the position of the courts on the proper person to sign court processes under Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act and the implication on proceedings arising thereupon. Read more

 

EVENTS  


3rd Regional Congress Against the Death Penalty

The African Congress will be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on 9-10 April 2018. Over 300 participants are expected. LEDAP’s lead counsel, Mr. Chino Obiagwu will be speaking on the topic, “Africans on death row in foreign countries, a consular duty” at the second workshop on the 10th of April from 3pm to 4pm. Read more 

Lagos Multi-Door Court House To Hold 2018 Edition of The Yaba District Settlement Week

Registration for the event is free. It will hold from the 26th – 29th of March 2018 at the The Chief Magistrate Court, Lagos State Judiciary, Botanical Gardens, Ebute Metta. Find out more here.

Prof. Attahiru Jega, To Speak At NIALS 2018 Founders Day Lecture

The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is to holds its 2018 edition of Founders Day lecture. The Lecture is scheduled to hold on Tuesday, 27th March, 2018. The theme of the lecture is “TOWARDS ELECTION INTEGRITY IN 2019: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS”. This year’s edition of Founders Day Lecture will be Delivered by Professor Attahiru Jega, Pro-Chancellor Plateau State University, Former Chairman of the (INEC). Find out more here

Two Day Consultative Stakeholder Meeting on Strengthening the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice

The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) in partnership with TrustAfrica has invited stakeholders to a two day consultative meeting on “Strengthening the ECOWAS Court of Justice and enhancing Access to Justice in the West Africa Sub-Region” The event will take place on the 11th to the 12th of April 2018 at Rockview Hotels, Abuja.

Open Society offers Media Grants [West Africa]

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is accepting proposals to support initiatives in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Possible target areas include journalism, justice reform and the rule of law, the democratic practice and more. Proposals must promote investigative journalism and free, quality and independent media. The deadline is April 30. Find out more here

2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize call for nominations

The 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize will be given out at the United Nations in New York on Human Right Day, 10 December. Nominations are open until 6 April 2018. The prize to recognize individuals or organization for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights is given out every five years. Read more

 

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OPINION: Signing Of Court Processes By A Law Firm: A Review Of The Recent Case Of Heritage Bank V. Bentworth

Some legal practitioners have opined that the decision Supreme Court in SC/175/2005- delivered on the 23rd of February 2018 is clear deviation and implicit overruling of its earlier position on the implication of a court process signed by a law firm.

Most of the commentators have argued that the position of the law as established through a long line of cases interpreting section 2 and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, is that a court process signed other than by a legal practitioner whose name appears on the Roll of legal practitioners registered with the Supreme Court, is a nullity.

This write-up seeks to clarify the decision in the Heritage Bank Case with consideration given to the position of the courts on the proper person to sign court processes under Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act and the implication on proceedings arising thereupon.

THE POSITION OF LAW THROUGH THE CASES: IMPLICATION OF VIOLATION OF SECTION 2 AND 24 OF THE LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ACT

Prior to the decision of the apex court in the Heritage Bank Case (Supra) there have been a plethora of decided cases on the implication of signing court processes by a law firm. The most popular Nigerian case on this issue being the case  Okafor V. Nweke (2007) 10 NWLR Pt 1043 at 521 where the  Applicants filed a motion before Supreme Court praying inter alia for; An order for extension of time within which to apply for Leave to (Cross) Appeal; Leave to (Cross) Appeal; Extension of time within which to file the applicants Notice and Grounds in the said (Cross) Appeal; and An order deeming the said Notice and Grounds of Appeal properly filed and served.

The Applicant’s motion seeking the above orders was signed by “J.H.C. Okolo, SAN & Co” as was the Notice of Cross Appeal and the brief of argument in support of the motion. The Respondents filed a Counter Affidavit in opposition to the application and in its brief of argument raised the issue “Whether the Notice of Motion, Notice of (Cross) Appeal and the Applicants’ Brief of Argument for extension of time in this application are null and void.”

