Friday, 28 August 2015

15 Informative Ways to Handle Abuse of Authority by Nigeria Police (Part II)


This article is in furtherance of the collaborative effort between myself and Mr. James Novak of The Law Office of James Novak which is based in Arizona, U.S.A.

Being a former US Marine Officer/Arizona’s former DUI & Criminal Attorney Prosecutor, Mr. Novak has acquired indepth knowledge and experience in Human Rights and Criminal Defense all of which he brought to bear in Part I of this Article. You may access Part 1 by visiting the link below:

Abuse of Authority by Nigeria Police:
“In a society that has justice as its goal, the police must be clean, just and respected. A corrupt police breeds a corrupt society. The vision of the court would be misty and the administration of justice murky in a corrupt atmosphere.  Detention for 3 years of prisoners awaiting trial, continuous complaints of extraction of a confession per vim, incessant preferment of what is commonly referred to as a “holding charge” could only create insecurity in the public and generate lack of confidence in the organs of justice.”
 - Justice Kayode Eso [Thoughts on Law & Jurisprudence]

I recently interviewed a client who had experienced some unpalatable moments with the police. Below is an extract from her complaint:
“I dread having any encounter with Police Officers particularly the armed ones. They say “bail is free”, “police are your friends”, but all these are lies! You cannot even go to their Station to report matters for fear of being robed in…”
As a member of the Nigerian society, I too share the sentiments of the client, and I assume that you might agree with her and even share your own encounter in the discussion box below this article, I have even had course to share comparative experiences with colleagues in other countries which clearly revealed that the mistrust that the public has against police institution is universal even though it is on different levels. 

I particularly followed events of police brutality in the United States of America; ranging from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9, 2014, to the story of 17-year-old Jessie Hernandez who was purportedly murdered by Denver Police officers in January 2015. 

A very unpopular one is the story of Olakunle Ajomale, a Nigerian Citizen who had accused men of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement of inserting a chip torture device in his body while in Maryland, United States. 

In the midst of the biases against global police institution, Officer Mark Engravalle of Roeland Park Police Unit showed how different the institution could be by an act of kindness expressed on duty to someone who was supposed to be a thief caught in the very act, the article reads “Cop Busts Thief, It’s What He Did Next That He Didn’t Want You To Know About” with such a heading you are guaranteed to want to check the story. 

In the words of James Novak, “[the story] is a ray of hope for all countries as an example of the type of world we should be living in, and deserve now and in the future”. 

I have enjoyed the benefit of sharing ideas on criminal law practices with Mr. James Novak and he has been of immense assistance to my exposure to comparative global practices each time we discussed. While he does not boast that the United States of America’s system is perfect, he has shared some of their practices with me and has therefore graciously presented the Part 1 of this Article.

Officer Engravalle’s story made me to reflect on events of police brutality in Nigeria, the corruption that limits the institution, and what is supposed to be the response of the public while dealing with the police. 

I have therefore identified 3 issues and 15 informative ways to handle abuse of authority by Nigeria police:

Handling Police Corruption

Have you ever had to tip a police officer during a stop and search situation? Have you ever had to pay the police to secure your bail or the bail of a loved one? 

Sometimes, you don’t want to pay the money but you are not sure of what is right again because of what seems to have become the accepted practice. Someone once suggested that police uniforms should be changed to white without pockets, but below are reasonable things you may consider doing depending on the situation at hand:

1.  It will do you a great deal of good to remind yourself that you MUST NOT argue with an armed          police officer come what may.
2.  Take note of the names of police officers on duty.
3.  Have at least one other person to witness your encounter with the police where it is possible.
4.  Invite your lawyer within the shortest possible time.

How to handle Situations of “Stop and Search”

The power of the police to stop and search is a function recognised by law, and a police officer need not give any reason for the search. 

Other than the power to stop and search, or inquire into issues that involves crime, a police officer does not have the requisite authority to inquire into the expiration or otherwise of your car particulars and your driver’s licence because those duties are within the exclusive purview of administrative agencies particularly the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). If you are however stopped by the police, the points below may be helpful:

5.  Do not run away or ignore a stop and search by the police (cases of imposture of police by                  criminals have been reported over time so avoid night movement as much as you can).

