Articles

Legend Golden Care Foundation (LGCF) Demands Alternative Sentencing Options for Prison Congestion, Commends House of Representatives for Prison Decongestion Efforts

Legend Golden Care Foundation (LGCF) extends its appreciation to the House of Representatives for their recent initiatives aimed at decongesting and overhauling the 244 correctional centres across Nigeria.   Mrs Kanayo Olisa-Metuh, the Executive Director of LGCF, expressed her satisfaction with the lawmakers’ actions, describing them as a step in the right direction. She emphasized that the House’s endeavours are in line with LGCF’s unwavering campaigns for prison decongestion, including the adoption of non-custodial and alternative sentencing options, especially for minor cases.   She commended the House of Representatives for heeding the advocacies and campaigns by organizations like LGCF, acknowledging their commitment as partners in enhancing the administration of criminal justice and the well-being of inmates in Nigerian prisons. She specifically praised the Chairman of the House Committee on Reformatory Institutions, Hon. Chinedu Ogah, for being an ardent partner in conveying the support of the House of Representatives.   LGCF is encouraged by the proactive steps taken by the House of Representatives to address prison congestion and appreciates the valuable recommendations put forward during the session. We urge the House to ensure the implementation of these recommendations by relevant government agencies.   Furthermore, LGCF emphasizes the necessity of increased funding in legal aid programs to ensure that all accused individuals have access to quality legal representation while recommending the implementation of alternative sentencing options, effective documentation, and monitoring to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in correctional centres.   In addition to these measures, LGCF calls for the accelerated implementation of policies that enhance parole and probation systems, as well as restorative justice practices that focus on rehabilitation and community healing.   Legend Golden Care Foundation earnestly urges the government to prioritize investment in comprehensive rehabilitation and reentry programs. Insufficient resources in this area not only hinder the successful reintegration of individuals into society after their release from prison but also significantly increase the risk of recidivism.

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Mohbad’s case mates

By Mrs. Kanayo Olisa-Metuh  The news of Mohbad’s demise hit Ikemefuna Okafor hard, when it filtered into prison. He was a fan, had fashioned his rapping around Mohbad’s easy-flow style. They were both the same age, a mere 27. Ikem grieved at the icon’s death, but also, his own. For, in his mind, Ikem too was dead.  Four years to the day, Ikem had been picked up by a SARS patrol near the studio. His was the stock look of his trade – ripped jeans, dreadlocks and tattoos. Explanation fell on deaf ears, the beating increasing the more he tried. He was a suspect. For what exactly, no one said. Until he met his “case mates”, two months later, on his first day out of that stinking police cell, in court. The case mate system – that astonishing phenomenon of our criminal justice administration. Complete strangers, randomly and separately arrested in far-flung places, charged together for an offence that never occurred. The reason? To clear space in police cells for new detainees. Once charged to court, detainees now “accused persons” – are moved on to prison, to the torture chamber called awaiting trial facilities. Robbery was the case they gave Ikem, with two other unfortunates, his case mates. An only child of a single-mother hawker, Ikem had no one to bail him. Emaciated, wracked by disease, body covered in rashes and sores oozing pus, he currently looks something from the “feem” Resident Evil. Long gone are the dreads, replaced by suppurating blisters on a prematurely bald scalp. The melodious voice? Distant memory too. Ikem only croaks now. Apart from that one day in court, Ikem has never left prison in four years. Longer residents of the Awaiting Trial (Male) cell told him that it was common, that his case file, if there ever was one, is probably, nay certainly, lost. Like theirs. At first, Ikem prayed for salvation. But the longer the days from his arrest, the less he did. Eventually, he stopped. The mental and physical torture, the suffering, pain, and anguish were just too much. He is convinced he’s been cursed. Perhaps a generational curse. Because what else can make people be this wicked to a fellow human being? Ikem and thousands like him, and their case mates, are still in a Nigerian prison near you, right now, this very moment, suffering indescribably. As of this year, out of 74,872 inmates in Nigerian prisons, only 22,933, less than one-third, are convicted prisoners. And 51,939 are awaiting trial. And by law, they are all presumed innocent. Until you see prison conditions in Nigeria, you will probably not know what real suffering is. And when you see the ATM cell in most prisons, you will wonder how much worse hell can get. Nigerian prisons, now re-baptised “correctional centres”, are emblematic of our greatest failings as a nation and people. They are a testament to our uniform inability, whatever the tribe, tongue or creed, to care about problems that afflict the masses, talk less of solving them. As you “feel among” today by fulminating on Instagram, albeit rightly, over Mohbad’s untimely death, spare a thought for his innocent Nigerian “case mates”, wishing for death as a release from the Nigerian correctional facility. Like Ikemefuna Okafor, erstwhile rapper, and fine boy, to whom Nigeria happened in the worst possible kind of way. Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction; Ikemefuna Okafor and the events are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or actual events is purely coincidental.

