BY ADEKUNLE OJO AKANBI ESQ
(FORMER 2ND NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, NIGERIA BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA)
On Global Outlook
A reflection of the universal declaration of human rights in the last 70years shows no doubt there is recognition of the rights of world citizens. At the United Nations Organization UNO, I would say there are minuses and pluses; at the level of Western Europe, they have done their very best, in Africa, there is nothing to show in practical terms for all the legislations on human rights; globally, respect of human rights by the western powers or strong nations depends strongly on economic interest. That is to say, whenever the interest of the big powers is conceived the tendency is to have a different definition of what human rights really is.
I want to say that human right is meaningful when it enforced to the letter and respected. The American invasion of Iraq in the new millennium for whatever reasons is total negation of what human rights stands for. People ordinarily should be allowed to take care of themselves. At the end of the day some of the invasions are basically for economic interest as the rights that you seek to protect, the rights of the individual, becomes worsened in the process, as innocent people die.
So globally, I would say human rights have the minuses and the pluses; pluses in the sense that it has become more universal and a standard as a blackleg or a log in the wheel of progress of the entire world. To the large extent, individuals in the western world have some of their rights adequately protected. An average individual, a pregnant mother, a labourer, a lawyer, a carpenter and even logs have their rights protected in the western world, as long as it will not affect their interest and these interest have become law even in Asia.
I have seen a Blackman arrested in the street of London, the way a Black is being arrested is different from the way a white man is arrested or treated. Courtesy is extended to the white man but when a black man is arrested for whatever reasons he is bounded and brought down to his knees. This is a case where human rights are not universally applicable. My position is that what is good for the goose should be good for the gender.
Until recently, the United States of America led blockades championed the isolation of Libya from the entire world. The isolation actually brought untold hardship to the people than the government of Libya. At the end of the day, whose right is actually being protected? The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq as well as the American invasion of Iraq poses a big question mark on how the big power shares the universal declaration of human rights after 70years.
On Africa Situation
Human rights is embodied in the Africa charter; your right to property, your right to health, your right to education, your right to everything. In the constitution of most African countries, these rights are there. But people placed in authority in the government, tends to see the rights of other from a different perspective.
In African countries including Nigeria, these fundamental rights are even written in the constitution but they now tell you, “you have these rights but you cannot insist on the rights” this implies it is no longer rights if you cannot insist on them and for them these rights are not justifiable.
Nobody can wake up in Nigeria today and insist that he or she must be sent to school by the government, no one seem to be protecting that right. In most parts of Africa, were paying lip services to the issue of protection and promotion of human rights.
The question is how the fundamental objectives that are not justified can be turned around to ensure that the people are better protected even as bad as not having the right to life because a man with no good health has lost his right to live. We need to be dynamic in the way we look at the law.
Unfortunately, most of us are still living in the past and do not want to challenge the government. People still believe that if they got to court nothing will come out of it for a woman who wanted to give birth to a child and die in the process, the family ought to sue the government because she deserves the right to be taken care of as a tax payer, as a Nigeria and as a citizen of the African Country.
Freedom of information is yet to have its stamp in many African countries. Few African adopted the freedom of information bill (FOI). The bill is important because it is an avenue to actually express you and tell the world what is going on in ones country without fear. For a man who cannot talk against every other right is as silent as the man himself. He cannot exercise it.
On The Nigeria Prisons Congestion where detainees are more than convicts
We have a peculiar system at hand; we have a system that is not working in our country Nigeria. The association of the criminal justice system is not working at all and I put the blame on all the stakeholders; the lawyers, the judges, the magistrates, police and the person warders. The crisis is systematic and it cuts across all the agencies I have mentioned.
In Lagos for instance, it will take a great miracle for a suspect or an accused person arraigned in the court to go home that day. This is because the retrial bail release system is for you to go home and be reporting for your trial. But by the time the judge or magistrate say that the accused persons should produce two sureties who must be level sixteen officers in the public service or ministry, the accused becomes helpless. How many level sixteen officers do we have? How many suspects do we have? Who in will every of these suspects provide level sixteen officer? These are part of the problem.
Infact, I do not see reason why a wife cannot stand surety for her husband or a father for his children. You can insist do you still have a father, bring your father to come and stand for you. But whereby we see a situation whereby crime is qualified in million of naira and sureties must be land owners, verifiable with titles and must have Certificate of Occupancy, C of O.
Basically, I think that our prisons have failed because our magistrates refuse to utilize the pretrial bail release system as provided by law. The prison itself don’t reform in any manner, neither do they rehabilitate. All that the prisons do is to keep people and as a matter of fact prisoners are not regarded as human beings which are too bad.
Fundamentally, you can only have a speedy justice delivery when the man in charge is really ready to dispense justice without fear or favour. For a man who can decongest prisons is not helping the situation.
Most problems in the African sub region and Nigeria in particular will be substantially solved when the right system (Justice and law enforcement) are put in place. I therefore strongly advocate for the retraining of judges, magistrates, lawyers, prison warders, and stakeholders for the criminal justice administration to flourish in Nigeria.