The Learned Senior Advocate (Counsel to the Respondents) referred the Supreme Court to Section 74(1) of the Evidence Act, Cap 112, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and submitted that by virtue of that provision the Court was enjoined to take judicial notice of all legal practitioners authorized by law to appear or act before it and further submitted that “J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co” was not a legal practitioner authorized by law to appear or act before the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

In support of his argument the Learned Senior Counsel referring to and relying on Sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, cap 207, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, submitted that the law firm, “J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co” not being a person whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria was not entitled to sign or issue the Notice of Motion, Notice of (Cross) Appeal and Applicants’ Brief of Argument for Extension of Time in the application and that the said documents as signed and issued by the firm were null and void relying on the Court of Appeal decision in New Nigerian Bank Plc vs Dendag Ltd (2005) 4 NWLR(pt. 916)  549 at 573.

In response, the Applicant contended that a casual look at the documents confirmed that each of them was signed by the party issuing same as the counsel in the proceeding, that Respondent was not challenging the signature as being that of a legal practitioner and the import of Sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act merely required a legal practitioner representing a party in any proceeding to sign any court process. It further argued that since it was not in contention whether the process had been signed by a legal practitioner, all that was required was to call oral evidence to ascertain the legal practitioner that signed it.

The learned counsel for the Applicant further argued that a signature on any document is the attribute that authenticates the document and the documents under consideration where duly signed by “J.H.C. Okolo (SAN)” a registered Legal Practitioner shown on the Rolls of the Supreme Court as No 1265 and on the Rolls of Senior Advocates of Nigeria as No 76. The Applicant stated that the addition of the words “& CO” not in the signature authenticating the process but in the further description of that known identity is a mere surplusage which cannot take the place or displace the signature.

Interestingly, after the Respondents raised the above issues, the Applicant’s reply brief in response to the issues was signed by J.H.C. Okolo SAN and not J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co, almost a clear admission that its former position was defective and an attempt at administering the medicine after death.

The Supreme Court in upholding the arguments of the Respondents held that with the combined provision of section 2(1) and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap 207 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 for a person to be qualified to practice as a legal practitioner he must have his name in the roll otherwise he cannot engage in any form of legal practice in Nigeria. The court viewed that:

“…the rule does not say that his signature must be on the roll but his name.  “J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co” is not a legal practitioner and therefore cannot practice as such by say, filing processes in the courts of this country

In holding that such court process signed by a law firm is incompetent and liable to striking out the Supreme Court stated that:

“… J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co is not a legal practitioner recognized by the law, it follows that the said J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co cannot legally sign and/or file any process in the courts and as such the Motion on Notice filed on 19th December 2005, Notice of Cross Appeal and Applicants brief of argument in support of the said motion all signed and issued by the firm known and called J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co are incompetent in law particularly as the said firm of J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co is not a registered legal practitioner.”

By the decision in Okafor’s case a court process signed by a person other than a legal practitioner is incompetent and must be struck out.

WHEN BREACH OF SECTION 2 AND 24 OF THE LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ACT ROBS THE COURT OF JURISDICTION IN THE SUIT

In a more recent case in Suit No SC. 96/2006-Chief Gabriel Igbinedion & Ors v. Umoh Asuquo Antiadecided on the 17th of December 2017 the Supreme Court again considered a similar issue and in so doing showed much appreciation of its earlier decisions with regards. In this case one of the question raised by the Appellant before the Supreme Court was

“Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal acted within their jurisdiction in relying on the fundamentally defective Notice of Appeal issued and signed by Chief P.C Ajayi-Obe (SAN) & Co., which is not a legal practitioner recognized by the law to practice in Nigeria?”

It was the contention of the Appellant that the judgement of the Court below was incompetent because it was predicated upon an incompetent Notice of Appeal, and so, as held in Macfoy v. UAC (1962) AC 152, “there was nothing upon which the judgement of the lower court could be predicated, and every judgement founded on such Notice of Appeal is a nullity”. The Appellant submitted that a defective Notice of Appeal is non-existent in the eyes of the law, therefore, the appeal is incompetent. It argued that the defect of the Notice of Appeal being the signing of the notice by the law firm instead of a legal practitioner as required under Section 2(1) and Section 24 of the LPA. The Appellant cited several earlier decided cases on this point for the consideration of the court. The Respondent in its reply did not address this issue.

