Human Rights Violation Cases Deteriorated, Suffered Major Setback In 2022

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Access to justice has become a herculean task in the country, particularly in human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence cases. There is no doubt that such delays not only erode public confidence in the judicial process but also undermine the very existence of the court. JIDE OYEKUNLE spoke with human rights lawyers, activists and civil and gender-based organisation on the myriads of human rights violations cases that have suffered a miscarriage of justice in 2022

 

The growing number of recorded cases of human rights violations, abuse of power, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and police brutality without justice in the court of competent jurisdiction in the country has assumed a worrisome dimension. The situation has compelled many victims to resign to fate due to the cost of litigation, subversion of justice, and justice delay.

The trend has contributed largely to the growing incidence of citizens’ resorting to self-help and other informal methods of airing grievances as displayed during the #EndSARS protest in October 2020. The lack of quick dispensation of justice and the inability of the victims to get justice has led to a lack of confidence in the court and the judiciary. It is alarming and the impact is felt more strongly by the poor who usually fall victim to human rights violations and abuse.

To further compound their misery, the race to access justice in Nigeria is more like a journey to Golgotha as many victims who have had to tread that path after enduring attendant delays often return more dejected and depressed than they were before seeking justice. As a result, many victims of human rights violations consider the search for justice in Nigeria as an effort in futility thereby giving impetus to unscrupulous security agents to continue with the flagrant abuse of human rights.

It is therefore pertinent that to address the issue of human rights abuses and violations by security agencies and police brutality in particular, there is an urgent need to review some of our laws to ensure seamless judgment enforcement processes for litigants even against government agencies.

Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution as amended stipulates the inherent powers of the court that the judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation. The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State.

A human rights lawyer and Executive Director of Sterling Law Centre, Deji Ajare said the year 2022 did not make any meaningful impact on the criminal justice system as cases are still piled up due to the sudden transfer of judges without prior notice. He attributed the delay in the dispensation of justice in human rights and gender-based violence cases to the situation where judges are elevated, transferred, or retired and cases are reassigned to new judges and those cases would have to start ‘ de novo,’ meaning that the case has to start afresh.

According to Ajare, “The saying is common that “Justice delayed is justice denied” is not only true, but it captures the mood and feelings of most litigants and lawyers when cases spend years in court without an end in sight. In cases where judges are elevated, transferred or retired and cases are reassigned to new judges, it’s even worse that these cases have to start de novo. Many victims of injustice, actually give up and abandon their quest for justice totally, little wonder many have also decided to privately enforce ‘justice”, leading to a rise in cases of “jungle justice”.

“Judges who take over cases should also be encouraged to adopt evidence that has been given in the proceedings and continue from where they stopped. The judiciary should also work towards fully digital proceedings, this will ensure that judges who take over cases can easily rely on video and audio records of such proceedings,“ Ajare added.

On his own part the Executive Director of Make A Difference Initiative and Men Against Rape Foundation (MARF), Mr. Lemmy Ughegbe said there has been no iota of commitment on the part of the government and institutions in getting justice for the victims of human rights violations and gender-based violence in the country. Ughegbe narrated how the court dashed the hope of the family of Keren-Happuch Akpagher, a 14year old boarding student of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja who died on 22nd of June 2021 following medical complications caused by a condom left inside her by a killer-rapist. The condom infected her with sepsis and spiked her blood sugar, which led to her death. The family is still searching for justice one year after the incident.

He said his organisations used legal instruments to support the mother of the victim since the police refused to prosecute or charge anybody in court. According to him ” There have been a lot of human rights violations and sexual and gender-based violence cases. I have been directly involved in the Keren-Happuch and Ochanya Ogbanje’s cases. In this case, there was no institutional help whatsoever.  It was what we can call a conspiracy of silence and inaction because up till this moment as we speak not has happened.

“She was allegedly serially raped and sodomised by a man who is her Aunt’s husband and the son, who are still at large. Ochanya was 8 years old when the abuse started and led to health complications and eventually led to her death.” The gender rights activist expressed regret over the lukewarm attitude of the Benue State government in appealing the judgment of a state high court that acquitted the alleged rapist, Andrew Ogbuja despite the video which was tendered in evidence and marked as exhibit.

Another human rights activist and Coordinator Concerned Nigerians, Mr. Deji Adeyanju told Saturday INDEPENDENT during the week that Nigerians are still suffering from rights violations under President Muhammadu Buhari’s led government despite the country’s progress in democratic practice. He called on political actors and the Nigerian government to heed the calls by Amnesty International and other civil rights groups on the need to ensure that human rights are respected.

“Basically there have been a lot of human rights violations in the year 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari-led government. All manner of human rights violations from the illegal detention of 12 associates of Yoruba Nation Revolutionary Leader, Sunday Adeyemo otherwise known as Sunday Igboho by the Department of State Service (DSS). They had intentions to keep them perpetually until Mr. Pelumi Olajengbesi’s Chamber delved into the case and the matter was taken to court.

“If not for that it would have been one case that would have dragged on for a long. The aides of Sunday Igboho as we speak have not got justice for their illegal detention. You are also aware of the unlawful detention of a student that was alleged to have insulted the First Lady. He was detained by the DSS and if not for the social media we would have not known his whereabouts.

“We also have the 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje’s case who was serially raped but the Benue State high court held that there was no evidence of rape. The state government has refused to appeal the judgment despite the call by civil rights groups.  This is a clear indication of insensitivity to such brazen human rights violations,” Adeyanju added.

He berated the illegal detention of perceived political opponents by the Governors in many states such as Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States. He said the ugly trend calls for concern just as he called on the political actors to play the game by rule and respect the fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens.

“Our political actors must know that this is a democracy and they must act accordingly. We have seen several calls by Amnesty International and other civil society emphasizing the need to ensure human rights are respected.  But the government failed to heed this warning.  We hope that 2023 will be different and the government will learn to respect people’s fundamental human rights, “Adeyanju emphasised.

Meanwhile, other factors that have worsened the human rights violations cases could be attributed to the lingering court closure caused primarily by the failure of the leadership to respect the rule of law. The nation’s courts were under lock and key for close to two months when judicial workers under the aegis of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike to push for the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary on April 6, 2021

The foregoing impediments to the justice system in the county and enforcement of judgments have led to a lack of confidence in the court and the judiciary. It is alarming and the impact is felt more strongly by the poor who usually fall victim.

A total review of the judicial system, particularly the aspect of judgment enforcement against government agencies will help to hold the government and its agencies accountable for their actions and omissions and bring the occurrences of human rights abuses to the barest minimum. It is inconceivable that there exists a justice system where after successfully prosecuting a matter before a court of law, litigants find that enforcing such a judgment is near impossible and this is sadly the case in Nigeria.

Many victims of sexual abuse and human rights violations consider the search for justice in Nigeria as an effort in futility that indirectly emboldens unscrupulous security agents to continue with the flagrant abuse of human rights.

Another hurdle militating against getting justice in human rights violations cases is that of administrative technicalities ranging from the mandatory need to seek the leave of court to enforce a judgment against the government or any of its agencies. Thus, victims on many occasions find themselves at the mercy of the judge who is not under any legal compulsion to grant such leave even when the leave is granted, issues of administrative lethargy result in victims suffering more at the hands of their oppressor.

For instance, in an action for fundamental right enforcement against unlawful detention, the court may grant an order releasing the victim from custody but the authorities involved may be unyielding thereby prolonging the victim’s stay in custody against his fundamental right

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