By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Ideally, the court system in modern society is in place to promote respect for fundamental Human Rights. The protection of human rights of all citizens is truly the essence of the rule of law and that precisely is a symbol that demarcates between state of nature and the Rule of law.
In Nigeria however, there are too many rulings, practices by both the prosecution teams made up of justice sector staff and the police both of which are subservient in our own case to the president who is the head of the executive arm of government that directly inhibit enjoyment of human rights by mostly those of us identified as the hoipoloi or the masses.
What makes this stark reality frustrating is that the legislature in both the state and federal levels are often not in any hurry to amend the relevant sections of extant laws to delete aspects that impinge, undermine and impedes the exercise of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry. What then is the difference between these inhumane acts of the Nigerian Courts aided by the executive arm of government with what is generally called lynch mob actions? Today, I watched a viral video of a retired senior police officer who was allegedly caught in one bush in Enugu State raping an imbecilic teenage girl and those who caught him made him to go round the market square almost naked to demonise him. This mob action is really not in anyway different from when a Court will permit the Police, the DSS or the EFCC to keep a suspect in detention for over 90 days without trial which directly undermines the essence and import of the supremacy of the law and the obligations to respect human rights of citizens.
Before proceeding, it bears repeating to emphasize that the fundamental rights which primarily come from the 1948 Universal Declarations of Human Rights are actual binding provisions enshrined in the chapter 4 of the constitution holistically. I mean that these fundamental human rights are obligations imposed on all governments by the Grund Norm.
The question then is how come that even when the protection of the fundamental rights of citizens are central to the existence of constitutional democracy, but the court system prodded by the executive arm of government do impose certain rulings that undermine the employment of human rights? Also, the scandalous reality in Nigeria more than anywhere else around the World whereby the overwhelming percentage of inmates in the Nigerian Prisons are awaiting their prosecution and some of these persons whose cumulative punishment may not exceed few months, sometimes end up spending two decades behind bars and some come out almost half dead. How then is this not the institutionalisation of the primitive practice and principle of MIGHT IS RIGHT? We will end this piece with a little statement on MIGHT IS RIGHT. There are many cases in which human rights have taken the back seats.
Take for instance the case of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who is alleged to be the leader of the now proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) who as it were was once granted bail by the federal High Court, some few years back but reportedly fled for fear of his life three years ago.
But he was apprehended in Kenye and brought back to Nigeria to continue his trial and he has been denied bail by that same court on the ground that he broke his condition for bail earlier granted even after his legal team presented evidence showing that he actually ran out of Nigeria when a military operation was activated in his house in Umuahia Abia State in which about two dozens of his supporters and relatives were mauled down and killed by Soldiers unjustifiably.
For over a year, Nnamdi Kanu has been in the detention of the department of state services and ironically, one of the charges against him was that he made derogatory comments in form of radio broadcasts from London against President Muhammadu Buhari, from his base in the United Kingdom. Someone may ask why someone is to be kept in detention for so long and for over a year even as the charges against him have still not be entertained to its finality. You mean someone is in detention for over a year for insulting President Muhammadu Buhari? In the United States people say all kinds of things to their politicians abd the fundamental human rights to freedom speech is respected.
This from abroad perspective appear to be like Nigeria’s justice system has gone back to the primitive way of dispensing justice which a historian recorded whilst narrating how modern day justice system originated.
The next paragraph and few others are citations from that published article on www.judiciary.uk titled “History of the judiciary.
The author wrote thus: “When you see a judge or magistrate sitting in court, you are actually looking at the result of 1,000 years of legal evolution.
It’s doubtful that anyone asked to design a justice system would choose to copy the English and Welsh model. It’s contradictory in places, and rather confusing. However, the judiciary is still changing and evolving to meet the needs of our society, and despite its oddities it is widely regarded as one of the best and most independent in the world.”
Further the historian asserted that Justice for the Anglo-Saxons and even after the Norman invasion of 1066 was a combination of local and royal government. Local courts were presided over by a lord or one of his stewards. The King’s court – the Curia Regis – was, initially at least, presided over by the King himself.
Today, going on trial in an English and Welsh court is not exactly a comfortable experience. But it’s far better than trial by ordeal, used until almost the end of the 12th century to determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases, the writer said. Imust state here that this 12th century practice is same as detaining a suspected for years without trial which is prevalent in Nigeria and repeated daily including today whereby a suspect who is accused of negotiating for release of kidnapped Nigerians was asked by the Court to be detained pre-trial for 60 days by the Department of State Services. As we are told about the 12th century practice of law, under this system, the accused would be forced to pick up a red hot bar of iron, pluck a stone out of a cauldron of boiling water, or something equally painful and dangerous.