In agreeing with the Appellant, the Supreme Court per Amina Adamu JSC stated:

“The appellants are right that a Notice of Appeal is the originating process that sets the ball rolling for the valid and lawful commencement of an appeal-Shelim v. Gobang (12) NWLR Pt. 1156 at 435. Therefore, any defect in the Notice of Appeal goes to the root of the appeal and robs this court of jurisdiction to hear the appeal”

The Court in reaching the above decision quoted with approval the dictum of Rhodes-Vivour JSC in Iwunze v, FRN (2015) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1404) at 580 where the Learned Justice observed inter alia that:

…the originating process in all appeals is the Notice of Appeal. Once it is found to be defective the Court of Appeal ceases to have jurisdiction to entertain an appeal in whatever form”.

The apex court also cited with approval its decision in FRN v. Dairo (2015) 6 NWLR Pt. 1454 at 141 per Nweze, JSC, that:

“As it is well known, it is a notice of appeal that initiates an appeal from a High Court to the lower Court-Put differently, the notice (actually a competent notice of appeal) is the foundational process that triggers off an appeal from the High Court to the lower Court (Court of Appeal)..As such any virus in this process would, invariably, corrode or taint the entire appeal thereby rendering it incompetent. The effect of such viral corrosion is, usually, far-reaching as it nibbles at the jurisdiction of the appeal Court which must, as of necessity, strike out such a process. In effect, the absence of a competent Notice of Appeal, simply, translates to the non-existence of an appeal… This must be so for it is a condition precedent to any valid exercise of the appellate jurisdiction.

In the above cases of Igbinedion & Ors v. Umoh Asuquo (supra), Iwunze v, FRN (supra) and FRN v. Dairo (supra) the Supreme Court while maintaining the position in Okafor’s case that a law firm “cannot  legally sign and/or file any court process in the courts”, and such process signed by a law firm is “incompetent in law”, the apex court went further to state succinctly that when the court process which is struck out as incompetent due to defective signing is a process which initiates the proceedings then the entire proceedings is a nullity, the foundation of the proceedings having been struck out.

The apex court in the three cases considered whether the defective process was of such nature that robbed the court of jurisdiction in the entire proceedings and on this point concluded that because the defective court processes where originating processes; having been declared incompetent, there was nothing on which the entire proceedings of the court could rest. The defect in the originating process therefore meant that there was no valid process upon which the court could assume jurisdiction.

The view expressed by their lordships in these decisions accord with the Court’s view, per Fabiyi JSC, in SBL Consortium V. NNPC (2016) 9 NWLR Pt. 1252 at 317 where the originating summons had been signed by a law firm and the Learned Justice held that:

“It is not in doubt that the signature of “Adewale Adesokan & Co” on the originating summons robs the process of competence ab initio as the said firm is not a registered legal practitioner enrolled to practice as a barrister and solicitor in this Court…In the prevailing circumstance, all the proceedings, which rested on the inchoate originating summons, are deemed not to have taken place in law. One cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand…”

Interestingly however, in reaching its decision in Igbinedion & Ors v. Umoh Asuquo (supra), the Supreme Court also quoted with approval the dictum of Galadinma JSC in Hamzat & Anor v. Sanni & Ors (2015) 6 NWLR Pt. 1453 at 486 wherein the Learned Justice very aptly stated as follows: 

“…In SBL Consortium v. NNPC this Court citing the case of Okafor v. Nweke struck out the Plaintiffs originating summons and statement of claim, both having being signed by “Adewale Adesokan & Co”, who was held not to be a legal practitioner known to law…in view of our clear position in Okafor v. Nweke and other similar cases, I hold that the Appellant’s Statement of claim on which evidence was led, were a nullity, same having been signed in the name of a law firm.”

The decision above decision struck out the statement of claim alone relying on the authority of Okafor v. Nweke. This posture to the issue has however been reconsidered by the apex court in the recent Heritage Bank’s case and distinguished from the established principles having the applicability in Okafor v. Nweke and the consequences to jurisdiction of the court. 

BRIEF SUMMARY OF FACTS IN HERITAGE BANK LIMITED V. BENTWORTH FINANCE (NIGERIA) LIMITED

In Suit No: SC.175/2005-Heritage Bank Limited v. Bentworth Finance (Nigeria) Limited, decided by the Supreme Court on the 23rd day of February 2018, the Respondent had at the trial court filed a Statement of Claim on 19th of September 1990 signed and settled by “Beatrice Fisher & Co.”. The Appellant did not raise any objection on this defect at the trial court nor at the court of appeal but raised it as an issue of jurisdiction at the Supreme Court.

