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Crime/Justice

Are Discussions On Security, Insecurity Outside Law/Legal Discourse?

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Controversy recently broke out on a WhatsApp platform, as to whether or not discussions bordering on security and insecurity (and especially on the worsening insecurity situation in Nigeria) are a part of law or legal discourse, and accordingly whether such discussions should or should not feature as part of conversations on lawyers’ or law platform.
Opinions are divided on this. This short commentary is to prove beyond all reasonable doubts, that security is an aspect of human rights and rule of law, and discussions on insecurity and security can not be divorced from law or legal discourse.
In my opinion, all the constitutional and legal provisions on human rights are aimed at making citizens to feel secure or at giving citizens an assurance of security – that their lives are secure in their dealings with fellow citizens; that their persons, names, reputation, liberties, lands, property, relatives, work, dignity and freedoms are secure. Thus, a basic essence of law is to guarantee order and through that, security. Accordingly, insecurity is one of the greatest threats to rule of Law and and human rights.
Now, look around you and tell me, are the legal foundations of our basic existence in Nigeria, not under a vicious threat by the worsening insecurity situation in the country? If the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 could recognise in section 14(2)(b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”, with due respect, it is befuddling, incomprehensible, and absurd, to hear anyone, especially a lawyer, arguing that what is in the ground norm (constitution), is not an aspect of law.
Further, section 33(1) of the Constitution provides that,” every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria”. This right is now being violated in Nigeria on an hourly basis, with impunity. Citizens are killed in their homes, farms, on the road, at the airports, schools, markets, churches, mosques, village squares, offices, shops with reckless abandon and absolute impunity, as chicken. The situation has become so hopeless that governments in Nigeria are now calling on citizens to “defend yourselves”.
When the government whose primary responsibility it is to protect lives and property, has now resigned to advising citizens to “defend yourselves”, what hope is there for security? What hope for human rights under section 33(1), when governments have resigned to their fate and surrendered to “God”, their own primary responsibility-i.e. the job of securing lives and property in Nigeria?
Moreover, section 34 (1) provides that “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –
(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude”.
I ask, HOW MARKET in Nigeria for provisions on “respect for the dignity of his person”, and on prohibition of “torture” “inhuman or degrading treatment”, slavery and servitude?
Fourth, section 35(1) provides that “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law”. How many Nigerians still enjoy “personal liberty” in their own country, Nigeria? What about the legal prohibition of illegal taxation? How many Nigerians still enjoy freedom from illegal taxation when Boko Haram, ISWAP, UGM, and bandits, levy and enforce collection of illegal taxes all over parts of the country?
What about the right to freedom of movement? Are Nigerians still free to move freely in their fatherland?
What are we even talking about? If security is not part of law, then law is a dead discipline. Those who argue that security discussions are not legal discussions are doing so in furtherance of their selfish, parochial, sectional or partisan agenda. They know the truth. They don not want to face truth in order to be free. If we will not discuss insecurity, then we are saying human rights are meaningless; we are saying those provisions of the constitution, as i have referred to above, are rubbish.
Insecurity is a threat to human rights. Avoiding discussions on causes, effects of and solution to worsening insecurity in Nigeria is a promotion of violation of human rights and rule of law. Interdicting discussions about security/ insecurity is tantamount to abandoning a part of our primary roles as lawyers. The first duty of a lawyer is to promote rule of law and human rights. All other duties are secondary. Accordingly, if a lawyer does not discuss insecurity on a lawyers’ platform, where all discussions about LAW are permitted, who else do we expect to discuss insecurity?
In my opinion, the best approach towards discussing the way out of worsening insecurity in Nigeria is the criminologist’s approach: (1) ask the right, objective questions about the causes of the current spate of insecurity and provide honest answers. If you remove the causes, the results will disappear. Guns alone can not cure the nature of insecurity that we have in Nigeria. It is a peculiar kind of insecurity; it is manmade, self-imposed, self-inflicted and therefore can not be solved by only guns and military weapons. Weapons have even proven ineffective and inefficient in curbing insecurity in Nigeria a testimony to my suggestions, that much more is needed to halt this ugly trend. (2) determine and expose the level of damage arising from insecurity and suggest way out; (3) determine and expose the most appropriate cures for insecurity, since military might has failed and (4). Put forward objective recommendations devoid of political undertones, ethnic protectionist shenanigans, parochialism irredentism, and egoistic grandstanding.
Accordingly, it is my humble conviction that all discussions and conversations about causes (immediate and remote), effects, implications of, and solutions to, Boko Haram, ISWAP, Banditry, Unknown Gunmen, Yoruba Nation Agitation, IPOB imbroglio, Militancy, kidnapping, ritualism, Yahoo-Plus ritualism, drug abuse and peddling, herdsmen menace, religious extremism, among similar issues are legal discussions which ought to not only feature on, but should dominate lawyers’ Platforms, Meetings, Seminars, Webinars, Workshops, Conferences, etc.
That this is not currently the case testifies to the allegation in some quarters that lawyers are a greater part of Nigeria’s problem. If lawyers play their role well, Nigeria would be well, better. Ironically, unfortunately, most lawyers just egoistically face only their own private affairs, feeling unconcerned, even as a beautiful country gradually but steadily goes down the drain on the altar of worsening insecurity and religious irredentism and extremism.
If lawyers had devoted much attention to discussing and working hard to advise and harness efforts at halting worsening insecurity in Nigeria, by now that problem would have taken a reverse movement. See for example, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is planning to hold a conference in Sokoto State. Unfortunately, Sokoto is currently engulfed by restiveness and tension and worsening insecurity.
Good luck to Nigerian lawyers who argue that discussing security/insecurity is outside legal discourse. Insecurity is disrupting their own affairs too. When the nose grieves, the eye cries.
May I, by way of conclusion on this part, respectfully recall a statement issued by a very respected senior lawyer in Nigeria, Chief Ferdinand Oshioke Orbih, SAN, on a Lawyers’ WhatsApp Platform, Legal Practice Discourse (LPD):
“The issue is how do we, as lawyers respond to the goings on in our country. We cannot play the ostrich at this critical time in the history of our dear country. If this [discussions about security, insecurity] is outside the mandate of LPD, then I’m on the wrong platform. Anything that threatens the existence of this country equally rocks the foundation of the legal profession. There has to be a country for us to practise our profession. I practise Law in Nigeria, not in the USA, the UK or any other country for that matter. The politicians in our midst may disagree but please let us face the reality of the situation…