If their hand had begun to heal after three days they were considered to have God on their side, thus proving their innocence. The number of ‘not guilty’ verdicts recorded by this system is not known.
Another, extremely popular ‘ordeal’ involved water; the accused would be tied up and thrown into a lake or other body of water. If innocent, he or she would sink.
There were two problems with this method, which was often used to try suspected witches: the accused was tied right thumb to left toe, left thumb to right toe, which made it almost impossible to sink; and opinion is divided as to whether those who did sink were fished out afterwards, writes the reviewer.
William II (1087-1100) eventually banned trial by ordeal – reportedly because 50 men accused of killing his deer had passed the test – and it was condemned by the Church in 1216.
As Nigerian Courts continue to destroy human rights, the United Nations intervened around mid July this year in the case of Nnamdi Kanu but the current federal government has paid deaf ears to the decision of the United Nations but sadly, the President will be allowed to speak soon ar the General Assembly of this same UN in New York which is his last before he quits office in few months time.
As aforementioned the United Nations, UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has indicted both Nigeria and Kenya governments for the arrest and extraordinary rendition, torture and continued detention of the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, without due process.
UN asked Nigerian government to, “immediately release Kanu unconditionally” and pay him adequate compensations for the arbitrary violation of his fundamental human rights, Saturday.
It also recommended that government officials responsible for the torture meted to the IPOB Leader be investigated and punished.
The UN body further directed Nigeria to report back within six months of the transmission of its opinions on Kanu’s matter, steps taken to comply with all the recommendations thereof.
It referred the case of Kanu’s torture to Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for further consideration
The unedited version of the document was marked: ”Opinion No. 25/2022 concerning Mr. Nwannekaenyi Nnamdi Kenny Okwu-Kanu (Nigeria and Kenya).”
The Working group said in the report that Kanu was a victim of State persecution as Nigeria failed to provide convincing explanations with proof that he is guilty of treason and other criminal allegations levelled against him.
“Noting the failure of the government to explain what actions of Kanu amounted to such criminal acts and how, and observing the lack of any evidence that any of his actions may in fact amount to such crimes, the Working Group concludes that Kanu is in fact being persecuted for the peaceful exercise of his rights, most notably his freedom of opinion and expression.
“In the present case, the government of Nigeria has presented no exceptions permitted under article 19 (3) of the Covenant nor is there any evidence to suggest that Kanu’s exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression was anything but peaceful.
”In fact, the government has chosen not to provide any explanation for the arrest, detention and subsequent proceedings against Kanu. In these circumstances, the Working Group concludes that Mr. Kanu’s detention is thus arbitrary under category II”, UN Working Group said.
The Working Group also said there was no evidence that International laws were observed in the arrest and rendition of Kanu from Kenya.
The 16-page dossier reads in part: “In the present case, Kanu was not furnished with an arrest warrant by Nigerian authorities nor was he promptly informed of the grounds for his arrest in Nigeria.
Consequently, the Working Group finds that Mr. Kanu’s continued deprivation of liberty violates his rights under articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 9 of the Covenant, and principles 2, 4, and 10 of the Body of Principles and constitutes arbitrary detention under category I.
“Turning to the uncontested allegations that following his rendition to Nigeria, Mr. Kanu remained in pre-trial detention with his trial having been scheduled to commence in January 2022, the Working Group recalls that it is a well-established norm of international law that pre-trial detention should be the exception rather than the rule, and should be ordered for the shortest time possible. Put differently, liberty is recognised under article 9 (3) of the Covenant as the core consideration with detention merely as an exception.
“Therefore, detention pending trial must be based on an individualised determination that it is reasonable and necessary for such purposes as to prevent flight, interference with evidence or the recurrence of crime. Such determination was not carried out in the present case, in violation of Mr. Kanu’s rights under article 9 (3) of the Covenant.
“Further, in accordance with article 9 (3) of the Covenant, an arrested person is to be brought before a judge within 48 hours.27 This was not satisfied in the case of Mr. Kanu and the Working Group therefore finds a violation of articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 9 (3) of the Covenant and principles 11, 37 and 38 of the Body of
“Furthermore, in order to establish that a detention is indeed legal, anyone detained has the right to challenge the legality of his or her detention before a court, as guaranteed by article 9 (4) of the Covenant. The Working Group wishes to recall that according to the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Rights of Anyone Deprived of their Liberty to Bring Proceedings before a Court, the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court is a self-standing human right, which is essential to preserve legality in a democratic society.