It was the contention of the Appellant that the Statement of Claim filed by the Respondent on 19th September 1990 signed or settled by “Beatrice Fisher & Co.” a person whose name is not on the Roll of Legal Practitioners registered in the Supreme Court and licensed to practice law in Nigeria was defective and incompetent. Consequently, it was submitted by the Appellant’s Counsel that the defective process did rob the trial court and the Court of Appeal of their jurisdiction. The Appellant cited Section 2(1) and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act , LFN 1990 and the several decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue including Okafor v. Nweke (2007) 10 NWLR Pt 1375 at 513, Brathwaite v. Skye Bank Plc (2013) 5 NWLR Pt. 1346 1, Oketade v. Adewunmi (2010) 8 NWLR Pt. 1195 at 63, SLB Consortium v. NNPC (2011) 9 NWLR Pt. 1252 at 337, Nigerian Army v. Samuel (2013)14 NWLR Pt. 1375 at 466 as authorities on its arguments.

The Respondent in reply to the issue raised by the Appellant, argued that the decisions of the Court which the Appellant relied on where reached after the said statement of claim had already being filed and contended that the allegedly defective processes in the suit where filed and settled in 1990, before the decision in Okafor v. Nweke decided in 2007.

It is beyond doubt that the present issue before the apex court was one which the earlier decisions of the court seemed to have put beyond peradventure. Thus, it is understandable that the Respondent did not argue the authorities as there were several authorities against it on the point. However, the Supreme Court, per Ejembi Eko JSC, after hearing argument of parties in disagreeing with the Appellant held:

“I observe that the Appellant made no distinction between substantive jurisdiction and procedural jurisdiction. He also made no distinction between an originating summons and the allegedly defective Statement of Claim. It is important that I make this point from the onset that a defect in procedure is not the same as a defect in competence or jurisdiction. A defect in the former is regarded as a mere irregularity and it can be waived: SAUDE v. ABDULLAHI (1989) 7 SC (Pt. ii) 116. …Whether or not an irregularity renders a process void or merely voidable depends on the type of irregularity. The law is settled, as this Court pointed out in, Brathwaite v. Skye Bank Plc (2013) 5 NWLR Pt. 1346 1, Nigerian Army v. Samuel (2013)14 NWLR Pt. 1375 at 466…; an irregularity affecting an originating process is a fundamental irregularity that goes to the roots. The Statement of Claim, I must point out, is not such an originating process.

The apex court further stated that:

Jurisdictional defect that renders the adjudication incompetent ultra vires, null and void is the substantive jurisdiction because such jurisdictional issue is extrinsic to the adjudication: MADUKOLU v. NKEMDILIM (1962) 2 SCNLR 341.  When want of substantive jurisdiction is raised, the issue is whether the jurisdiction vested statutorily in the court allows it to adjudicate in the matter. That is why it is extrinsic.  When, however, the issue is whether a process filed in the course of proceeding or adjudication is an irregular process having not being issued or filed in accordance with the prescribed practice, the issue raised is whether the process can be countenanced, and not whether the court can ordinarily and completely assume jurisdiction and adjudicate in the matter in the first place. In most cases procedural jurisdiction is secondary to the substantive jurisdiction. The distinction between the two lies in the fact while procedural jurisdiction can be waived; substantive jurisdiction cannot be waived.

The court in reaching this decision cited with approval the dictum of Rhodes Vivour, JSC in A.G KWARA STATE & ANOR V. ALHAJI SAKA ADEYEMO & ORS (2016) 7 SC Pt. 11 P. 149 that:

“Jurisdiction is a question of law. There are two types of jurisdiction. 1. Jurisdiction as a matter of procedural law. 2. Jurisdiction as a matter of substantive law. A litigant may waive the former…”

The court concluded that although the Statement of Claim was allegedly not signed by a known legally qualified legal practitioner, the Appellant as defendant, condoned the defective process. They participated in the proceedings and evidence from the Statement of Claim was called after the Statement of Defence joining issues with the defective statement of claim, the trial court gave judgement upon the evidence and even at the court of appeal no issue was made of the alleged defective statement of Claim. The court therefore held the Appellant to have waived its right to object to the defective process.