By: King Onunwor With Reports From Sylvester Udemezue

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Crime/Justice

‘Supreme Court Is A Court Of Justice For Only High-Profile Cases’

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The cry of the poor may not always be just, but if you do not listen to it, you will never know what justice is.
I have just gone through a report under the headline, “Ex-CJN Onnoghen Advocates Adequate Funding Of Supreme Court” wherein (according to The Nigeria Lawyer reporting on June 17, 2022), a former CJN, Hon Justice Walter Onnoghen (rtd) _”warned that unless the Supreme Court is adequately funded, it may soon at best be a glorified High Court”.
While I agree that the Supreme Court should be adequately funded, it is my respectful view that the court has not justified past funding.
My reasons:
With the greatest respect, the Nigerian Supreme Court appears to be the slowest Supreme/apex Court in the entire world and leaders of the Court appear to be comfortable with the prevailing situation; hence, they are doing practically nothing to accelerate, improve justice delivery in the court. A case (an appeal filed by an ordinary Nigerian, a low profile Nigerian) could stay pending at the Supreme Court of Nigeria for up to 10 to 20 years. For instances, permit me to refer to pages 1-2 of my recent paper titled, “Role of the Bar and the Bench in Accelerating Justice Delivery In Nigeria: Lessons From Malaysia”:
A distinguished Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Akajiugo Emeka Obegolu, SAN, was reported to have posted the following statement on Facebook on February 22, 2022: “Today, 22/2/22, a 2005 appeal came up for hearing before the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Counsel informed the court that both the appellant and the respondent are deceased. #Justicedelayed”. From the post, it is obvious that the appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria had lasted 17 years, the appeal having commenced in 2005. Who knows when the case was filed at the High/Magistrates’ Court. Meanwhile, when this author contacted Chief Obegolu, SAN, to confirm his authorship of the Facebook post and to get more facts about the case, Chief Obegolu advised that “the case was later adjourned to 2024 to enable the parties file applications for substitution”. A two-year adjournment to hear an interlocutory application! Earlier, on February 5, 2021, while delivering the lead judgment in a landlord-and-tenancy appeal case, Pillars (Nig) Ltd v. Desbordes, His Lordship, the Honourable Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, JSC., had started with the following introduction: “This appeal was commenced on 24/6/2009 when the appellant herein filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal at Lagos delivered on 8/5/2009 in appeal no.CA/L/859/2006 affirming the judgment of the High Court of Lagos delivered on 8/12/2000 in LD/148/93 and dismissing the appeal against it. The notice of appeal contains five grounds of appeal”. The suit number shows that the suit was filed in a Lagos High Court in the year 1993, appealed to the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, in 2006 and later to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2009. The suit lasted 13 years at the High Court, three years at the Court of Appeal and 12 years at the Nigerian Supreme Court. A total of 28 years! The cited examples fall among the rule, the norm, and not exceptional or isolated cases’.
The Nigerian Supreme Court appears to be the most oppressive Supreme Court in the world, the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria and the most partial institution in Nigeria.
Let me explain, The Nigerian Supreme Court has by its actions/conduct classified cases that come before it into (I) high profile cases and (II) low profile cases. For the high profile cases, the Supreme Court accords accelerated hearing for very quick dispensation. For the low-profile cases, the Supreme Court has (by conduct) decided that hearing must be delayed and justice dispensation kept unnecessarily and annoyingly slow, in some cases until all litigants have died off and their successors-in-title substituted for the deceased litigants who had hoped to get justice in their lifetime. Example, the Supreme Court recently announced that all cases (all appeals) filed at the Supreme Court after 2015 would not get any hearing dates until after 2027.
Again, instances abound in which the parties (litigants) in cases pending before the Supreme Court die while the cases are still pending and being perpetually adjourned by the Supreme Court. Yet, all socalled high-profile cases filed at the Supreme Court receive instant hearing dates and accelerated determination and judgment, within one month or thereabouts of filing/appeal.
If this is not partiality, what’s then is the correct definition of partiality? If this is not gross violation of human rights of low profile Nigerians to access to justice within a reasonable time, then what is it?.
Again, I refer to my earlier observation in a published commentary titled, “The Federal High Court (Federal Inland Revenue Service) Practice Directions, 2021 and Questions of (Dis) Respect for Rule of Law, Human Rights and Access to Justice” (see: Lawbreed.blog on 15 June 202): _’Access to justice means being “treated fairly according to the law and if you are not treated fairly, being able to get appropriate redress… It means access to ombudsmen, advice agencies and the police law.