“This right, which is in fact a peremptory norm of international law, applies to all forms of deprivation of liberty, 29 to “all situations of
deprivation of liberty, including not only to detention for purposes of criminal proceedings but also to situations of detention under administrative and other fields of law, including military detention, security detention, detention under counter-terrorism measures”.
“Moreover, it also applies “irrespective of the place of detention or the legal terminology used in the legislation. Any form of deprivation of liberty on any ground must be subject to effective oversight and control by the judiciary. This was also denied to Mr. Kanu, thus, violating his right under article 9 (4) of the Covenant.
“Finally, turning to Mr. Kanu’s pre-trial detention in Nigeria, the Working Group recalls that according to international human rights law, in particular article 9 (3) of the Covenant, any person detained while awaiting trial is entitled to trial within a reasonable time, or otherwise shall be released. Article 14 (3) (c) of the Covenant also guarantees the right of anyone charged with a criminal offence to be tried without undue delay. In the absence of a substantive response from the Government of Nigeria, the Working Group finds no legitimate grounds for the delays in the trials against Mr. Kanu.
“Consequently, the Working Group finds that the Government of Nigeria failed to establish a legal basis for the detention of Mr. Kanu. His detention is thus arbitrary under category I.”
The UN Working Group said that both the Nigerian and Kenyan Governments should take responsibility for Kanu’s rights violations.
“The Working Group wishes once again to underscore the collusion between the Governments of Kenya and Nigeria in the rendition of Mr. Kanu and reiterates that both Governments bear joint responsibility for any violations of Mr. Kanu’s rights in Kenya and
“The Working Group has already established in its discussion of the detention of Mr. Kanu in Kenya that he was arrested and detained due to the peaceful exercise of his rights (see paras 52-54 above). The Working Group notes that the source has argued the same in relation to Mr. Kanu’s arrest, detention and trial proceedings in Nigeria. Notably, the
Government of Nigeria has chosen not to address the substance of these allegations.
“The Working Group notes that it is not contested that Mr. Kanu is accused of the crime of conspiracy to commit a treasonable felony through an agreement with others to be broadcast from London, in view of the establishment of a Biafran sovereignty. The source notes that, while treason consists of “levying war” against Nigeria under Nigerian law, the Federal Government of Nigeria does not allege any action implicating Mr. Kanu in the contemplation, planning, or incitement of war against Nigeria. The source argues that Mr. Kanu was in fact advocating for a peaceful referendum for the establishment of a Biafran sovereignty, in conformity with international and other relevant laws.
“The Working Group recalls that freedom of opinion and expression, as expressed in article 19 of the Covenant, is an indispensable condition for the full development of the person. It is essential for any society and constitutes the foundation stone for every free and democratic society. It also recalls that freedom of expression includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and that this right includes the expression and receipt of communications of every form of idea and opinion capable of transmission to others, including political opinions.
“Similarly, in Resolution 12/16, the Human Rights Council called on States to refrain from imposing restrictions which are not consistent with article 19 (3), including on the discussion of government policies and political debate; reporting on human rights; engaging in peaceful demonstrations or political activities, including for peace or democracy; and expression of opinion and dissent, religion or belief.”
The UN Working Group further said that the Nigeria Government could not disprove claims by Kanu that he was denied effective lagal representation including access to his US lawyer.
“The source has submitted, and the Government did not address, that Mr. Kanu was denied effective legal representation. The Working Group considers legal representation as being a core facet of the right to a fair trial. Legal assistance should be available at all stages of criminal proceedings, namely, pre-trial, trial, and appellate stages, to ensure compliance with fair trial guarantees. Any denial of access to lawyers substantially undermines and compromises an accused individual’s capacity to defend him or herself in any judicial proceedings.
“As the Working Group has stated in principle 9 and guideline 8 of its Basic Principles, persons deprived of their liberty have the right to legal assistance by counsel of their choice, at any time during their detention, including immediately after the moment of apprehension, and must be promptly informed of this right upon apprehension. Access to legal counsel should not be unlawfully or unreasonably restricted.
“Article 14 (3) (b) of the Covenant entitles defendants to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence and to communicate with counsel of their own choosing. Defendants must have access to documents and other evidence, including “all materials that the prosecution plans to offer in court against the accused or that could assist the defence.
