Showing posts with label justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label justice. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Court in Nigerai acquits publisher of cybercrime

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday discharged and acquitted a Nigerian publisher, Agba Jalingo, of cybercrime.

Mr Jalingo, who publishes an online newspaper, CrossRiverWatch, was prosecuted by the Nigeria police over a 30 June 2022 Facebook post in which he alleged that Alami Ayade, the wife to the younger brother of the former governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, contracted someone to write law examination for her at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.

The article was also published on CrossRiverWatch, the police said.

The police arrested Mr Jalingo in August 2022 after laying siege for hours at his Lagos residence.

Mr Jalingo was arraigned in 2023 before Justice Zainab Abubakar of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who remanded him at the Medium Security Custodial Center, Kuje. The court later granted him bail.
‘Discharged and acquitted’

The CrossRiverWatch broke the news on Monday morning about the Federal High Court judgment which reportedly discharged and acquitted Mr Jalingo of cybercrime.

The judge, Joyce Abdulmalik, found Mr Jalingo not guilty of the crimes the police accused him of, according to a report by the newspaper.

Mr Jalingo told PREMIUM TIMES, Monday afternoon, that he was very happy with the court judgment. “I was being persecuted, not prosecuted,” he said.

“When the prosecution finished their case, we (had) entered a no-case submission, so the court ruled today that they (the prosecution) only came to waste the time of the court,” he said.

“This case had given me sleepless nights because there are many things that I wanted to do which I couldn’t.”

Mr Jalingo said following the advice of a respected traditional ruler and other people in Cross River, he had sought an out-of-court settlement with Mrs Ayade, including visiting her to beg her over the matter, but she refused.

“I am very happy that the court has given this judgment. This judgment is a victory for the Nigerian media because this is a law that has been used to harass those of us who are journalists,” he added.

PREMIUM TIMES asked Mr Jalingo if he was certain about the contentious issues in his article against Mrs Ayade.

“I was (certain),” he retorted. “I couldn’t go out there and lie against anybody.”

PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach Mrs Ayade for her comment.

Mr Jalingo is not new to criminal prosecution over his journalism work.

He was arrested in August 2019 and incarcerated for about 179 days in Calabar, charged with terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime for accusing the then Governor Ayade of diverting N500 million belonging to Cross River State.

Amnesty International in Nigeria had declared the journalist a prisoner of conscience and had accused the Nigerian government of manipulating the nation’s justice system against him. 

By Cletus Ukpong, Premium Times

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Court in Nigeria denies separatist leader Kanu bail


A Nigerian federal court on Tuesday denied separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu bail and instead ordered an accelerated trial of a pending seven-count terrorism charge against him.

Kanu, a British citizen who leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, disappeared from Nigeria after skipping bail in 2017. He was arrested in Kenya in 2021 and charged in Nigeria with terrorism.

In December, Nigeria's Supreme Court overturned a judgement by a lower court that dropped the terrorism charges against Kanu, setting the stage for his trial to commence.

"I will respond to all charges and the court will see that they are all lies," Kanu told the court.
Judge Murtala Nyako adjourned the case to April 17 to start trial.

Nyako also denied a request by Kanu, currently in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), a security agency, to be transferred to a regular prison on health grounds. He told the court he has congenital heart disease.

Kanu has previously denied the terrorism charges and knowingly broadcasting falsehoods, which are linked to social media posts he issued between 2018 and 2022.

His lawyers have argued that he could not receive a fair trial in Nigeria because he was forcefully extradited from Kenya. Kenya has declined to say if it played a role in Kanu's return.

Kanu's IPOB campaigns for the secession of southeastern Nigeria where the majority belong to the Igbo ethnic group. Nigerian authorities have labelled IPOB a terrorist organization.

An attempt by the southern region to secede as the Republic of Biafra in 1967, the year Kanu was born, triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than 1 million people.

By Camillus Eboh, Reuters 

Related stories: Nnamdi Kanu’s brother loses London court challenge

Nigerian separatist Nnamdi Kanu's Facebook account removed for hate speech

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

App in Nigeria is saving lives by connecting people to pro bono legal services

In October 2021, Shola Usman was arrested and held without charge for eight months in a prison cell in Mabushi Police Station in Abuja, Nigeria. Four months later, a court ordered that assets worth millions of naira (1USD= 908 Naira) belonging to the 44-year-old mother of six be confiscated while she was in arbitrary detention. She had not appeared before a judge.

It was not until June 2022 that she was released from custody on bail, after Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police was made to intervene through an official petition by her lawyer.