6.  Be firm in answering introductory questions, but insist on remaining silent when a question                  suggestive of your involvement in a crime is asked.

7. Take note of the names of the police officers on duty where a bribe is demanded and report the           situation to your lawyer as soon as practicable (names are usually engraved near the chest pocket         of their uniforms).

8. Supervise the search by giving the police any document they demand for, and showing them all the    corners they intend to search. Do not make any unsolicited move otherwise the police officers            might begin to suspect you.  

The summation of the above points as rightly noted by Orlando Consumer Rights Lawyer Donald E. Petersen of the Law Office of Donald E. Peterson is that “you talk to the police as little as possible (but identify yourself) then invoke your right to Counsel (simply say “I want to see my lawyer before I say anything”)and remain silent”.

How to deal with an abusive police officer

Many cases of misuse/abuse of guns and ammunitions by police officers have been recorded over time, some of those cases resulted in the death of the victims while some victims were lucky to survive but had some parts of their bodies amputated. 

How do you deal with situations involving recklessness or the release of the trigger by a police officer? How do you deal with police manhandling at police station? The following points may be of help:

9. Do not argue or get involved in a duel with a police officer.

10. Do not write a statement or talk until you see your lawyer, simply tell the police that “you wish to       see your lawyer before you say anything”.

11. If necessary, request to see a doctor immediately and do so in the most polite manner.

12. Take note of the full names of officers and each person’s role in the event in question.

In recognition of the need to curb incidences of bribery, extortion, and other forms of indiscipline by the police, the office of the Inspector General of Police launched the next point that I will share with you therefore originates from the website.

13. You may report an abusive police by filling and submitting the compliant form on the website   
  • You may report a police through a telephone call to any of the following numbers: 08131234567, 09035200933, 08060023936, 07067899368, 01-7612479
  • You may send an electronic mail to
  • You may tweet your report with the hash tag #stopthebribes
  • You may download the “StopTheBribe” App via the link below:
  • You may add the office of the police designated for the StopTheBribes campaign through either of the following BBM Pin: 2A4A45FA, 2B0BB42E

2 ways in which a lawyer may be of assistance to you in dealing with an erring/abusive police officer:

Now that you have some hints on how to relate with the police, you may want to know further steps that you can take. Below are some of the possible steps that a competent legal practitioner might take on your behalf:

14.  Commence a suit in the court of law on your behalf: In my blog article titled Enforcement of Fundamental Rights in Nigeria (For Laymen) a short narrative on how to prepare and apply for the enforcement of fundamental rights is well explained. 

It is however yet to be settled whether a person who dies as a result of police violence can maintain an action for the protection of his right to life having lost it already. The case of Bello v Attorney General of Oyo State [1986] 5NWLR (Pt. 45) seems to suggest that the only action that will lie is in Tort and not Enforcement of Fundamental Right to Life. 

However, that cannot be said to be the position of the law considering that the ratio was decided per incuriam and Paragraph 3 (e) of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 embraces public interest litigations.    

15. Another step that I often enjoin lawyers to take is to report any case of abuse of authority by any member of the Nigeria Police to the Police Service Commission. 

Apart from being the agency in charge of employing police officers, the commission is also empowered to discipline erring police officers (except the Inspector General of Police who is an appointee of the Federal Government of Nigeria). 

Remembering the Example of Officer Mark Engravalle:

Upon reading the story of Officer Engravalle and with the help of Mr. James Novak, I reached to his brother on Google Plus and I also tried to reach him via Facebook. Asides nominating him as a worthy ambassador of the global police institution, I humbly encourage you to re-share this post with the hope that it will go a long way in sensitising the public on simple ways to hold the police institution to account and also create the much sort after change that we desire.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

6 Practical Hints on How to Create a Registrable Business Name in Nigeria

Has your dream business name ever hit the walls at the Corporate Affairs Commission?

Or maybe you applied through your lawyer series of times and it seems all the names in the world have been picked and nothing will ever go through?

These thoughts are not strange at all because they happen to the best of us; as a matter of practice, I usually reserve four names at a go for my clients with the hope that at least one of them will be reserved.