The decision of the Supreme Court in the Heritage Bank’s case without expressly attempting to overrule itself unavoidably deviates in some regards from its position on the above issue, particularly on the implication of signing of a court process other than an originating process by a law firm or person other than a legal practitioner.

The position that a Statement of Claim or Court Process signed by a law firm rather than a legal practitioner is “irregular” rather than “incompetent” put forward clearly runs against all earlier authorities on the issue. In Hamzat & Anor v. Sanni & Ors (supra) Galadinma JSC stated without any ambiguity that the statement of claim signed by the law firm in the suit was a “nullity”. A process being a nullity ab-initio cannot receive life by condoning or a waiver as it was dead upon its arrival and is of no legal consequence. Accordingly, all proceedings upon such statement of claim stood on nothing.

This is particularly so as the Black’s Law dictionary 4th Edition defines “nullity” as

“Nothing; no proceeding; an act or proceeding in a cause which the op- posite party may treat as though it had not taken place, or which lias absolutely no legal force or effect. Salter v. Hilgen, 40 Wis. 363; Tenness v. Lapeer County Circuit Judge, 42 Mich. 460, 4 N. W. 220; Johnson v. Dines, 61 Md.

Quite respectfully, unless the apex court intends to overrule its earlier position, there is a clear difference between its recent decision that a statement of claim signed by a law firm is “irregular” and its earlier decision that same is a “nullity”. One can only favour the view that the subsequent and more recent decision represents an implicit overruling of the earlier position or at best that there is no concurrence of two decisions of the apex court on the question.

The decision in Heritage Bank’s Case however appeals to law and logic and is not without legal framework to support the reasoning. The Court of Appeal sitting at Lagos in M.O Moudkas Nigeria Ent. Limited & Anor V. Emiko Israel Obioma (2016) LPELR-40165 (CA) had the cause to determine an exactly similar issue ie. “Whether a statement of Claim signed by a law firm was irregular and therefore curable or incompetent and therefore a nullity ab-initio”.

In the case the Plaintiff filed and properly signed the writ of summons in the name of the legal practitioner. However, the statement of Claim was signed in the name of the law firm rather than a known legal practitioner. The Plaintiff on realizing the defect filed an amended Statement of defence which reflected the name of the legal practitioner and sought to rely on same to correct the defective processes earlier filed. The Court of appeal in considering the signature on the statement of claim stated:

“Of the statement of claim I am clear in my modest opinion that it was not signed by a recognized or known registered legal practitioner or the claimants. It is on that score incurably defective. The defect cannot be cured by an amendment. The amended statement of claim does not therefore cure the mortal defect in the statement of claim. See Ministry of Works and Transport, Adamawa State and Ors. v. Yakubu and Anor. (2013) 6 NWLR (pt.1351) 481 at 495 My Lord, in the instant appeal, it is not in dispute that the

The Court of Appeal in M.O Moudkas Nigeria Ent case therefore held that the defective Statement of Claim was a nullity and same could not be curred by subsequent amendment. The Court of Appeal considering the proper order to make in the circumstances ie. Where there was a valid writ but an incompetent and void Statement of Claim decided:

“However, because the writ of summons by which the action was commenced, and which originated the action was properly signed by a legal practitioner as prescribed by our law, it remains valid and can still be built upon as a solid foundation. It is the statement of claim upon which evidence was based that cannot stand. Indeed, as the saying goes, you cannot put something or nothing and expect it to stay, it will fall. Evidence led in the case based on incompetent statement of claim is also incompetent and should be discountenanced and struck out. Therefore, the writ of summons which was separately filed several months before the statement of claim was filed having been properly signed and competent cannot and should not be allowed to be killed by an incompetent statement of claim. It stands, while the statement of claim is struck out

The above decision of the Court of Appeal quite respectfully would have been a decent guide for the Supreme Court in its consideration of the Heritage Bank Case even though the apex court’s decision can be supported by the argument I now canvass below.

If we consider the Rules of Court on this issue, with particular focus on the Lagos Rules for illustration, the decision in Heritage Bank’s Case becomes easier to rationalize and appreciate. It is incisive to note that the Rules of court are usually an incorporation of several decided authorities on an issue of procedural law. It is therefore safe to opine that the rules regard the existing decisions of court at the time of its making.