It means public authorities behaving properly… Access to justice [is] a human right that must respect and could be enforced. According to International and European human rights law, EU Member States must guarantee everyone the right to go to court, or to an alternative dispute resolution body, and to obtain a remedy when their rights are violated. This is the right of access to justice… Further on this paragraphs 14 and 15 of the the United Nations’ Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law recognizes that access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law in the absence of which people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable.
The Declaration emphasizes the right of equal access to justice for all, including members of vulnerable groups, and reaffirmed the commitment of Member States to taking all necessary steps to provide fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable services that promote access to justice for all.
Paragraph 13 of the Declaration stresses that delivery of justice should be impartial and non-discriminatory and highlighted the independence of the judicial system, together with its impartiality and integrity, as an essential prerequisite for upholding the rule of law and ensuring that there is no discrimination in the administration of justice…. Nigeria is a member-State of the United Nations….
If we agree that Access to Justice is a basic human right, to be enjoyed by all (including the lowly placed), then we are entitled to query Nigerian Supreme Court’s different, partial, and unequal treatment of cases before the Court.
Why, for example, should High-Profile cases filed in the Supreme Court in 2022 be heard and determined in 2022 while the Supreme Court keeps insisting that earlier cases (unfairly classified as “Low-Profile Cases”) filed in the Supreme Court, say in 2016 – 2021, would not and must not be heard until after 2027? Is this not a form of oppression, human rights violation and denial of access to justice.
With due respect, I submit that the Nigerian Supreme Court is the worst violator of human rights in Nigeria, the worst perpetrator of injustice and the greatest promoter of partiality and segregation in justice delivery in Nigeria!
Unfortunately, Nigerian Supreme Court Leaders are always seen in the public domain preaching to other people (to members of lower courts) a gospel of accelerated justice dispensation. What an irony! As an example, see my paper: Prolonged Justice Dispensation as the Bane of Nigeria’s Judiciary: Leadership by Example as the Cure (published by The Nigeria Lawyer on 11 August 2021) wherein I observed:
In my opinion, the Nigerian Supreme Court is the home of justice delay in Nigeria; other courts merely learn from it how to delay cases, grant Long adjournments and prolong justice dispensation. …the best way to preach to other people… is to be a good example of what you want to see in others.You don’t lead people by only what you say to them (it won’t work); you lead them by what they see you do.
True leaders are self-leaders. ..Leadership is an art expressed by the demonstration of characters worthy of imitation, emulation and inspiration. It is neither a title nor a position. The leader’s job is to show the way… you cannot tell anything about the condition of the way if you’ve not traveled on it yourself! Practice what you preach and let people learn from you. Be the light and source of inspiration that others see”
While the current Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Hon Justice Tanko Muhammad, has repeatedly expressed concern over what he called delay in Nigeria’s justice delivery system, one has not seen any concrete, practical efforts my Lord the CJN (as the leader of the Judiciary) is making or has made anywhere (beyond mere words and promises) to pull the justice sector out of the doldrums. Yet, stakeholders keep asking for increased funding for the Supreme Court.
Increased funding is good, but a question arises: How have ordinary Nigerians benefitted from past adequate funding of the Supreme Court? Or, you’re just asking for increased funding while the Supreme Court continues to sit on and suppress the basic right of ordinary Nigerians to quick and accelerated access to justice? The maxim that “Justice delayed is justice denied” means that if legal redress or equitable relief is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.
Hence, those who argue that “delay of justice is injustice” are right. The long-term effect is made clearer by Martin Luther King Jnr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Besides, as Howard Zinn put it, “The cry of the poor may not not always be just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is”.
My conclusion is, with due respect, the Nigeiran Supreme Court exists only for High Profile Nigerians and for High Profile Cases and not for all Nigerians; it is a Court of Only High Profile Cases for High Profile Nigerians.
This is why only high-profile cases, involving High Profile Nigerians, receive due and accelerated attention from the Supreme Court. In view of this unjustified and reasonably unjustifiable lopsidedness against Low-Profile Nigerians, I respectfully advocate that High Profile Nigerians should contribute money to increase funding for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is not a court of justice for all Nigerians.
Put differently, the Supreme Court of Nigeria is a Court of Justice for High-Profile Nigerians and a Court of Injustice to/for Low-Profile Nigerians. Accordingly, let those Nigerians for whose interest the Supreme Court works, be solely responsible for the court’s funding!