There are no magic to getting a name approved if you play by the rules.

One of the rules is that certain name forms will never be reserved because they contain word(s) that are prohibited.

You can imagine that where you avoid those words as much as possible, you will stand greater chances of having your preferred name approved.

What I will do in this article will be to give you hints on how to structure your business name options in such a way that they will have greater chances of being approved by the Corporate Affairs Commission; the hints are not an absolute guarantee, but they definitely will increase the chances of the names that you may have come up with. 

If you are not yet with your pen, you might just be late because am all set.

Beware of Prohibited Names

If you have ever visited a site containing inflammable substances, one of the signposts that you might see is the “No Smoking” sign.

This is also applicable when trying to reserve a name at the Corporate Affairs Commission; certain name formats will just not go through because they are absolutely not allowed.

Unfortunately, the Corporate Affairs Commission does not have an exhaustive list of prohibited names but the hints given by the Commission are that your preferred names should not be such as is capable of misleading [the public] as to the nature and extent of your business’s activities, or such that is undesirable, offensive or contrary to public policy.

Overcome the Hurdles of Restricted Names

Certain names are restricted for some reasons particularly where a similar name had been registered earlier by the Commission. In that case, it does not mean that the name cannot be reserved for your use at all; it only means that you will have to do more to get the name reserved.

Your preferred name could be restricted for any of the following reasons, and if restricted, you can still get it reserved if you fulfill the suggestions after each of the point I have identified below:

  • Where it is identical with or similar to the name of a company that is already registered with the Commission. Suggestion: If the registered company is in the process of being dissolved, you may obtain a letter of consent from the company to use the name.
  • Where it is identical with or similar to any existing trademark,or registered business/company name. Suggestion: If you are able to obtain a written consent from the owner of the existing trademark,or business/company name, the Commission may consider your application.
  • Where it contradicts or will violate any incorporated trustee. Suggestion: If you are able to obtain the written consent of the trustees, your application might be considered by the Commission.
  • Where it contains the words “Chamber of Commerce”. Suggestion: If what you seek to register is a Company Limited by Guarantee, the Commission will consider your application.

Hint 3:
Seek the Consent of the Commission First if Your Preferred NameContains Any of the Following Words:

  • Federal
  • National
  • Regional
  • State Government
  • Municipal
  • Chartered
  • Co-operative
  • Building society
  • Group
  • Holding
  • Any word that is suggestive of a temporary business arrangement. E.g. consortium
  • Any word that is suggestive of the patronage of [a] Federal or State Government, Ministry or Department.
  • Any word that is suggestive of connection with any municipality or other local authority.

Hint 4:
Where Your Preferred Name Is Already In Existence, Reconstruct It By Introducing Symbols, Punctuation, Characters, Signs, And Roman Numerals.

This step is simple and very creative. As a matter of fact, this style is trending among many 21st century businesses. Below are examples:


77dot Technology

Nine-27th Imagine Design

Perfect IV-niture

The practice of introducing symbols, punctuation, characters, signs, and roman numerals to differentiate a proposed name from a name that is already registered is also recognized in the United Kingdom by virtue of The Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009.

Care must however be taken to ensure that the proposed name is distinct from the registered name as the owner of the latter name may approach the court in an action for Tort of Passing off, or apply to the Corporate Affairs Commission through its complaints procedure.

Hint 5:
Let Your Preferred Name Speak Volume of the Nature of Your Business

This hint may be better looked at as an advice than a hint.

One of your best options is to create a name that is self expressive of your business so that if that name is on your complementary card without more and that card is given to a potential client, it will be expressive of what your business is all about.

In our ever busy business climate, it is not every potential customer that you meet that you will be able to narrate all that you do to, so let your name also do the speaking.

Hint 6:

The List May Just Be Endless, Let Us Have Your Say In The Comment Box Below… 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Have you ever heard the statement “Police is your friend”? 

If that doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you may be familiar with the phrase “Bail is free!”

Many of us wish those words were true; because if they were to be so, you probably would have no need to know what the law says in conceivable situations that may arise when dealing with the police. 