Now, under Order 3 Rules 2(1)(2) of the High Court of Lagos State Rules 2012 it is provided that;

  1. (1) All civil proceedings commenced by writ of summons shall be accompanied by: (a) statement of claim. (b) list of witnesses to be called at the trial, (c) written statements on oath of the witnesses except witnesses on subpoena (d) copies of every document to be relied on at the trial. (e) Pre-action Protocol Form 01

(2) Where a claimant fails to comply with Rules 2 (1) above, his originating process shall not be accepted for filling by the Registry

Rules Order 5 of the same Rules state that:

(1) Where in beginning or purporting to begin any proceeding there has by reason of anything done or left undone, been a failure to comply with the requirements of these rules, the failure shall nullify the proceedings.

(2) Where at any stage in the course of or in connection with any proceedings there has by reason of anything done or left undone been a failure to comply with the requirements as to time, place manner, or form, the failure shall be treated as an irregularity and may not nullify such step taken in the proceedings. The Judge may give any direction as he thinks fit to regularize such steps.

  1. (1) An application to set aside for irregularity any step taken in the course of any proceedings may be allowed where it is made within a reasonable time and before the party applying has taken any fresh step after becoming aware of the irregularity

The provision of Order 5 quoted above represents the state of the procedural law on the issue and states that any violation done to a process which commences proceedings shall nullify the proceedings. However, if the violation is not of a process which commences proceedings, but one filed after commencement of proceedings then such violation is an irregularity which may not nullify proceedings depending on whether objection to the irregularity is raised timeously or condoned by the adverse party.

The basis of this position is that after an action is properly commenced the court assumes substantive jurisdiction. The jurisdiction which then guides proceedings after the court assumes jurisdiction is the procedural jurisdiction which does not nullify the proceedings if it is cured or waived by the party at whose instance it ought to be set it aside for irregularity.

What is left therefore is to query whether a “Statement of Claim” is an originating process for assumption of the court’s substantive jurisdiction? On this Order 3 of the Lagos Rules being used illustratively indicates a civil action may be commenced by a writ of summons which shall be accompanied inter alia by a statement of claim. An argument that a statement of claim is an originating process is therefore akin to argument that list of documents in a suit commences an action. This is so because an originating or initiating process is one which commences an action.

The question whether a statement of Claim is an originating process was considered by the court of appeal in the case of Buhari V. Adebayo (2014) 10 NWLR Pt 1416 where the court on held per Ajeku JCA:

“… from the above clear and unambiguous provisions, the statement of claim is one of the accompanying processes to be filed with a writ of summons in a proceeding initiated by a writ. The writ is the originating or initiating process.”

Therefore, the statement of claim not a process which begins or purports to begin a suit, a defect therein should ordinarily not nullify the proceedings and can should therefore not rob the court of its jurisdiction over the suit in itss entirety. This is the premise and conclusion of the decision of the court in the Heritage Bank Case.

IN CONCLUSION

The Supreme Court by its decision in Heritage Bank Ltd has clearly amended the new blue print for arguments on the effect of Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioner’s Act to court processes signed by person other than the Litigant or his Legal Practitioner defined thereunder.  The position of the law can be succinctly summarized presently to be:

  1. Where the originating process itself (ie. The writ of summons, the originating summons or the petition) is not issued or signed by a Litigant or his Legal practitioner whose name appears on the Roll of the Supreme Court, such court process is incompetent, a nullity and the court cannot assume jurisdiction upon same. Therefore, all proceedings borne of such incompetent processes are null and void.
  1. Where the defective signature by a law firm is not contained on the originating process but on some other accompanying documents or court processes the authorities are divided on whether the defective signing makes such process irregular or rather renders them a nullity. In any case, the op-posite party is enjoined to object timeously to such defect in any court-process not being an originating process. Where a party does not object timeously but rather joins issues without any objections, his right to subsequently raise the issue may be deemed to have been waived. This dual position shall persist until such time when the supreme Court has opportunity to give a decision on the issue either by overruling its earlier position or clarifying with certainty.

By OLIVER OMOREDIA ESQ