Free Basic Education An Enforceable Right; Court Declares

Court Declares Free Basic Education An Enforceable RightA Federal High Court in Abuja has declared that every Nigerian child has the constitutional right to free and compulsory primary education, and free junior secondary education.

In a suit filed by a non-governmental organisation, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), against the Federal Ministry of Education and the Attorney General of the Federation, Justice John Tsoho also declared that the Federal and State governments have constitutional duties to provide adequate funds for it.

In the suit, LEDAP asked the court to determine whether by the combined effect of Section 18 (3)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2 (1) of the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, (UBE) 2004, the right to free and compulsory primary education and free junior secondary education for all qualified Nigerian citizens are enforceable rights in Nigeria.

Justice Tsoho, who relied on a 2002 decision of the Supreme Court, held that by enacting the UBE Act, the National Assembly has made the right to free and compulsory primary and free junior secondary education contained in Chapter 2 an enforceable or justiciable right.

Reacting to the judgment, the lead counsel to LEDAP, Mr Chino Obiagwu, said that the court on Wednesday gave life and hope to over 28 million Nigerian children who are currently out of primary and junior secondary school, or who are at risk of being withdrawn from school because of the inability of their parents or guardians to pay the tuition fees and school expenses, or who are withdrawn from school so that they can be given out in early marriage or be sent to the streets to hawk or beg for alms.

By this judgment, any child not enrolled in school or who is withdrawn from school can exercise his or her constitutional rights against the parent, guardian or government.

And failure by any government to fund free primary and junior secondary education will constitute a breach of the constitution.

LEDAP Condemns Killing Of Death Row Prisoners In Benin City

LEDAPThe Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the killing of three death row prisoners in Benin City Prison.

The group, in a statement on Wednesday by its national coordinator, Chino Obiagwu, noted that the death warrants of those executed were signed by the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.

The convicts: Ogbomoro Omoregie, Apostle Igene and Mark Omosowhota were executed on December 23 2016 in Edo State, south-south Nigeria.

They were all convicted and sentenced to death about 20 years ago by military tribunals under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree as amended.

LEDAP noted that in an earlier petition it submitted to the Governor on behalf of the executed prisoners on December 21, 2016, protesting the plan for their execution, the prisoners had pleaded with the Governor to shelve the planned execution, saying there was a pending case at the Court of Appeal brought by all death row prisoners in Nigeria against their execution.

They pointed out that the appeal had not been decided and maintained that it was illegal to carry out the executions.

“LEDAP is appalled that the earliest social duty of Governor Obaseki upon assumption of office was execution of his citizen on death row. We reiterate that all prisoners, including those sentenced to death, retain all the fundamental rights endowed on all citizens by the 1999 Constitution. This was re-emphasised by the Court of Appeal in the case of Peter Nemi vs Attorney General of Lagos State in 1994. The Supreme Court of Nigeria also held in Nasir Bello vs Attorney-General of Oyo State that a prisoner cannot be legally executed while his case is pending in court.

Death Penalty Moratorium

“In so far as an appeal against the sentences of the death row prisoners in Nigeria are pending in court, to the knowledge of the prison authorities and the government who participated in the high court proceedings before the appeal, there is no legal justification for the Edo executions, more so when it was carried out cruelly on a day to the eve of Christmas.

“It is also appalling that Edo State government carried out the execution despite the declaration by Nigerian Government at its 2009 and 2014 Universal Periodic Reports (UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council that Nigeria has put in place a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

“The December 23, 2016 execution of these three prisoners, as well as similar execution of four prisoners on June 21 2013 by the same Edo State government have undermined Nigeria’s declarations to the international community for death penalty moratorium,” the group said.

LEDAP has further called on the Federal Government to stop all death penalty executions forthwith.

“The National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly should amend the Criminal Code and Penal Code, as well as the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act to remove death sentence as punishment for crimes and replace it with life imprisonment or term of years’ sentence,” the group proposed.

LEDAP Sues DSS, AGF Over Arrest Of Judges

judgesThe Legal Defence and Assistance Project says it has filed a suit against the Department of State Services and the Attorney General of the Federation over the arrest and arraignment of some judges.

LEDAP is asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to declare as unlawful the raid and arrest of judges by the State Security Services, and to grant an order to stop the planned charge and arraignment in court of some of the arrested judges over allegations of corruption.

The group claims in the suit that the judges cannot be charged and arraigned in court without the authorization of the National Judicial Council.

In a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed at the Federal High Court Abuja ion Tuesday, LEDAP is asking the court for “an order restraining the DSS and AGF from filing any charge in court or arraigning before any court or arresting and/or detaining, inviting for questioning or searching the office or residence of any of the judicial officers or any other judicial officer in Nigeria unless with the authorization and referral of the National Judicial Council…”

In the originating summons filed along with the motion for injunction, the non-governmental organization asked the court to declare that the statutory functions of the DSS is the prevention and detection of crime against the internal security of Nigeria.

The organization argues that the DSS is not authorized to effect the arrest of the judges under the law setting it up – the National Security Agencies Act.

It added that the arrest and arraignment of the judges by DSS is “ultra vires and unlawful.”

In a press release signed by the National Coordinator and Lead Counsel of LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, the organization also wants the court to order the DSS to “forthwith cease, terminate, and withdraw any charge, information, arrest or invitation of any of the judicial officers.”

The court is yet to fix a date to hear the suit.

Judges Arrest: LEDAP Asks Lawyers To Boycott Courts This Week

NBA, LEDAP on judges arrestThe Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the raid of residences of some judges in Nigeria, and the arrest of some of them by the Department of state Services (DSS).

It described the night raid as a flagrant assault on the rule of law and interference with the integrity and independence of judges, saying it amounts to crass intimidation of judges, which is the first line of attack of dictatorships.