Usman, an agricultural entrepreneur who farms staples like rice and maize and sells them to wholesalers and retailers, was accused of defrauding the wife of a powerful politician. She denied all accusations, but still paid the price.

“The politician,” Usman told Quartz, “had the money to drag me from court to court, and used his influence to obtain a court order to freeze my bank accounts, claiming that I committed fraud.” She did not wish to reveal the identity of the politician for fear of further reprisal.

Nigeria, which ranked 150 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2022 corruption perception index, see graft as resulting in the “perversion of justice, wrongful convictions, and acquittals of guilty parties,” according to the International Bar Association, a 75-year-old organization that aims to protect and advance the rule of law globally. In a recent report, the association said that corruption “weakens the judiciary and other law enforcement agencies, as corrupt officials can be easily manipulated or bribed,” compromising the delivery of justice.

Furthermore, official statistics by the Nigerian Correctional Service indicate another fault with the rule of law in Africa’s most populous country: In 2023, 69% of the 77,849 inmates in Nigeria were pre-trial detainees, including Usman, who was held in a police station for eight months. Based on this fact, Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police intervened to order her release.

In 2017, human rights lawyer Nelson Olanipekun set out to fix this. He established Citizens Gavel Foundation for Social Justice (Gavel), a civic tech organization aimed at improving the pace of justice delivery through the use of technology. Gavel focuses on indigent victims of injustice and uses an online platform to connect inmates trapped in a judicial limbo with lawyers willing to help.

“The initiative was born from a personal experience a long time ago when my father desperately needed legal aid but was only able to get it through a lawyer who had volunteered to stand in for him,” Olanipekun told Quartz.

At her arrest, Usman alleges that policemen raided her home and took two vehicles, then stormed her mobile shop and warehouse, and carted away merchandise and thousands of sacks of produce.

Stranded in a legal purgatory, Usman told Quartz she “endured inhumane treatment while in detention,” including getting hit on the head, and was left to bleed for days, and being “blackmailed” and “hounded by the politician’s loyal policemen.”

Quartz reached out for comment to officers at the Mabushi Police station where Usman was held. The reporter was told that officers are not at liberty to speak to the media and advised to file an official request for comment, which could take months to respond to.

In comments made last year, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police vowed to punish erring police officers who fail to abide by the law enforcement mandate and uphold the constitution. But the country’s war on terror has often led to a culture where excessive use of force is rampant.

These slow processes and limited access to justice are what inspired Gavel, says Olanipekun.

After resigning from a career as a corporate lawyer, Olanipekun started spending his days visiting prisons and police stations, where he spoke to people who were unjustly detained in an effort to help secure their release by representing them in court, he recalls.

But even before he started Gavel, which operates in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, Olanipekun dabbled in pro bono work.

He remembers the case of three orphaned young boys in a remote village in Anambra State in southwest Nigeria, who vandalized the roof of the house they inherited from their parents to prevent their uncles from taking the building.

“This was between 2011 and 2012. They were underage and didn’t know what to do when their uncles had them arrested,” says Olanipekun, who attended every court hearing in the boys’ case until he managed to get them out.

A 2023 field study by The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), an international non-government organization committed to people-centered justice, found that 81% of Nigerians experienced at least one legal problem in the past year, with many facing multiple problems mostly related to disputes with neighbors, domestic violence, land disputes, crime, and housing issues.

“The difficulty in gaining timely justice in Nigeria was what inspired Gavel and later [the] Podus application which launched in 2021,” says Olanipekun.

“Podus connects any person in need of legal aid with an available pro bono lawyer near them so that in the shortest possible time, they can get justice,” he explained.

The simple interface, which started as a mobile application before shifting online as a web app, requires complainants to sign up, then fill out an online form where they select one of nine categories including rape, extortion, domestic abuse or defamation, select the region, then describe details of their case and add their name and contact information.

Clients are then connected to one of Gavel’s network of 200 volunteer lawyers in their vicinity all over Nigeria, who take on their case in return for appearance fees and stipends to cover basic costs, which Gavel pays through funds donated by sponsors, partners, and agencies like Osiwa, Luminate, Civic Hive, Trust Africa and BudgIT. Partnering lawyers are thoroughly vetted through an extensive examination of their record as human rights advocates and their contribution to their local bar associations.

According to Adewole Ibukun, Head of Procurement at Gavel, the organization has helped release over 5,000 pretrial detainees.

“Many of them were remanded in custody because they didn’t have a lawyer,” Ibukun told Quartz. “Others are summarily locked up by police for crimes they did not commit, in which case Gavel facilitates their bail.”

