The newly inaugurated Coordinator, African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA), Rivers State chapter, Hilda Desmond-Ihekaire, has said that advocacy on the protection of the right of women and children in Africa as well as Rivers state, would be her focal point.
Desmond-Ihekaire made this known during her inauguration as the Coordinator of the state chapter of AWLA in Port Harcourt, recently.
She noted that women and children deserve the best form of protection due to their vulnerable nature.
According to her, the push would also give them a sense of belonging in the society.
Another of her agenda, she noted, was continuing legal education of members in keeping abreast with the issues of women and children’s rights.
She was of the view that such opportunities would enable members of the association to tinker how best to handle issues that are connected with women and children.
The lawyer also listed members’ welfare and infrastructural develo-pment of the group as part of her three point agenda geared towards the upliftment of the union.
She explained that the body may not be at its best when the aforementioned programmes are lacking, thus the need to pursue it vigorously.
The Tide gathered that the non-profit and non-governmental organi-sation with the aim of protecting the rights and interests of women and children in Africa, also extends its hand to men who are poorly treated in their environment under any guise.
His Worship, Comfort Adango (Esq), while inaugurating the executive, charged them on the need to keep the flag flying.
Adango, also tasked them on collaboration with sister organisations in order to enable them have safe landing.
“In protecting the rights of women and children, liaise and work with other civil society groups with similar objectives to make maximum impact”, she added.
Others who emerged alongside Hilda Desmond-Ihekaire are: Grace Adikema Ajaegbo, assistant coordinator and Gloria Anuri Ohia as Secretary.
While Urang Atawo- Ogutute emerged as treasurer, Ogenero Emu joined the executive list as welfare secretary and Buduka Okoroma emerged as assistant secretary of the group.
Meanwhile, in her acceptance speech, Desmond-Ihekaire Esq, thanked the members for giving her and the executive the opportunity to serve and promised to build on the laudable achievements of the outgone executive led by Cordelia U. Eke, Esq.
Elele OSPAC Seeks Govt’s Assistance
Elele Security Planning and Advisory Committee has appealed to the state government to come to their aid.
The local vigilante often called ESPAC said the call became imperative following its key role in sustaining peace in the communities.
In a chat with newsmen in his office yesterday, the commander, Daniel Wosa disclosed the unbearable situation his men faced on daily basis without anything to take home.
Wosa said some of his men had threatened to quit the voluntary job since nobody appreciated them.
The commander expressed regret that ESPAC members had volunteered to sacrifice their lives for the society yet nobody appreciated them.
“Some struggle to feed their families. It is unfair …”
“We appeal to governor Nyesom Wike to consider us because of the key role we have been playing in Rivers state.
“Today communities,road users and business men can attest to our untiring effort since we came on board.”
“No more kidnapping, killing and other vices which threatened the peace of the land,” he noted.
“Boys under me who volunteered to sacrifice for the wellbeing of others need recognition,” he stated.
Wosa said there was no security challenge the group could not contend if only government could give them support.
He specifically commended the executive Chairman, Ikwerre Local Government Area, Hon Samuel Nwanosike for his assistance and said if not Ikwerre Council boss the situation would have degenerated.
Wosa said some time now he had been using his hard-earned money to appease his men.
Wosa said it was on record Elele OSPAC had never been found wanting in the cause of its duty and explained that the group worked in collaboration with the conventional police to achieve desired objective
Meanwhile,a youth leader in Ikwerre Local Government, Comrade Eleonu Chukwuka says Hon Samuel Nwanosike’ s achievement in security has given him the second term ticket.
Comrd Chukwuka said Ikwerre Council Boss had written his name in gold by surmounting the security situation in Ikwerre.
The youth leader while chatting with newsmen said the introduction of OSPAC by Nwanosike led to other infrastructural and human capital development and pointed out that peace was key to development.
It is a thing of joy that farmers can return to farm. Normal life has returned.
It is the greatest achievement which snowballed to what we are seeing today in Ikwerre.
Ikwerre people are proud of him and will back till eternity.
Legal Departments In LGAs And Justice Dispensation
Lawyers at the Local Government (LG) Legal Department would supervise and undertake prosecu-torial activities in magistrate courts, and represent their respective local governments in area courts, Magistrates Courts, High Courts, among others.