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The Merchant of Prison

Musa, a creature of habit, had a daily routine: morning prayers, a walk around his farm, bath in the stream `then breakfast with his wife, Fauziya. Breakfast was always the same -kosai and burkutu but since Fauziya found out she was pregnant, she substituted burkutu for fura da nono. Musa grandly called himself “mai sayar da kaya abinci” – food merchant- but in reality, he was a petty trader. He grew ginger and made a fairly decent living from it but the harvest was poor this year as he had a bad maggot infestation that left him with more shrivelled ginger than he knew what to do with. Fauziya’s kosai and burkutu were always excellent; She had offered multiple times to start monetizing her skills but Musa was too proud to accept that he needed help and least of all from his wife. Aminu, their neighbor had suggested that in Kano, Musa’s ginger could fetch him four times the price it did at his local market. Not familiar with big cities nor their markets, he initially declined but this morning with the realization that money was running dangerously low, he had a brain wave- ‘Zan iya yi’ (I can do it) he said to himself. He set off from the Kawo park for the ride to Mallam Kato square, a three-hour drive. His dire situation had ignited something in him and he wondered why he hadn’t done this earlier. His confidence however dissipated when he got to the market. It was much bigger than anything he had seen or imagined but he quickly overcame his initial fear and did exactly as Aminu had told him; negotiated space in a busy store in return for part of his earnings. That done, Musa settled into the business of the day and then he got his second shocker; things were much cheaper in Kano than they were in Kaduna and the fact that his produce wasn’t in the best condition meant he was offered even less. He had used the last bits of his savings to pay for transportation and didn’t even have enough to pay for the trip back home. His host, on the other hand, was having a good day and just as he went into the inner room to pray, Musa with yet another brain wave decided to help himself to a few thousand in the full glare of the concealed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. “Barawo” (thief) rent the air and everything else was a blur. He was taken to Sabon Gari market police station and bail was set at N20,000. Not being able to pay, he was charged to the Magistrates’ Court. This was the year 2016 and Musa is still awaiting trial in the Kurmawa correctional facility. Fauziya, still a housewife, is caring for the son she had for Musa and the daughters she has had since marrying Aminu. Musa is a victim of a criminal justice system that is punitive instead of restorative. Bail is free as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but that, more than often, only exists in the constitution and sadly, the victims are usually the under served in the society. The Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 section 37(1) recognizes non-custodial sentences as an option for misdemeanours. As a first-time offender of a non-violent crime, who is unlikely to re-offend, this option should have been adopted particularly since the money was recovered immediately. The maximum sentence for petty theft is three years. It has been seven years and counting. Musa will never get justice.   Mrs. Kanayo Olisa-Metuh Executive Director, Legend Golden Care Foundation   Disclaimer – This is a work of fiction with all the characters and events fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or actual events is purely coincidental.

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Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria: A Grave Crisis That Demands Urgent Attention

