Sunday, 5 October 2014

Review of the People's Parliament Held on October 1, 2014 In Lagos, Nigeria

Eyitayo Ogunyemi addressing participants at
 the event.
The People’s Parliament is a social forum instituted to impart Nigerians particularly core grassroots people with the knowledge of their constitutional duties and rights under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The first of its kind was held at Onigbongbo Community Hall, Maryland, Lagos, and attracted over two hundred participants (notwithstanding the unfavourable weather). We had many community leaders in attendance including the community development association leaders, the head of all market women in that area (Iyaoloja of Onigbongbo), the Chief Imam of the Area, Pastors, a representative of the King of the area, security personnel, and a representative of the local government chairman among others. A large number of the participants were typical local people with little or no understanding of English language. This necessitated that we adopt a flexible approach in our medium of communication; the PowerPoint slides which had earlier been prepared was done away with, and we had to switch to Yoruba language instead of English language which we were ordinarily comfortable with. The lead presentation delivered by Eyitayo Ogunyemi titled “You, The Police, & Your Right to Liberty” lasted for about thirty three minutes, after which the floor was opened for participants to discuss their understanding of the law “in their own words”, and also share their ideas and sentiments about governmental institutions particularly the Nigeria Police. We were touched by a number of stories including that of the experience of the Iyaoloja in the hands of men of the Nigeria Police.
The Iyaoloja of Onigbongbo narrating her experience in
the hands of men of the Nigeria Police
According to her, she was arrested alongside other community leaders and held in police custody for four (4) days without any charge. Another participant mentioned that there was a time some men of the Police came looking for someone but ended up arresting another person in lieu of the person they came looking for. A participant also observed that there has been incessant killing of innocent people by men of the Nigeria police without the government calling them to order or anybody fighting the course of justice on behalf of such people’s families. The issue of incessant killing of Suspects by the Police has been of immense concern to us as an organisation because the law is still unsettled in the area of whether a deceased person who was unlawfully murdered can enforce his/her right to life. In the case of Nosiru Bello & Ors. Vs. Attorney-General of Oyo State (1986) 5 NWLR (PT 45) 828, it was stated that the only right exercisable by the deceased family is that of an action in Tort and not fundamental rights, but there are reasons to believe that this can no longer represent the position of the law in the light of Paragraph E of the preamble to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedures) Rules 2009 which enjoins courts to encourage and welcome public interest litigations in the human rights field. Another participant raised the issue of instability in Laws. He pointed out that “the Constitution” is usually altered by the government to suit its ambitions. In reacting to the foregoing issue, we pointed out that the constitution births the government and not otherwise, and that it is only the people acting through themselves or through their representatives that can make, or alter the constitution.

Other issues that cropped up during the discussion are: illicit/ mass arrest through police raid of local areas, monetary demands by police as a prerequisite for the grant of administrative bail, unfair collaboration of some lawyers with Police in order to rip off financial gains from victims of police arrest and detention etc.

At the end of the programme, participants agreed that it was necessary to have legal advisers for their communities, host more enlightenment programmes, and also enrol as a community volunteer in order to create awareness campaign for the rights of citizens and other persons in the society.

We also had our own resolution which howbeit was not said loud; looking at the passion with which the participants listened, their zeal for knowledge and their experiences in the hands of security agents, the only resolution on our mind is to embark on more awareness campaign at the grassroots level with a people that are apparently “unlearned” so that the rule of law, and accountability can be established through the knowledge of the Nigeria Constitution.  Questions may be directed to eyitayoogunyemi@gmail.com (+234-806-0623-454) or asked directly in the comment box below.