It may even be safe to assume that you probably stumbled on, or you were referred to this article because of the need to have a careful dealing with the Police. YES! You can have a warm dealing with the police even if they try to terrify you… You only have to know the magic wand that unsettles them in appropriate situations…


Don’t argue with the Police as the Police ought to be treated with respect. Besides, some cases of police brutality are as a result of intoxication so you must be careful not to start an argument that may ginger a shoot out.

Don’t argue/insist on your rights when you are facing an armed police. Leave the job of arguing those rights to your lawyer because human rights are meaningful only when a man is alive.

In the event that you are arrested, don’t be pressurised into answering any question, only insist on your right to remain silent until after consultation with your lawyer or any other person of your choice. Simply say I wish to remain silent until I consult with my lawyer.

A police may lawfully shoot in reasonable circumstances where a person resists lawful arrest, so, don’t run, or resist arrest when a police approaches or halts you.

It is lawful for police to use force in appropriate/ reasonable situations to suppress riot, insurrection, or mutiny, so, don’t be involved in riot, insurrection, or mutiny, and avoid any environment where either is ongoing.


Do put your hands up when a police instructs you to do so. Explanations can be saved for later, and an attempt to bring out your identification card or anything at that may make the police fire a shot.

Do notify the police of your willingness to assist when invited for interrogation, only make sure that you take your lawyer along to the Police Station when invited.

If you are stopped for questioning, do answer introductory questions only, be polite but firm in your response. Where a search is to be conducted on your car, insist on opening any portion that is to be searched, and personally supervise the search. Where a search is to be conducted on your body, try hard to make sure that a neutral person is available to witness the search.

Being at the police station may make you get panicky and whatever you say may be used against you in the court of law, do exercise your right to remain silent and the right to speak with a lawyer before you involve yourself in any conversation (written or oral). Simply let the police know that you wish to see your lawyer first before saying or writing anything.

You may have started dealing with the police in an uncalculated manner, or you may be at the verge of dealing with the police, your safest bet is to consult your lawyer immediately, so, do consult your lawyer without any delay.

* EYITAYO OGUNYEMI is an Associate at Falana & Falana’s Chambers. He is the initiator of “The People’s Parliament”- a forum committed to imparting the society with the knowledge of their constitutional rights and duties. Eyitayo is passionate about instilling legal knowledge in the masses and is a core Advocate for a knowledge based economy. Questions may be addressed to +234-806-0623-454 or


Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Rights and Duties of Tenants Under the Lagos State Tenancy Law


The Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011 was introduced to regulate the relationship and in particular, the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords under Tenancy Agreements, and the process for the recovery of premises and other related purposes. 

General Comments and Limitations of the Law:

While most of the provisions of the law are laudable, readers must bear in mind that the Law does not apply to certain types of premises. The premises exempted are: residential premises owned or managed by an educational institution for its staff and students, residential premises provided for emergency shelter, residential premises in a care or hospice facility; in a public or private hospital or a mental health facility; and/or one that is made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment, and the law is also not applicable in the following areas of the State; Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island 

Rights of a Tenant:

By reason of the law, every tenant under a lease agreement is entitled to privacy, freedom from unreasonable disturbance, right to possess the leased premises exclusively, and right to use the common areas of the building for reasonable and lawful purposes.

Where the leased premises is a business premises, the tenant, his customers and clients have a right of access to the premises, and also have a right not to be unduly hindered by any disruption which may affect the tenant and lead to loss of profits. As for the landlord, he has a reciprocal duty to make sure that he does not do that which will result in loss of profit by the tenant (whether by way of an action or inaction). 

By reason of the Law, all tenants are entitled to receive an evidence of payment for rent; the least form of acknowledgement that a landlord must present to the tenant is a rent payment receipt, but it is advisable that a tenancy agreement is prepared to regulate the tenancy relationship.

A tenant that seeks the permission of the landlord to carry out structural improvement on the premises is entitled to a refund by the landlord, and this right is only protectable if and only if he secured the prior approval of the landlord in writing before carrying out the improvements on the premises. Where the premises is used for business, the tenant may carry out repairs after giving notice in writing to the landlord requiring him to rectify, repair, or maintain the exterior or common parts of the building and the landlord failed to respond within a reasonable time.