They would be on hand to render necessary legal advisory services to their local governments.
They could be in charge of advising their LG Chairmen on legal issues relating to issuance of the Customary Right of Occupancy at the LG level, thereby playing roles similar to those being played by the ministries of Justice and Lands at the State level in the Statutory Right of Occupancy. Section 6 of the Land Use Act, 1978 provides: “It shall be lawful for a Local Government in respect of land not in an urban area. (a) to grant customary rights of occupancy to any person or organi-sation for the use of land in the Local Government areas for agricultural, residential and other purposes. (b) to grant customary right of occupancy to any person or organisation for the use of land for grazing purposes and such other purposes ancillary to agricultural purposes as may be customary in the local government area concerned”.
They could take steps to set up (citizens) ADR/Mediation centres at the LG level, as well as render other legal aid/advisory services aimed at helping the local community or to make justice more affordable and easily accessible by local inhabitants.
Establishing a legal department at the LG level will tremendously reduce the pressure of having all lawyers striving to settle down only in major cities, such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Onitsha, Aba, Ibadan, Jos, Abuja, Enugu City, Uyo, Warri, Calabar, Kaduna City, etc; lawyers employed by the various local governments would have to relocate to the local council headquarters where they’d live and operate from, with their families.
Establishing a legal department at the LG Level would bring lawyers and legal services closer to the people at the grass-root; residents of local communities will no longer need/have to travel to the major cities in order to get the services of lawyers to draft their various agreements, contracts, or to render other legal services.
Lawyers in the LG Legal Departments will, apart from attending to the legal needs of the local government councils, assist in prosecution of some cases, especially in courts located within the local council areas. This will minimise involvement of law prosecutors in criminal prosecution. Lay police officers‘ and non-lawyers’ continued involvement in criminal prosecution in Nigeria, is partly responsible for the worsening cases of awaiting trial cases and prison congestion in the country.
This is because of their professional limitations in this area, so many of the so-called police prosecutors are not able to match or withstand the legal firework of professionally qualified lawyers who act as defence counsel in courts during criminal prosecutions; these lay police officers and non-lawyers hardly understand the intricacies of formal courtroom proceedings and trial procedure, and more often than not, have very little or no preparation prior to their court appearances.
It may therefore be seen that the clamour for extrication of lay policemen from criminal prosecution is primarily not targeted at creating more jobs for lawyers, but rather at leaving criminal prosecution in the hands of qualified personnel (lawyers) who alone understand the law and are well able to match the expertise of defence counsel in court, in order to ensure that justice was dispensed in good time and more effectively.
Gradually, from among these lawyers, who are LG legal officers, some magistrates or even judges are appointed, just as it is done at the state level.
Establishing a legal department at the LG level would provide huge job/employment opportunities for lawyers in Nigeria.
Imagine, if all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria could create and have legal departments, and each local government (depending on capacity) employs an average of 10-20 lawyers in its legal department, we’d have at least 7,740 to 15,480 lawyers or much more immediately gainfully employed at the local government level.
Establishing a legal department at the LG level would redress the existing inequity and unfairness at the local government level. The following departments already exist in all the LGAs in Nigeria: Education, Health, Agriculture, Finance, Information, and Works. It’s gross marginalisation against the legal profession that there’s not yet a legal department in all LGAs in Nigeria. This obvious anomaly, which has wreaked huge havoc, considering the undeniable importance of law and lawyers in society, needs to be be urgently corrected to provide the needed balance that would make lawyers more relevant to society and move society forward.
B) Stakeholders To Make This All-Important Project A Reality:
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at both the National and Branch levels: NBA has responsibility to set the ball rolling. Indeed, if the NBA does nothing, nothing happens.
The Attorney-General of the Federation of Nigeria, considering that he is the Chief Law officer of the Federation.
Attorneys-General of the various states in Nigeria.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The President of the Court of Appeal.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and the President of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
The Chief Judge of the Federal capital High Court and the High Courts of the various States in Nigeria.
The House of Assembly of the various States in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Governors‘ Forum and the Governors of the various States in Nigeria.
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), the Egbe Amofin Lawyers, the Body of Benchers (BOB), the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF), the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN), the Mid-West Bar Forum (MBF), the Christian Lawyers’Association of Nigeria (CLASFON), the National Association of Catholic Lawyers (NACL), etc.
