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Minister, CSO Want Justice System Reviewed

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Stakeholders in the judicial system have called for a review of laws that punish the poor people far more often and more harshly than the wealthy, through pretrial detention and cash bail.
The stakeholders made the call at a national conference on justice system with the theme ‘Nigerian Criminal Justice System: The Criminalisation of Poverty in Nigeria’, in Abuja, last Thursday.
The conference was organised by a civil society organisation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) to examine Nigeria’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, which they said unequally and disproportionately affected the poor and the most vulnerable in the society.
Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, said it was imperative to review the justice system to support people faced with economic obstacles, rather than incarcerating them.
Represented by an Assistant Legal Adviser in the ministry, Mrs Kenechi Umeh, Tallen frowned at laws that incarcerate people who are unable to pay debts, fines, bail bond, accentuate poverty rather than solve it.
“Criminalisation of petty offences such as prostitution, common nuisance, alms begging, street hawking, environmental offences and neighborhood disputes accentuate poverty among the poor and vulnerable.
“There is need to re-evaluate and improve awareness on the impact of the justice system as it relates to petty offences, including applying standards and principles of human rights in protecting the poor and promoting equality and fairness”, she said.
Tallen also advocated a well thought-out poverty alleviation programmes that entail technological skills acquisition, vocational training, micro-lending intervention solutions as panacea to poverty.
Also speaking at the conference, the Executive Director, RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma, said that the event was put together with a view to putting an end to the criminalisation of petty offences in Nigeria.
He said this was necessary because the criminal justice system in the country disproportionately affects the poor.

Nwanguma noted that there were situations where people were sent to jail for stealing yam while ‘big men’ who steal huge amount of money get away with their crimes.

He said, “The notion of criminalisation of poverty manifests more in law enforcement than other sectors.

“Whether it is the police providing security cover for the demolition of settlements inhabited by the poor who are thereby rendered homeless while the settlements from which they have been displaced are apportioned to the rich or task forces enforcing bans on street hawking or Okada riding, or on the use of pedestrian bridges.

“While it may be justifiable to demolish certain settlements or enforce certain bans, as long as the legal procedures are followed, the poor are often the victims of law enforcement excesses in the course of the enforcement of these state or federal laws or rules and regulations.

“The poor constitute the majority of those who end up in prison for being unable to pay bribes for bail at police stations’’.

The RULAAC Director also noted that the poor constitute the majority of persons awaiting trial and who may never have the chance to appear in court again after the initial arraignment, as they may be forgotten by the system.

“Petty crimes committed by the poor attract more law enforcement action than big crimes committed by the rich.

“More often, the rich have the means and ways and can hire Senior Advocates or buy their ways through.

“So, criminal justice in Nigeria, just like human rights violation, has a social class bias targeting mainly the poor and the most vulnerable in Nigeria.

“We think that the criminal justice system that criminalises the people needs to be addressed”, he added.

Nwanguma, therefore, said it was imperative to reform the  judiciary system to become fair and just, while also ensuring speedy dispensation of justice and equal protection to both the poor and the rich, without discrimination.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who spoke on the topic ‘Criminalisation of Poverty in Nigeria, the Dimension, Effects and Solutions’, said that criminal law and its institutions provide the framework to which lawful society defends itself and its values.

Odinkalu stressed the need to train the judiciary, decriminalise the polity and empower citizens to create a more egalitarian society.

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Correctional Service Seeks Strengthened Collaboration With NSCDC

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The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Enugu State Command, has called for strengthening of partnership with Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), Enugu State Command, to ensure security at custodial centres.
The Controller of Corrections in Enugu State, Mr Nicholas Obiako, made the call over the weekend in Enugu when he received the new Commandant of NSCDC, Enugu State Command, Mr Alloyious Udeh, in his office in Enugu.
Obiako, who welcomed the new Commandant, assured him of a good working relationship with him in the same way the Command did with his predecessors.
He stated that the two services under the same ministry should complement each other to achieve national security, noting that “this Command is looking forward to a high level of cooperation to continue to make Enugu State safe for business and development.”
The controller also informed the Commandant that the State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, had been supportive to the Command.
Earlier, Udeh, in company of his management team, said he came to chart a more formidable course  on how  to secure custodial centres under his command area of responsibility.
The Commandant noted that synergy remained the bedrock of achieving maximum security, saying, “I am pledging the support of the NSCDC towards protection of the three custodial centres as a critical National Asset that needs not to be breached,” he added.
Udeh further explained that the visit was also in line with the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbsola, directive to the newly posted commandants of NSCDC.
Highlights of the visit were an interactive session and exchange of souvenirs.