Finally, a tenant that is billed service charge, facility, and/or security deposits (monies under this heading includes electricity bill, waste/refuse bill, water charges, security charges etc) in addition to rent is entitled to a separate receipt for the money paid under those headings and is also entitled to a written account at least every 6 (six) months from the landlord of how the monies paid were spent.

Duties of a Tenant:

Tenants have obligations and duties which they must adhere to under the law, these obligations and duties include the payment of rents at appropriate time, payment of existing and future rates and charges as agreed with the landlord (other than the ones which the law compulsorily imposes on the landlord), duty to keep the premises in a good and tenantable condition (except situations of reasonable wear and tear), duty to permit the landlord and his agents during the tenancy at all reasonable hours of the day time after previous notice in writing, to view the condition of the premises and to carry out repairs in necessary parts of the building, duty not to alter or add to the premises without the written consent of the landlord, duty not to assign or sub-let any part of the premises to another person without the written consent of the landlord, and duty to notify the landlord where structural or substantial damage has occurred to any part of the premises as soon as practicable.

Duty to pay rent as at when due also includes the duty to pay rent for the period stated in a notice to quit. Therefore, if a landlord (acting directly or through his/her agent) gives a notice to a tenant to quit an apartment within 6 months, those 6 months ought to be paid for by the tenant, except if the landlord decides to waive payment. 

One of the things that the law seeks to prohibit is the payment of rent in excess of one (1) year by a tenant that pays rent for duration other than monthly, and six months for a tenant that pays monthly rent. As a matter of compulsion, tenants have a duty not to offer or pay rent in excess of one year in respect of any premises otherwise may risk being liable to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira or three months imprisonment. 

Words of Advice to Tenants:

While I have carefully outlined the rights and obligations/duties of tenants above, tenants must note that other than in situations where the law imposes a duty on the tenant, or a situation where a duty is imposed on either of the tenant or the landlord by reason of another law, either of the landlord or tenant may legally contract any of his/her duties to the other party. For instance, a tenant may enter an agreement to alter the structure of the premises to suit his taste without having to first seek for the written consent of his landlord.   

One area of the law which is often ignored in practice is the aspect dealing with who ought to be responsible for paying for the services rendered by a professional in respect of the Tenancy Agreement. The law imposes this duty on the party who engages the services of the professional, and since it is the landlord that engages the services of a lawyer to draft Tenancy Agreement in most cases, he also has a legal obligation to pay the professional fee of the lawyer.

Unfortunately, the law says little or nothing about how a tenant can enforce his rights against a landlord; it is therefore advisable that the tenant should insist on having a Tenancy Agreement to define the scope of his rights and ways to enforce those rights where the landlord defaults. 

Other tips that a tenant can explore in the event that a landlord has defaulted in his duties include the following: The tenant may opt to draw the attention of the landlord to the rights he (the tenant) is being denied of, he may decide to report the matter at the nearest Lagos State Citizens Mediation Centre, or he may decide to institute a legal action against the landlord, but the best option will be to consult a competent lawyer for proper advice.


This article may be shared freely without having to plagiarise the content. It is prepared for information purposes only and is not in any way to be substituted for a legal advice. Questions may be directed to (08060623454) or asked directly in the comment box below.


The Rights and Duties of Landlords Under the Lagos State Tenancy Law.


The Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011 was introduced to regulate the relationship and in particular, the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords under Tenancy Agreements, and the process for the recovery of premises and other related purposes. 

General Comments and Limitations of the Law:

While most of the provisions of the law are laudable, readers must bear in mind that the Law does not apply to certain types of premises. The premises exempted are: residential premises owned or managed by an educational institution for its staff and students, residential premises provided for emergency shelter, residential premises in a care or hospice facility; in a public or private hospital or a mental health facility; and/or one that is made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment, and the law is also not applicable in the following areas of the State; Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island 

Even though the law moderates certain discretions that landlords may ordinarily exercise (e.g. the provision that limits rent payable to a year), it is very explicit in guiding landlords not only as to their rights and duties, but also on how to enforce those rights.