“Recalling general comment No. 32, a detainee has the right to have “prompt access” to legal counsel, meaning that a lawyer must be able to have private communications and meetings with the detainee and be able to attend all the investigations without interference or restrictions. A detainee also ought to have access to “effective counsel.”
“All of this was denied to Mr. Kanu. In the Working Group’s view, by failing to allow Mr. Kanu to be represented by lawyers of his choice, including an international counsel, the Government denied Mr. Kanu’s right to legal assistance at all times, which is inherent in the right to liberty and security of the person as well as the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law, in accordance with articles 3, 9, 10 and 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 14 of the Covenant, articles 37 (b) and (d) and 40 (2) (b) (ii) and principles 15, 17 and 18 of the Body of Principles and principles 1, 5, 7, 8, 21 and 22 of the Basic Principles on the Role of
“The Working Group is also disturbed by the source’s report of the treatment of Mr. Kanus’s lawyers and recalls its jurisprudence highlighting that such treatment of lawyers is entirely unacceptable and violates articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 14 (3) (b) of the Covenant.41 It is the legal and positive duty of the State to protect everyone on its territory or under its jurisdiction against any human rights violation and to provide remedy whenever a violation still occurs.
“The Working Group also considers that Mr. Kanu’s presumption of innocence was violated as the Department surrounded the court complex with an array of armed forces, creating an atmosphere of intimidation and danger (see para. 9), a submission which the
Government has chosen not to contest. The Working Group recalls that defendants should
not be presented to the court in a manner indicating that they may be dangerous criminals, as this also undermines the presumption of innocence.The Working Group finds a breach of article 14 (2) of the Covenant.
“Further, according to the source and uncontested by the Government, following his
rendition to Nigeria, Mr. Kanu was detained in solitary confinement within the headquarters
of the Department in Abuja, Nigeria. He is reportedly currently still held in a very small cell where he is exposed to daily psychological and mental torture without access to other inmates or any other person except for the Department officers. Mr. Kanu is also allegedly denied access to reading or writing materials and has been refused access to professional medical care despite a serious heart ailment.
“The source reports that Mr. Kanu’s life is in jeopardy and that he suffers from a medical condition occasioned by gradual depletion of potassium in his system, which has defied any medical solution given to him within the Department facilities.
“The Working Group is seriously concerned about the treatment to which Mr. Kanu
has been subjected. Especially noting its finding that Mr. Kanu was subjected to
extraordinary rendition as well as his treatment prior to that, the Working Group considers it unlikely that Mr. Kanu would have been able to effectively assist with and participate in his own defence during the proceedings against him, and that such treatment roceedings against him, rendering them inherently unfair and unjust, in violation of article 14 of the Covenant. For all the reasons above, the Working Group finds that the fair trial rights and procedural guarantees of Mr. Kanu under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenant and other relevant human rights standards, were not observed and that such violations are of such gravity as to render Mr. Kanu’s detention arbitrary under category III.”
The UN Working Group said Nigeria also failed to disprove that Kanu was a victim of political persecution.
“Mr. Kanu is an activist and the leader of the organisation Indigenous People of Biafra,
which he founded in 2012. The source alleges that the Government of Nigeria is targeting
Mr. Kanu due to his political expression, in particular, due to his membership in a group
politically opposed to the Nigerian Government on the question of Biafra, his widely published criticism of the Government, and his work with and advocacy for the Indigenous People of Biafra. The Government has chosen not to address these allegations.
“The Working Group finds that Mr. Kanu has indeed been targeted by the Government
as a human rights defender on account of his freedom of opinion and expression as well as
his position regarding the sovereignty of Biafra. As Mr. Kanu has been targeted on account of his activism in galvanising momentum for a referendum on the sovereignty of Biafra, the Working Group considers that his detention violates articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1) and 26 of the Covenant, and is arbitrary under category V.
Concluding remarks: “The Working Group wishes to record its very serious concern for the well-being of
Mr. Kanu, who, according to the source and uncontested by the Government of Nigeria,
remains in solitary confinement since his arbitrary detention in Nigeria on 29 June 2021. He has been denied medical treatment and medication for his heart condition. The Working Group recalls that prolonged solitary confinement in excess of 15 consecutive days is prohibited under rules 43(1)(b) and 44 of the Mandela Rules.