A 2021 Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) report about Nigeria’s human rights record over the last two decades supports Ibukun’s statements.

The report highlights unlawful detention as a persistent human rights violation, whereby “citizens continue to be unlawfully detained under harrowing pre-trial detention for years without formal charges being brought against them,” noting that Nigerian police routinely charge suspects with grave offenses to detain them while making little effort to investigate or prosecute the cases.

A tech-assisted lifeline at a critical human moment

Gavel’s services were a lifeline for Shola Usman, who,, had lost access to her bank accounts and was forced to borrow to stay out of prison. Usman herself — a wealthy business owner — doesn’t technically fit the traditional profile of Gavel’s pro bono clients. But the company made an exception, as she had been left with no access to her own funds.

“A friend sent me the link on WhatsApp and as soon as I created my case I was assigned to Barrister Oluwaseyi Arowosebe. Gavel has been supporting me since August 2022,” said Usman.

Despite its complexity, Usman’s case appears simple compared to that of Daniel Jagaba, a 51-year-old father of three who was falsely accused of rape in 2017.

Jagaba, who was precariously employed in menial work like house-painting and carpentry, was released soon after his arrest for lack of sufficient evidence.

“But the police officer who was investigating the case rearrested me and demanded a bribe of 50,000 naira [equivalent of $137 at the time] to grant me bail,” Jagaba told Quartz. “When I failed to raise the money, I was kept in pre-trial detention pending the transfer of my case to an appropriate court.”

When the case was filed at a High Court, the trial lingered between 2018 and 2019. Then, the covid pandemic broke out, delaying proceedings another two years, Jagaba said, at which point the case was moved to another high court presided over by a new judge who restarted the trial.

“I was in prison when the Gavel team visited to offer their pro bono services. My lawyer had abandoned me after stripping me of what little money I had, so I asked for their help and told them my story,” he said.

“When Gavel eventually started to follow up on my case, the corrupt prosecutor, who I found out while in detention had conspired with the policeman, stopped attending the court hearings,” Jagaba said.

Jagaba’s Gavel-appointed lawyer made several attempts to strike down the case for want of diligent prosecution, until Jagaba was finally acquitted and discharged in October 2022.

A path to change

Lawyer and Gavel’s legal representative in Abuja, Abioye Mosunmola, cites procedural bottlenecks as a reason behind the slow legal processes.

“Judges still write in longhand during court proceedings, and there are many other outdated practices,” Mosunmola told Quartz.

“Gavel’s tech initiatives propose the infusion of tech into court processes to make it easier for lawyers to carry out their legal tasks, and for judges to dispense justice,” Oluwaseyi Arowosebe, a lawyer and consultant with Gavel, told Quartz.

“The police arbitrarily arrest innocent citizens and detain them for weeks and months without a remand warrant and without charging them to court,” said Arowosebe. “Corrupt judges sell justice to the highest bidders, and innocent people are robbed of their fundamental human rights by state actors who have no respect for the rule of law.”

In a collaboration between Gavel and the National Judicial Council (NJC) in 2022, the Oyo State Judiciary deployed the Nigeria Case Management System, a web platform that seeks to automate case flow management in the courts to facilitate the safe electronic exchange of documents between the different court levels.

In Lagos, Gavel partnered with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to deploy the Justice Clock, which gives complainants access to their case files and legal advice online.

But these initiatives are no panacea for the country’s systemic challenges to the rule of law.

The corruption and dysfunction that plagues Nigeria’s legal system has been thoroughly documented, in particular the human rights violations committed by the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police tasked with fighting violent crimes.

In October 2020 the #EndSARS campaign in which Gavel took part, saw at least 56 people killed by excessive use of force by the police and military, leading to the disbandment of the unit by presidential decree within days.

But other pro-democracy actions were met with resistance, according to Nelson Olanipekun, Gavel’s founder, citing his organization’s recent bid to report what it calls“compromised” Court of Appeal judges to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the constitutional body responsible for disciplining errant judges.

Quartz received a copy of the NJC’s acknowledgement that it had received Gavel’s Nov. 28 petition regarding the “recklessness and gross abuse of the revised judicial code of conduct for judicial officers” in Nigeria, informing Gavel that “action is being taken.”

“Yet despite the assurances, the NJC still promoted the accused judges to the Supreme Court,” said Olanipekun.

“The repressive nature of state actors is one hell of a problem to contend with,” said Olanipekun.

This story is published in collaboration with Egab.