Duties of a Landlord:

Landlords have a duty to issue rent payment receipt to their tenants, it is however better to prepare a written agreement which can also serve the function of a receipt for the rent paid by the tenant. 

Landlords also have a duty not to receive rent in excess of one (1) year from a tenant that pays rent yearly, and six months for a tenant that pays his rent monthly. Where the tenant is a new tenant, the landlord may receive rent to cover a year, but not in excess of a year. The consequence of collecting rent in excess of what the law prescribes is that the landlord (including his agent) may upon being found guilty by the court be liable to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira or to three months imprisonment.

The landlord has a duty not to disturb his tenant’s privacy, and exclusive possession of the leased premises. He must not cause any form of unreasonable disturbance to his tenants, seize any item or property that belongs to the tenant, interfere with the tenant’s access to the rented premises, terminate, or restrict the use of facilities or services that are provided in common to all occupiers. Furthermore, the landlord has a duty to pay all rates and charges as stipulated in any law, he ought to insure the premises against any loss or damages, and also repair and maintain the external and common parts of the premises.

Where a landlord opts to collect service charge, facility, and security deposit from his tenant, the landlord will have a duty to issue a separate receipt to the tenant for the payments received, and he must always give a written account to the tenant at least every six (6) months of how monies paid by tenants were disbursed.    

Where the premises is a business premises, the landlord has a mandatory obligation to make sure that he does not do that which will result in loss of profit to the tenant (whether by way of an action or inaction). In particular, the landlord must not obstruct his tenant’s access and that of the tenant’s clients, and customers to the premises, he must put in reasonable efforts to prevent or remove any disruption to the property which is capable of resulting in loss of profit to the tenant, he must rectify within the shortest possible time any breakdown of plant or equipment under his care and maintenance, and he must also maintain or repaint the exterior of the common parts of the building (s). Any landlord reading this must be reminded that the landlord’s duties in respect of a business society are mandatory and cannot be moderated by Tenancy Agreement.      

Rights of a Landlord:

The rights of the landlord includes the right to receive rents from the tenant as at when due, and a restricted right to inspect the premises after a written notice has been given to that effect notifying the tenant about the proposed inspection. The inspection may be carried out at any reasonable hour of the day time only, and can be carried out for limited purposes including; to view the condition of the premises, and to carry out repairs in necessary parts of the building. 

In the event that the tenant does not observe any of his duties or obligations, the landlord has a right to engage a lawyer to institute court action to end the tenancy and repossess the premises. Before a landlord can do this, he must be sure that there is no portion of the Agreement or law stating otherwise, and that necessary notices have been given to the tenant to leave the premises and he has refused. 

Where a landlord exercises his right to go to court, he may ask the court to order the tenant to pay him rent that are unpaid but which have become ripe/due for payment prior to commencing the action in court, and he can further claim the value of rent for the premises per day until the tenant leaves the premises. 

Words of Advice to Landlords:

The popular notion is that where a tenant renews his rent yearly, he will be entitled to six months notice before he can be ejected, but this notion is only true where a landlord fails to prepare a written agreement to regulate the length of notice that he desires to give the tenant. In order words, the length of notice will be regulated by the law in the absence of an agreement stating otherwise.

The benefit of preparing a written agreement in a tenancy relationship cannot be overstated. From my years of experience in managing properties and facilities, I have discovered that the first duty of every landlord is to make sure that his tenants have written agreements to guide his relationship with the tenants. This is essential because the law allows the landlord and tenant by way of a tenancy agreement to regulate their relationship in the areas of each person’s obligations, and length of notice to terminate the tenancy relationship. A landlord that therefore wishes to safe himself some headaches may choose to regulate a substantial part of the tenancy relationship by way of an Agreement and the best way to do this is to consult a competent lawyer for proper guidance.


This article may be shared freely without having to plagiarise the content. It is prepared for information purposes only and is not in any way to be substituted for a legal advice. Questions may be directed to (+234-806-0623-454) or asked directly in the comment box below.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

"The Welfare of African Women"- The True Test of Liberation For All Women

It has been said over and again that "women work two-thirds of all working hours and produce half of the world’s food, but earn only 10% of global income”, this assertion represents the true position in Africa than in any other part of the continent.