By: King Onunwor With Reports From Sylvester Udemezue
Udemezue wrote from Nigerian Law School

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Crime/Justice

Sit-At-Home: Gunmen Bomb Market, Burn Vehicles In Imo

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Gunmen, Monday, bombed the popular Izombe market in the Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, South, Eastern Nigeria.
The gunmen were said to be members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) enforcing the suspended sit-at-home order.
They were said to have stormed the market earlier to warn traders not to violate the order by opening Monday, according to a report by The Sun newspaper.
But the merchants defied the warning and opened the market for business, prompting the armed men to attack them.
The armed men set fire to two vehicles in the market before shelling the place, the newspaper reported.
Frightened merchants ran for safety during the attack.
Some of the shopkeepers suffered injuries in the incident.
“They came and threw a local bomb inside the market and everyone started running for safety. They (also) poured fuel into two vehicles and they all caught fire,” said a witness quoted by the newspaper.
IPOB, an outlawed group leading agitation for the creation of an independent Biafra state of south-east and some parts of south-south Nigeria, had suspended its Mondays sit-at-home order in preference for the order to be implemented only on days when their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, appears in court.
Despite its suspension, residents of the five southeastern states (Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Anambra) have been observing Monday’s stay-at-home order, mainly out of fear.
Some residents and motorists, including commuters, have recently been attacked in the region by armed men for leaving their homes on Monday and other declared stay-at-home days.
There has been growing insecurity in the southeast, with frequent attacks by armed individuals.
IPOB has been accused of being responsible for the deadly attacks, but the secessionist group has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks.
The leader of the outlawed group, Nnamdi Kanu, is facing trial for terrorism.

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Crime/Justice

Police Division Gets New DPO

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As part of measures to improve effective service, the Rivers State Police authorities have posted new Divisional Police Officer to Nkpolu Oroworukwu.
She is Chief Superintendent of Police Edith Agborneme Udese
CSP Edith was former Divisional Police Officer, Trans- Amadi Division.
The new DPO who is barely two weeks in office has restated her commitment and zeal to sustain peace and orderliness in the area.
She enjoined citizens and residents of the area to assist her with useful information to fight crime in the neighborhood.
CSP noted that essence of peace in any given environment could not be over emphasised hence collaborative efforts to nip insecurity in the bud
She said as proactive measures on arrival she visited all stakeholders in the communities and held meetings with them.
“Security is key hence our people must collaborate with the police to ensure safety of the environment
“I must express joy over the receptive nature of the people.
“I can assure them with help of God Almighty that peace and social harmony will be sustained.”
“Gender can never be a barrier to our constitutional calling .I have done at Trans Amadi, hoping to repeat same here at Nkpolu Division,” she stated.
“God has been faithful in all we do, and will help us to silence all forms of criminality.
So let all those who involve in criminal acts surrender or face the full wrath of the law.
“As far as the police is concerned and under my watch, there will be no hiding place for criminals,” the new DPO further stated.
“I can assure anyone doing legitimate business that there is no cause for alarm. We are at their services at any point in time. I reiterate gender can never be the issue. If the likes of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister, late Dora and host of others can do it well and perfect no matter the position that tells you women have reason to whatever position,” she noted.
CSP Edith cautioned residents to be security conscious and report suspicious movements around them as various lines had been made available for easy contact of the Division.
She explained that every two weeks meetings will be held with various groups and relevant stakeholders aimed at strengthening relationship and sustaining peace.
She said residents should endeavour to put in place security devices in their houses to avoid negativity.
She thanked the Commissioner of Police, CP Eboka Friday for giving women opportunity to showcase their competency and service delivery.

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