By: Canice Amadi, Enugu

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Breastfed Babies, Pride Of Society -Pediatrician

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A Consultant Pediatrician at the National Hospital, Abuja, says breastfed babies are a pride to the society and will not grow up to become terrorists.
Adekunle said this in an interview with The Tide’s source, weekend, on the sidelines of the World Breastfeeding Week celebration at the National Hospital, Abuja.
The source reports that the week is usually commemorated worldwide from August 1 to 7 annually.
The theme for the 2022 celebration, which is ‘Step up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support’, seeks to involve governments, communities and individuals through awareness and advocacy.
Adekunle, also Head of Department, Pediatrics Unit at the hospital, said breast milk was referred to as the ‘Milk of Kindness’ and ‘Nature’s Wonder’.
According to him, people who have taken the milk of kindness will not grow up to become terrorists because they have seen love and care.
“By the time you take care of a child for two years that thing remains in the child’s brain and psychologically the child is well taken care of.
“The child will not likely develop to be a criminal or be against the society in the future.
“The mother will be able to talk to the child and the child will listen, but a child that was not breastfed that anybody can feed, you can imagine what will happen.
“So, that is why we are trying to encourage people to see the benefits of breastfeeding which goes beyond the baby, the mother, the family and even the community,” he said.
Adekunle said that it also benefited the nation’s economy as the baby formulas are usually imported.
Speaking on the health benefits of breastfeeding babies for both the mother and child, Adekunle said breastfeeding babies would reduce the nation’s child mortality rate as less children would fall sick.
He also said maternal mortality rate would reduce. In those six months of breast feeding, the baby will not be contaminated with anything, grow optimally qualitatively not quantitatively.
“For the mother also if she breast feed her baby the way she should fully breast feed her baby, she will come back to her normal size early, she will not bleed too much during delivery and not become anaemic, so the risk of dying is less.
“For the family, they are going to spend less money of course because they will spend less money on breastfeeding compared to all the other options available like formula.”
Adekunle said the proper thing was to breastfeed babies within one hour after birth to give them the colostrum in the breast milk and then exclusively for the first six months of life after which other foods could be introduced gradually for up to two years and beyond.

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Pensioners’ Welfare, Our Priority-LASG

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The Lagos State Government has said it would not relent in its pursuit to improve life for its retirees and had placed the welfare and wellbeing of its pensioners as top-priority.
Lagos State Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions, Mrs Ajibola Ponnle, made the pledge at the 96th Retirement Certificates Presentation organised by the Lagos State Pension Commission (LASPEC) in Lagos, weekend.
“Recently, the State Government, through the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) and in collaboration with sister agencies, launched an upgraded Lagos State Resident Identity Card (LAG ID Card).
“The card will include benefits such as  subsidised health care and transport services for our retired public servants.
“Please ensure you are registered with LASRRA to enjoy these benefits upon commencement,” Ponnle said.
According to her, the State Government has paid N1.113 billion as accrued pension rights into the Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs) of 295 retirees for the month of July.
The Commissioner stated that the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration had paid over N43 billion as accrued pension rights to 11,644 retirees in its public service from May 2019 till date.
Ponnle said: “ The State Government recognises the plight of our estimable workers who have served in the Lagos State public service and the need to safeguard their financial security after service.
“To this end, it implemented the payment of the new minimum wage six months after the new wage bill was adopted as law and with a higher amount than the approved recommendation in response to global and national economic challenges.
“The State also implemented the upward review of pension contributions from 7.5 per cent of employee and employer contributions to 8 per cent employee contributions and 10 per cent employer contributions.
“This is in line with the administration’s vision to cater for its workforce even in retirement”, she stated.
The Commissioner congratulated the retirees, wished them the best and advised them to carefully review the retirement savings options available for them to utilise their money prudently.
She charged them to contact LASPEC or the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions should they require clarifications or advice on their retirement benefit matters.
“Please embrace the joy and challenges of this new phase of life. Be prudent with your money and practice a healthy lifestyle to enjoy your retirement,” she said.
In his address, the Director-General , LASPEC,  Mr Babalola Obilana, said the Sanwo-Olu’s administration deserve applaud for its constant support for the payment of pension obligations and the various policies initiated to better the lives of the senior citizens.
Obilana stated that the contributions of Lagos State to the success of the Contributory Pension Scheme in Nigeria was an undisputable fact.
“Lagos State is a trail blazer in the industry with 10 per cent employer and eight per cent employee contributions remitted monthly into individuals RSAs after salaries are received.

“The Governor approved the automation of business processes in LASPEC to ensure first class service delivery to our dear retirees in order to accomplish the State Government’s goal of the immediate payment of pension entitlements upon retirement from the public service,” he said.

The Director General appreciated the efforts and contributions of the retirees whilst in the service, noting that the vision of a ‘Greater Lagos’ would have been an impossible dream without them.

Obilana urged the elderstatesmen to beware of any Individual or Association who claim to be affiliated with the state government and can process or fast track their pension entitlements for a fee.

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