Contrary to the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations which emphasises the determination of the United Nations to reaffirm faith in “…. the equal rights of men and women”, African women and girls face multifarious challenges among which are limited access to education, job scarcity, discrimination at work place, physical assault including sexual assaults, rape, sexual abuse of children, and child marriage and pregnancy. It is therefore not surprising that African Union made a strong call at its latest summit, held in January, for the integration of African women in societies as part of 2063 goals.

Nigeria does not have a comprehensive data on cases of abuse of women and domestic violence because of the silence of victims in most cases. They prefer to stay silent because of societal stigma, and the consequences that publicity may cause to their career and family. Women assault is also common among married women and ability to remain silent in the face of assault is considered as one of the hallmarks of humility in marriage.

I went to this length in unravelling the plights of women and girls in Africa so that as the world celebrates womanhood today, a reminder may be sent to the women society reminding her that the world must have a cursory look at the welfare of women in the 21st century Africa because the WELFARE of African women (being the most marginalised) speaks volume of the welfare of women across the globe.

In a recent Google+ pool coordinated by James Novak; Arizona Criminal Defence Attorney and one of the co-owners of Plus Attorneys and Friends Community, majority of the voters shared their sentiments on why they think that death penalty should be abolished, majority of those who voted in support of death penalty placed particular emphasis on it with regard to offences that has to do with rape.

While I reflected on this, I had cause to consider the abduction of the Chibok girls in Borno, Nigeria, and I allowed my mind to freely think over whether it was not best that a terrorist who has masterminded possible sexual abuse of young girls be prosecuted for crime against humanity? The abduction of the Chibok girls remain the most grievous injury to the celebration of womanhood in the 21st century Nigeria, and nobody knows if those girls will come back as women or the girls that they were when they were kidnapped!

The above narrative represents some of the dilemmas faced by women in Africa, but in the face of it all, I cannot but agree with Annie Lennox that the essential goals of feminism should be the attainment of a world where every female can actually realise her right to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions, and to equal pay for equal work.

.... To be continued.

*Eyitayo Ogunyemi is an Associate at Falana & Falana's Chambers. He is the Initiator of "The People's Parliament"- a forum committed to imparting the society with the knowledge of their constitutional rights and duties. Eyitayo is passionate about instilling legal knowledge in the masses and is a core advocate for a knowledge based Economy.  Questions may be directed to (+234-806-0623-454) or asked directly in the comment box below.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

An Oath to Defend

On Sunday, 18th January, 2015, a motorcyclist was caught by an angry mob in Gboko, Benue State and accused of theft. He was beaten, stripped naked, & compelled to ride around the town on the allegedly stolen bike, he could have been lynched by the angry mob but for the timely intervention of the police who came to his rescue and took him to their office. 

Unlike the above experience, it is not every victim that lives to share his encounter with lynch mob. Take for an instance the pathetic story of the four (4) students of the University of Port Harcourt in Omukini Aluu area of Rivers State, they had been accused of robbery and were lynched by a mob which passed instant judgment which they deemed appropriate for the offence and chose to also be the executioners.
This instance is just one among many occurrences where the victims died without being given the opportunity to be heard.

In some other cases, a lynch target may be able to find his way to the court, but since he is a societal outcast who is being tried for some heinous or treasonous offences, he may struggle hard to get a seasoned Criminal Law Expert, and even when he eventually finds one, the society wonders if their trust has not been betrayed by the lawyer who they think is after his pocket than the common interest of the society in fighting against the one who has been adjudged as an outcast in the people’s court of moral conscience. 

Why do lawyers defend the despicable? Why do we risk our life, family, and everything else to pitch our tent with persons that have been accused of one offence or the other? We represent them because of our subscription to the view that “criminal law [ought to be] built on the principle that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than for one innocent person to suffer unjustly”, we represent them because we believe that in a constitutional democracy, every Accused person ought to have the benefit of a day in court. This is a necessary evil for most of us; not because (or until) we believe in the innocence of the one we are representing, but because, we have a duty to defend even the most despicable of men. This duty is best captured in the words of my distant colleague; Adam Stone, a Criminal Defence Attorney in Ohio, U.S.A. in his famous article titled  WE ALWAYS DEFEND, where he stated thus:

“… In the end, there is nothing more sexy or lucrative about defending those accused of crimes. It is a passion. It is an obsession. It is the recognition that we have a duty under the Constitution to work harder and longer to give our clients a fighting chance against the heavy hand and unlimited resources of the State.”