C) Conclusion: What Does This Take As A First Step?
It starts with an amendment to the Local Government Law of each State, to create a legal department in the LGAs in the state.
This is long overdue. Provision of necessary logistics and support infrastructure would then follow.
This writer believes that there would be business enough for lawyers in Nigeria, only if the lawyers could, by themselves and working hand in hand with their Bar Associations, put their acts together and stand up to do something concrete and constructive for themselves and their profession.
Time for action is now; there is no time to wait or waste, because time will never be right. Barack Obama said, “the change we desire will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. A stitch in time saves nine.”
It would be recalled that lawyers under the employment of Local Government Authorities in Rivers state, penultimate week, demonstrated for full recognition and salary increment to match that of their counterparts in the employment of the State Government, while the Authorities are against such on the ground that they (lawyers), are first and foremost, not employed as lawyers by the authorities, thus, may be making an unlawful request.
Udemezue is of the Civil Litigation Department with the Nigeria Law School.
By: Sylvester Udemezue with reports from King Onunwor
Burden Of Proof
The burden of proof is a legal requirement that determines the viability of a claim based on the factual evidence produced. It is also an obligation that remains on a single party for the duration of the claim. The legal burden to proof beyond reasonable doubt continues to rest on the prosecution in the Nigerian criminal justice jurisprudence. An accused person is not required to open the case and to lead evidence to show or to prove his innocence. Under the Nigerian law, he who asserts in the affirmative and would fail if no evidence is called has the burden under Section 136 of the Evidence Act to prove the assertion.
In criminal cases, the burden is entirely on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the defendant. This burden does not shift if the respondent must secure conviction. This is because, there is the presumption of innocence in favour of the defendant as he has no obligation in law to prove his innocence. The duty is squarely on the shoulder of the respondent to prove all the ingredients of the offence to secure conviction. In Ankpegher V. State (2018) LPELR 43906 (sc), the apex court per Kekere – Ekun, JSC at Pages 24 – 25 held:
“There is no doubt that in criminal proceedings the onus of proof lies on the prosecution throughout the trial and does not shift. There is no burden on the accused person to prove his innocence. It is also trite that the standard of proof in criminal proceedings is proof beyond reasonable doubt but not proof beyond the shadow of a doubt, see Section 135 of the Evidence Act, 2011; Ikpo V. the State (2016) 2–3 sc (Pt 111) 88; Oseni V. The State (2012) 5 NWLR (Pt 1293) 351 @ 388 F-G; Woolmington V. DPP (1935) AC 462.”
It is worthy of note that while the burden to prove the guilt of the defendant does not shift, there are instances in a criminal trial when the burden to prove shifts. This is when the defendant makes assertion over a fact in a criminal matter. The burden is on him to prove that fact. This is because the law is trite and it is that, whoever alleges a fact is under obligation in law to prove the fact he alleges. In Omorede Darlington V. FRN ELC (2018) 2415 Page 1, the apex court held:
“There is no doubt and it is trite as well, that the appellant has the burden of establishing his assertions. He has a duty of establishing his assertion. He has a duty to establish the assertions made in the complaints either in his grounds of appeal or the issues formulated from the grounds of appeal for the determination of his appeal. Section 131(1) of the evidence Act 2011 is quite categorical on this; whoever desires any court to give judgement as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existent of facts which he asserts must prove that these facts exist.” PER E. TOBI JCA.
In civil cases, the rule is that the burden of proof rests on the party (whether plaintiff or defendant), who substantially asserts the affirmative of the issue when it is said that the onus of proof shifts from plaintiff to defendant and vice versa from time to time as the case progresses, it means no more than the burden of proof may shift depending on how the scale of evidence preponderates. However, subject to the scale of evidence preponderating, the burden of proof rests squarely on the party, who would fail if no evidence at all. From the Supreme Court Judgement of Iroagbara V. Ufomadu (2019) LPELR 1538 (sc) Per Aderemi JSC (pp 13-14, Para E-B), it is clear that the legal burden of proof generally in civil cases is on the plaintiff, who is expected to discharge same on the balance of probabilities, when it is the defendant that affirmatively asserts the existence of a fact, the burden of proving that fact will equally lie on him.
By: Nkechi Bright-Ewere
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