“The Working Group is also obliged to remind the Government of Nigeria that in accordance with article 10 of the
Covenant, all persons deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect to the inherent dignity of the human person and that denial of medical assistance constitutes a violation of the Nelson Mandela Rules, rules 24, 25, 27 and 30 in particular.
” According to the source, throughout Mr. Kanu’s detention in Kenya and transfer to
Nigeria, no family members knew about his location or could access him, and Mr. Kanu was not permitted to contact his family during this detention. These allegations have not been contested by either Governments. The Working Group stresses that, under international human rights law, all detained and imprisoned individuals have the right to communicate and be visited by their families.
“The right to receive visits applies to all detainees, “regardless of the offence of which they are suspected or accused.” Under Principle 19 of the Body of Principles, this right could be subject only to conditions and restrictions that are appropriate to a legitimate aim. Neither Governments have argued that the restrictions placed on Mr. Kanu’s contact with his family conformed with this requirement. As a result, the Working Group finds that the restrictions placed on Mr. Kanu’s contact with his family violated his right to contact with the outside world under rules 43 (3) and 58 (1) of the Nelson Mandela Rules and principles 15 and 19 of the Body of Principles.
“Noting the treatment to which Mr. Kanu has been subjected at the hands of both
Kenyan and Nigerian authorities as well as his continued solitary confinement, the Working
Group refers this case to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for further consideration.
“The Working Group also wishes to reemphasize its very serious concern over the
apparent collusion between the Governments of Kenya and Nigeria in this case and reiterates its findings that both Governments are jointly responsible for the violations of Mr. Kanu’s rights in both jurisdictions. The present Opinion concerns solely the treatment and rights of Mr. Kanu and is sposition
“In the light of the foregoing, the Working Group renders the following opinion:
In relation to Kenya and Nigeria.
The deprivation of liberty of Nwannekaenyi Nnamdi Kenny Okwu-Kanu, being in
contravention of articles 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and articles 2, 9, 13, 14, 16, 19 and 26 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary and falls within Categories I, II, III and V.
“The Working Group requests the Governments of Kenya and Nigeria to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Kanu without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
” The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the
case, the appropriate remedy would be for the Government of Nigeria to release Mr. Kanu
immediately and for both Governments to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.
” In the current context of the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the threat that it poses in places of detention, the Working Group calls upon the Government of Nigeria to take urgent action to ensure the immediate unconditional release of Mr. Kanu.
” The Working Group urges the two Governments to ensure a full and independent
investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Kanu and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of hisrights.
” In accordance with paragraph 33 (a) of its methods of work, the Working Group refers
the present case to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for appropriate action.
“The Working Group requests the Governments to disseminate the present opinion through all available means and as widely as possible.
“In accordance with paragraph 20 of its methods of work, the Working Group requests
the source and the Governments to provide it with information on action taken in follow-up
to the recommendations made in the present opinion, including: (a) Whether Mr. Kanu has been released and, if so, on what date;
(b) Whether compensation or other reparations have been made to Mr. Kanu;
(c) Whether an investigation has been conducted into the violation of Mr. Kanu rights and, if so, the outcome of the investigation; (d) Whether any legislative amendments or changes in practice have been made to harmonize the laws and practices of Kenya and Nigeria with its international obligations in line with the present opinion;
(e) Whether any other action has been taken to implement the present opinion.
“The Government is invited to inform the Working Group of any difficulties it may have encountered in implementing the recommendations made in the present opinion and whether further technical assistance is required, for example through a visit by the Working Group.
“The Working Group requests the source and the Government to provide the abovementioned information within six months of the date of transmission of the present opinion.
“However, the Working Group reserves the right to take its own action in follow-up to the opinion if new concerns in relation to the case are brought to its attention. Such action would enable the Working Group to inform the Human Rights Council of progress made in
implementing its recommendations, as well as any failure to take action.
”The Working Group recalls that the Human Rights Council has encouraged all States to cooperate with the Working Group and has requested them to take account of its views and, where necessary, to take appropriate steps to remedy the situation of persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and to inform the Working Group of the steps they have taken.”
Also as I said earlier, a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, granted a prayer by the Department of State Services (DSS) to detain the former terrorists’ negotiator, Tukur Mamu, for 60 more days.
Justice Nkeonye Maha, in a short ruling on the ex-parte motion moved by counsel for the DSS, Ahmed Magaji, granted the motion as prayed.