By Chidi M. Nwachukwu, Quartz

Related story: Set them free! The judge who liberates Nigerians forgotten in jail

Friday, June 16, 2023

Nigerians languishing in prison for petty crimes

The Hope Behind Bars Africa has said that most awaiting trail inmates in Nigeria have been languishing in our Custodial facilities for petty crimes like loitering or hawking.

The human rights and criminal justice reform organisation said apart from such petty and misdemeanours cases, one would also find civil cases like disagreements between business partners that was given criminal correlations.

Executive Director Hope Behind Bars Africa, Mrs. Funke Adeoye revealed that 40 percent of the cases so far handled by the organisation are simple cases.

Adeoye said Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982 on the 30th of May 2023, the number which is spread across 240 custodial facilities, has about 69.3% awaiting trail inmates.

She said this yesterday in Abuja, during the organisation five years impact report/strategic plan launch and press conference.

She said, “40 percent of the cases we have handled are actually simple cases. Cases like people arrested for hawking, loitering and a lot of cases that the sanctions is less than three years. We also find very frequently people arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery squad for armed robbery but when we go into the nitty-gritty of the case we find their is no evidence, most of the cases are stalling for years on ending because their is really no evidence against the person on trail.

“We also find a lot of Civil cases that have been given criminal correlations, for instance, someone having a contract with another person and he gets the police to pick up the person, the person gets arrested and remanded.

“In the past five years, our organisation has dedicated major aspects of its work to providing free legal services to indigent pre-trial detainees, engaging in welfare, empowerment, reformation and reintegration interventions.

“Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982, on 30 May 2023. This number spreads across 240 custodial facilities. Inmates awaiting trial constitute about 69.3 percent of the prison population. This is the highest percentage of awaiting-trial prisoners in Africa,

“Hope Behind Bars Africa, having recognised this challenge, decided to leverage its legal network to foster access to justice. We started out directly representing inmates for free here in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and expanded to Kano and Edo states. Currently, we have a network of lawyers in Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Edo, Kano and FCT. We have represented 420 indigent pre-trial detainees so far. About 40 percent of this number were charged with simple offences, 20 percent for misdemeanours, and the rest for felonies, capital crimes and fundamental human rights actions.”

By Matthew Ogune, The Guardian

Friday, March 24, 2023

Nnamdi Kanu’s brother loses London court challenge

Jailed Biafran separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu’s family lost a legal challenge against the British government in a London court regarding his detention in Nigeria.

Kanu’s brother Kingsley Kanu had brought a judicial review against Britain’s Foreign Office over its alleged refusal to acknowledge that Nnamdi Kanu, who holds Nigerian and British citizenship, was the victim of extraordinary rendition from Kenya to Nigeria in June 2021.

Kingsley Kanu’s lawyers argued that the Foreign Office should reach a judgement about whether his brother was the victim of extraordinary rendition so it could properly assess how to assist the family.

Judge Jonathan Swift dismissed the case on Thursday, saying the Foreign Office’s decision not to express a firm view about Nnamdi Kanu’s treatment, either privately or publicly, was a matter for the government.

However, the judge added that the British government’s approach will also now be informed by a ruling from Nigeria’s Court of Appeal on October 13 that found that Nnamdi Kanu had been unlawfully abducted and sent to Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Court of Appeal also dropped seven charges against Nnamdi Kanu, who remains in detention pending an appeal against that decision by the Nigerian government.

Britain’s Foreign Office and Kingsley Kanu’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nnamdi Kanu founded the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to press for the secession of the Igbo ethnic group’s homeland, which covers part of southeastern Nigeria.

Authorities view IPOB as a “terrorist” group and banned it in 2017. IPOB says it wants to achieve independence through non-violent means. It has authorised sit-at-home orders on Mondays since July 2021, which have crippled small businesses in the region.

A splinter faction established a paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network, which has been accused of human rights violations, abductions and violent attacks on offices of Nigeria’s electoral commission.

The region tried to secede from Nigeria in 1967 under the name of the Republic of Biafra, triggering a three-year civil war in which more than a million people died, mostly from starvation.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Ten years from the lynching that shocked Nigeria

Jane Toku sheds no tears as she recalls the moment when she saw the smouldering remains of her son's corpse on the morning he and three of his friends were lynched 10 years ago.

The four students had run into a local vigilante group at dawn in Aluu, a community behind the University of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria's oil capital.

There had been a spate of robberies in the area and at that time of the morning, people became suspicions. Accused of being petty thieves, the four - Llody Toku, Ugonna Obuzor, Chiadika Biringa and Tekena Elkanah - were given a mock trial and found guilty.