He then moved on to compare the insurmountable task of the Criminal Defence Lawyer with the Old Testament story of Moses as he neared Mount Horeb to have a glance at the bush that was burning but not consumed. He concluded most brilliantly this way:

"It is the same for the true criminal defence lawyer. We have enlisted in the fight for the duration. We cannot turn back. We are given to stand on behalf of those who cannot stand for themselves, and we fight upon the lines that we have drawn, defending to our last breath for the place whereon [we] stand- a court of law- is our holiest ground”

Assisting a person charged with criminal allegations to journey through the rough edges of the law could sometimes be a very lonely ride; gathering facts and details to buttress the innocence of the Accused, candles lit at night and head buried in research, meals missed, and family abandoned; the more we push into it, the more we feel so involved in the whole event, and while we do not lose sight of our duty to assist the court to dispense justice, we are mindful of the need to defend the rights of the Accused to fair hearing, public trial, presumption of innocence, and right to a competent Counsel (without which the potential for overreach by the Government will be great). Another distant colleague James Novak an Arizona DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyer who I have benefited immensely from narrates the importance of the protection of the rights of an Accused this way:

"Without the order of laws and the rights of an Accused, we would turn back the clock hundreds of years in our advancements in human, civil, and criminal rights. We would be a society of lynch mobs where innocent people would face horrific executions at the hands of the prejudice and corrupt… The criminal courts must [therefore] allow for a level playing field where both sides have the right to present evidence, and where the Accused has a right to confront their Accuser and allow a Legal Advocate to be their voice and defend their charges” 

I sometimes wonder if our work is not a replica of what our Lord Jesus does in the Heavens; for far be it from the best of us to turn down a case because we believe in the guilt of the Accused person. Even if or where the guilt of the Accused is sufficiently proven, the hallmark of a seasoned Criminal Defence Lawyer is the ability to enter into the hallowed walls of the courtroom to plead the cause of the Accused within the bounds of acceptable practices by way of advocacy of persuasion and the instrument of Allocutus so that the ends of justice does not become an eye for an eye (or even two), but rehabilitation; which is the hallmark of a democratic society

The Supreme Court has held in the case of Military Governor of Imo State & Another v Chief Nwauwa [1997] 2 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 490) 695 at 706 that “where a person is accused of criminal offence, he must only be tried by a court of law established under the constitution where the complaints of his prosecutors can be ventilated in public in accordance with the law, and where his constitutional right of fair hearing would be assured.” When a person commits an act or inaction which necessitates public sanction (even when he is caught in the act), it may be strange to advocate that he is not guilty until proven guilty. Even in strict liability offences, a court of law ought first to declare the guilt of an alleged offender and then impose fine. 

In most cases, people’s sentences of guilt on apprehensible persons are motivated by the “act” or “inaction” which is repulsive, hardly is the “intent” which is in other words called “guilty mind” weighed. What the court does is to leverage its force and power to scrutinize the guilt or otherwise of an Accused person.
In the light of the foregoing, here is an issue which may stimulate questions in the heart of every reader: In Nigeria, it is a common practice for road warders to create traffic offences, define the offences, and implement those offences thereby resorting to “executive promiscuity” by acting as the law maker, executor, and interpreter. Other than to issue notice of offence, does doing otherwise not amount to a subtle jungle justice?      

*Eyitayo Ogunyemi is an Associate at Falana & Falana's Chambers. He is the initiator of "The People's Parliament"- a forum committed to imparting the society with the knowledge of their constitutional rights and duties. Eyitayo is passionate about instilling legal knowledge in the masses and is a core advocate for a knowledge based economy.  Questions may be directed to (+234-806-0623-454) or asked directly in the comment box below.