The security outfit, in the motion, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1617/2022 dated and filed Sept. 12, had urged the court to grant its reliefs to enable it to conclude its investigation on Mamu, who had been leading the negotiation with the terrorists for the release of the Abuja-Kaduna train passengers kidnapped in March.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mamu was, on Sept. 6, arrested in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, with his family members by foreign security agents.
Mamu, who was on his way to Saudi Arabia for lesser Hajj, was detained at Cairo International Airport before being repatriated back to Nigeria.
The DSS had, on Sunday, warned Nigerians over making comments on its arrest of Mamu.
The DSS, in a statement by its Spokesman, Peter Afunaya, asked the public to leave the agency alone and allow it to concentrate on the investigations which it said the outcomes had been “mindboggling.”
This came hours after the Islamic cleric, Sheik Gumi, to whom Mamu is an aide, had faulted the arrest of the negotiator.
Gumi, at a religious gathering on Friday in Kaduna, had asked the security agency to charge Mamu to the court if it had any evidence against him, rather than keeping him in custody.
Reacting in its statement, the security outfit said, “The DSS has followed, with keen observation, overzealous comments by sections of the public in view of issues relating to the arrest and investigation of Tukur Mamu.”
“The service wishes to state that it is not distracted by some of the skewed narratives pervading the media space. Instead, it requests to be left alone to concentrate on the ongoing investigations, the outcomes of which have remained mindboggling.”
“Meanwhile, the service will cease further comments on the subject matter since the court will determine its course.
“Consequently, the public is hereby enjoined to desist from making unguarded utterances and await the court proceedings.”
These bad practices of the Nigerian Courts Undermine human rights and this is the fundamental of the high number of awaiting trial inmates in Nigeria today in all the prisons.
With over 70% of unconvicted inmates in the Nigerian correctional facilities, the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) has called for the adoption of parole; a non-custodial measure to help decongest prisons, and increase public safety.
A parolee is the early release of an inmate who agrees to abide by certain conditions. Parole allows inmates serving long sentences to be released before their expected day of release
Section 37 subsection 1 of the 2019 act of correctional services, made provision for community service, Probation, parole and restorative justice as-custodian measures for inmates.
The Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr Uju Agomoh, made this call on Thursday during the Inauguration of the Parole Board of Nigeria by Haliru Nababa, Controller General of National Correctional Service (NCoS).
Uju said the adoption of parole will not just help decongest the correctional centres but will reduce the economic cost of catering to inmates.
While lamenting the cost of inmate warfare, she condemned the poor reformation and rehabilitation system in Nigeria stressing that reinstatement of inmates back to society is not done efficiently in such a manner to curb the recurrence of crimes.
She said: “The attempt at reformation and rehabilitation is poor in Nigeria’s correctional facilities. Hardened criminals, petty offenders, and convicted and unconvicted criminals are kept together in the same custody; this mixture causes mind corruption in such a way that some inmates leave more hardened than they came into the correctional facility.”
“Some inmates are kept for years without being convicted and finally when they are released, they have nothing to fall back to. They are not prepared for society nor is society prepared for them. With the adoption of parole, the society, the correctional facilities and the inmates get the most out of the situation,” she further explained.
In his remarks, the Chairman, Parole Board of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima reiterated the need to decongest the correctional facilities via parole.
“This-custodian measure comes with a condition and any inmate who meets the condition will be considered. Inmates eligible are those with good behaviour, and have served one-third of a prison sentence for imprisonment for not less than 15 years or life sentence” he disclosed.
Finally, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Chief judges of all the States including the Federal Capital Territory should take concrete steps to stop these extreme attacks by judges and the gross abuses of the human rights of citizens. Why should a suspect spend a year and in some cases twenty years behind bars whilst trials in courts aren’t concluded? How can we then defend the Courts as the last hope of the common man when universally it is known that JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED? Judges must behave and be compelled to behave like persons with consciences and not be slaves to the President or governors or the highest bidder. As I said earlier, these sorts of practices promote the theory propounded in 1896 by Arthur Desmond in his book MIGHT IS RIGHT which rejects conventional ideas such as advocacy of human rights and natural rights and argues in addition that only strength or physical might can establish moral right. MIGHT IS RIGHT has become the order of the day in Nigeria whereby individuals accused of even the most silly ‘crime’ such as stealing one chicken from a farm is detained for twenty years without trial. This evil empire promoted by some of these believers in the theory of MIGHT IS RIGHT in Nigeria masquerading as Judges and magisterates must be dethroned.
- EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.