Their punishment was handed out immediately: they were stripped, marched around the community, brutally beaten and set alight by the mob as thousands watched and filmed.

"When I arrived, I forced my way through the crowd and knelt before my son's corpse.

"His friend Tekena was barely breathing, I watched his chest heave with his last breaths," Mrs Toku said.

Such mob killings are not uncommon in Nigeria but this was the first to go viral on social media, causing widespread outrage, protests and debates about the country's judicial system, and questions about a society where people resort to such levels of violence.

"One is tired and sick of coming here to lament after these dastardly acts," a lawmaker said at the time when the incident was discussed at the National Assembly.

"It is important for 'jungle justice' to be stopped - it is bad," said radio host Yaw, as celebrities condemned the incident.

But despite the shock and anger over the killing of the students, now known as the Aluu Four, and the sentencing of three men including one police officer, for their roles in the lynching, mob attacks continue to happen in Nigeria.

There have been 391 mob killings in Nigeria since 2019, according to SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based think-tank, with at least five this year alone.

That begs the question why the outrage over the killing of the Aluu Four didn't lead to a national reckoning over lynchings.

"The failure of the criminal justice system is one very important reason for this," said Dr Agwanwo Destiny, a criminologist at the sociology department of the University of Port Harcourt.

He pointed to instances where criminal suspects handed over to the police were released without investigation and ended up seeking revenge on those who had given them up.

"Such incidents erode trust in the judicial system, so when people are alleged to have committed a crime, people are quick to pass judgement and vent their frustrations," Dr Destiny said.

It is an argument also made by activist Annkio Briggs, who led demonstrations in Port Harcourt to demand justice for the students and their families, because she "couldn't trust the system to do what was right," she told the BBC.

Perpetrators of mob killings in Nigeria are rarely arrested and prosecuted.

Two suspects arrested in May after the lynching of a Christian student on allegations of blasphemy in Sokoto have still not been brought to trial, while the police said the main culprits are still at large.

It was one of four reported cases of mob killing in that month alone:

.Two men were burnt to death by a mob in the Ijesha area of Lagos over alleged theft of mobile phones

.One man was murdered in Lugbe, Abuja on allegations of blasphemy

.Commercial motorcyclists lynched a sound engineer identified as David Imoh in the Lekki area of Lagos.

Suspects have been charged in all cases, the police said. But it might be years before there are any verdicts because of the slow pace of justice in Nigeria.

Two years ago, Nigeria's anti-corruption agency, the ICPC, said the judiciary was the most corrupt arm of government in the country. It said that more than nine billion naira ($21m; £19m) was offered and paid as bribes in the sector.

Such reports indicating that justice is for sale to the highest bidder erode trust in the system, said Dr Destiny.

It has never been determined what the four students were doing when they were stopped by the vigilante group in Aluu.

One version said they were thieves, another said they were members of a violent gang but neither allegation was proved in court.

"He was not a perfect child but he was humble and he was our confidant.

"He was close to us because we had our second child 11 years after him," Mrs Toku said of her son.

The four students, best friends, were in their late teens and early 20s and came from middle-class homes.

Ugonna, 18, and his friend Lloyd, 19 - known as Tipsy and Big L - were budding musicians in Port Harcourt's rap scene.

One of their three unreleased songs Love In The City could almost be a prophesy of what befell them.

Growing up in the city like PH where Ra was made to sing right

We embrace the street life cos

There's no love in the heart of the city

How can the seeds grow when the garden is weary

It used to be very cool but the oil crude brought violence

"There can be no justification, no reason why anybody should die like that," said their friend Gloria During, who lived in the same Hilton hostel in Aluu as both musicians.

Aluu is popular for its private apartments that are rented by students who can't find accommodation at the university's insufficient hostels.

At the time it was a small village with many undeveloped plots and a population that were mostly farmers.

Today, Port Harcourt's sprawling metropolis has caught up with the fringes of Aluu - most of the land has been built on by Pentecostal churches and more hostels have sprung up.

But in the centre of the community remains two barren plots, the playground where the students were first held and death pronounced on them, and the burrow-pit, several hundred yards away, where they were marched to, beaten and killed.

Despite the nationwide shock when the incident happened, time has allowed most of Nigeria to move on.

But for a mother, time is a keen reminder of the loss of a beloved first son with a bright future ahead of him.

"He had a bright career in music, he would have gone far by now," Mrs Toku said.

By Nduka Orjinmo


Related stories: Arrests made in student killings

University of Port Harcourt shuts down as student protest killings