Attack On The Judiciary

LEDAP called on all lawyers to rise in unison to condemn what it called an attack on the judiciary by the executive and in protest boycott the courts next week from Monday, October 10 to Friday, October 14.

It said the action would send a strong message to the President Buhari regime that the legal profession would not stand by and watch the desecration and denigration of the judiciary.

“It is to the detriment of the Bar and Bench in Nigeria for the security agencies to make spurious allegations and illegally try judges in the pages of newspapers.

“It raises wrong and unjustified public perception of the justice system, and impugns on public confidence in justice and governance,” a statement by the spokesman for LEDAP, Chino Obiagwu, read.

The group asked the Federal Government to investigate and punish security officials implicated in the unwholesome act.

“It was wrong to execute improperly issued and illegally executed search warrants at night on judges, and in any event, without prior recourse to the head of the judiciary.

“The constitutional principle of separation of powers is sacrosanct and once eroded, will drive Nigeria to a tyranny,” Chino Obiagwu added.

It is the second group that is threatening to scuttle judicial activities if the arrested judges were not released.

Earlier, the Nigerian Bar Association has called for the immediate and unconditional release of the judges.

The group said their arrest was unconstitutional, declaring a state of emergency in the judiciary.

It says the arrests are disturbing and unconstitutional, describing it a situation that had never been witnessed.

The President of the NBA, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, at a briefing in Lagos, warned the Federal Government of “grave consequences” should the demands not be met.

Mr Mahmoud said two Supreme Court justices, Inyang Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta, were “abducted” with their families.

Not Under Military Rule

He said: “I want to, on behalf of the Bar Association, make the very following clear and unequivocal demands.

“We demand the immediate, unconditional release of all the judges abducted from about 9:00pm yesterday (Friday).

“The release must be done immediately and without any conditions.

“We demand that the Department of State Services (DSS) should limit itself to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.

“It is not the responsibility of the DSS to perform duties meant for police officers and other agencies of the state.

“I want to emphasise again that we are not under military rule and we cannot accept this ‘unholy events’ and this ‘gestapo style of operations’.

“We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call all the state security agencies to order and to respect the rule of law and due process.

“Any issue affecting the judicial officers, there are established processes and to edited for handling them and we demand that these constitutional processes must be obeyed”.

“Given the unfolding nature of the events and the seriousness of the situation, the NBA hereby declares a state of emergency as it affects the affairs of the judiciary”.

Investigated For Corruption

The DSS had on Friday night raided some judges’ homes, arresting some of them in the process.

In Rivers State, however, the Governor of the state, Nyesom Wike prevented the DSS from arresting a judge.

He said the DSS officials had come to pick the judge about 1:00a.m. local time.

The DSS says the judges are being investigated for corruption. It gave figures of amounts it had recovered from the judges in a statement on Saturday.

But the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, condemned the arrest questioning if “the affected judges been reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the body saddled with the responsibilities of investigating and sanctioning erring judges? Were the affected judges ever invited by the DSS and they refused to honour the invitation”?

He described the arrests as a direct assault on the judiciary.

Governor Fayose, who addressed reporters in Ado-Ekiti on Saturday, said: “It should now be obvious to all Nigerians and the international community that democracy is under threat in Nigeria and Nigerians must rise to save democracy from being truncated.

“For all intent and purposes, there is no how the federal government can justify the gestapo and crude action of the DSS against our judiciary, the last hope of the common man and I believe they just want to hide under anti-corruption fight to blackmail and intimidate the judiciary”.

We Are Making Progress – Activists Speak On International Women’s Day

The Programmes Officer, OXFAM Abuja, Chioma Ukwuagu has attributed the imminent success of the Violence Against Persons Bill to advocacy for women’s right.

Speaking about the essence of the International Women’s Day celebration on our breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily; Ukwuagu said “It is an opportunity to advocate for change… We use the International Women’s Day as a platform to advocate to government and organisations to give ladies space to realise their potentials.”

She further stated that the International Women’s Day also serves as a day to empower and encourage women to take up responsibility in the society and contribute to the development of the country.

Asked if all efforts made towards women empowerment have been effective, Ms. Ukwagu affirmed that there has been improvement.

“We have gone beyond many obstacles” she said.

She cited an example of the Act on Violence Against Persons (VAP) bill, that recently passed second hearing and approved by the House of Representatives to be passed into law, which she states was achieved by advocacy.

However advocacy “is never ending,” she said. “We will continue to sensitise the populace and engage citizens on the rights of women.”

A Promise Is A Promise

The Executive Director, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, Adaobi Egboka speaking about the theme of this year’s IWD celebration, A Promise Is A Promise, states that it is time to call the different tiers of government to action and remind them of promises made concerning women.

Mrs. Egoka explained that the government needs to attend to all bills concerning women as legal backing will encourage the women folk to claim rights that are already in existence.

She admits that many advocacy groups have a hard time achieving their goals in the face of delayed justice.

She faults the Nigerian Legal System which hardly metes out adequate justice to offenders; one of the reasons many women choose to keep quiet as victims of domestic violence and discrimination.

She decried the average Nigerian woman’s mentality which sees marriage as a ‘gift’ to be embraced and endured irrespective of the treatment meted on the woman by the man.

She explained that the average Nigerian woman has been conditioned to bear domestic violence as a ‘cross’ which comes with marriage, hence they do not want to speak out.

“Those who are speaking out, you see that when they speak out nothing is done. A girl is raped and there is judgment of option of N50,000 or a year imprisonment which is after 3 or 4 years.

So in whose interest is the justice system, ” she asked.

She further stated that domestic violence and rape are two prevalent issues concerning women in the country and she blamed domestic violence on improper negotiation.