Gender-Based Violence Pandemic in Nigeria. According to the daily post, about 111 cases of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) were recorded only in the second quarter of 2023, specifically between April and June in Lagos State alone. Police Command, through its spokesman, Benjamin Hundeyin, revealed.  The prevalence of Gender-based violence (GBV) among tertiary institutions in Abuja, was found to be high, with 61.9% for physical abuse, 56.4% for psychological abuse, and 25.3% for sexual abuse. According to facts given by the United Nations (UN)  Globally, 6 per cent of women report that they have been subjected to sexual violence from someone other than their husband or partner. However, the true prevalence of non-partner sexual violence is likely to be much higher, considering the stigma related to this form of violence.  Fifteen million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) by a current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend. Based on data from 30 countries, only 1 per cent have ever sought professional help. Gender-Based violence refers to any act of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological violence directed at an individual because of their gender. It encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM), and child marriage, among others. GBV is deeply rooted in gender inequality, patriarchal norms, and societal tolerance of violence against women and girls. Gender-based violence (GBV) is a global issue that transcends borders, cultures, and socio-economic statuses. In Nigeria, this pervasive problem continues to inflict immense suffering on women and girls, eroding their rights and causing long-lasting physical and  psychological scars. This article delves into the pressing issue of GBV in Nigeria, exploring its root causes, consequences, and highlighting notable events that have shed light on the urgency of addressing this crisis. Root Causes of GBV in Nigeria Cultural Norms: Nigeria’s diverse culture and traditions have, in some cases, perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes that legitimize violence against women. Harmful practices like Female genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage are deeply entrenched in certain communities. Socioeconomic Factors: Poverty, lack of education, and economic disparities contribute to the prevalence of GBV. Women who lack economic independence are often more vulnerable to abuse as they may have limited options for escaping abusive situations. Weak Legal Framework: Nigeria has laws in place to address GBV, such as the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, but enforcement is often weak, and perpetrators frequently go unpunished. This lack of accountability perpetuates a culture of impunity. Examples of Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria Chibok Girls Abduction (2014): The abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok by the extremist group Boko Haram brought international attention to GBV in Nigeria. Many of these girls were subjected to sexual violence and forced marriages, highlighting the vulnerability of girls in conflict zones. Domestic Violence: Domestic violence is widespread in Nigeria, with numerous cases going unreported. The case of Ronke Shonde, who was allegedly killed by her husband in Lagos in 2016, garnered significant media attention, illustrating the deadly consequences of domestic abuse. Human Trafficking: Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. Women and girls are often lured into trafficking with promises of employment or education, only to be subjected to sexual exploitation and forced labor. Consequences of GBV The consequences of GBV are profound and far-reaching. Victims often suffer physical injuries, trauma, and long-term emotional distress. GBV also hinders women’s participation in the workforce, perpetuates poverty, and undermines social cohesion. Children who witness violence in their homes are more likely to become perpetrators or victims of violence in the future, perpetuating the cycle. Addressing GBV in Nigeria requires a multi-faceted approach: Legal Reforms: Strengthening the legal framework and ensuring the enforcement of existing laws is crucial. This includes holding perpetrators accountable and providing protection and support to survivors. Education and Awareness: Promoting gender equality through education and awareness campaigns can challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes. Schools, communities, and the media can play a significant role in this effort. Support Services: Establishing comprehensive support services for survivors, including counseling, shelters, and medical care, is essential to aid their recovery and empower them to seek justice. Economic Empowerment: Providing economic opportunities and financial independence to women can reduce their vulnerability to GBV. Conclusion Gender-based violence is a grave crisis in Nigeria that continues to inflict suffering on countless women and girls. While some progress has been made, much work remains to be done to eradicate this deeply rooted problem. It is imperative that Nigeria, with the support of the international community, takes concrete steps to address the root causes of GBV, strengthen legal protections, and create a culture where violence against women and girls is not tolerated. Only then can Nigeria truly achieve gender equality and protect the rights and dignity of all its citizens.   REFERENCES Facts and figures: Ending violence against women  (no date) UN Women – Headquarters. Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures.  Sunday, I. (2023) Gender based violence: Stakeholders worry over rising cases, demand stiff measures, Daily Post Nigeria. Available at: https://dailypost.ng/2023/09/23/gender-based-violence-stakeholders-worry-over-rising-cases-demand-stiff-measures/.  Unesdoc.unesco.org. Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000366771. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8739597/. Nigeria Chibok abductions: What we know (2017) BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32299943,  Nigerian women say ‘no’ to gender-based violence | Africa Renewal United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/news/nigerian-women-say-%E2%80%98no%E2%80%99-gender-based-violence. Sabri, B. and Granger, D.A. (2018) Gender-based violence and trauma in marginalized populations of women: Role of biological embedding and toxic stress, Health care for women international. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6428086/. Violence against women and girls is one of the world’s most prevalent human rights violations, taking place every day, many times over, in every corner of the globe. it has serious short- and long-term physical, economic and psychological consequences on women and girls, preventing their full and equal participation in society. (2023) UN Women – Headquarters. Available at: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/faqs/types-of-violence. World Bank Group (2023) Gender-based violence (violence against women and girls), World Bank. Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialsustainability/brief/violence-against-women-and-girls. 

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