Elementor #1964

PROJECT “ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR 400” ENTERS ITS SECOND YEAR

For Immediate Press Release:

November 23,  2021

The “Access to Justice for 400” (formerly Justice for 1000) project was launched in August 2020, through a collaboration initiated by Flemer Project Initiative and Hope Behind Bars Africa, with support from Partners West Africa and the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (Hill).  The project set out to facilitate and seek speedy access to justice for indigent Pre-trial Detainees charged with minor offenses across various Pre-trial Detention Centres in Nigeria.  

At the inception of the project, services of competent, young, and vibrant volunteer lawyers were secured across various States, to provide legal services to indigent persons in correctional centers, under the supervision of their State Team Lead. The project also, employed the use of adequate technological aids to monitor the duration of each matter handled under the “Access to Justice for 400” Project.

While it is not new, that there have been several efforts from the Government, Non-Governmental Organisation and Civil Society Group, to decongest the various Custodial Centres. The World Prison Brief, statistics reports that about 70% of the inmates in Nigeria’s Correctional Centres as of October 2021, are Pre-trial detainees. This reality prompted the initial launching of the “Access to Justice for 400” project, and recently available data signifies the need to sustain the project beyond its initial proposed one-year duration.

The project which was originally planned to take off in Lagos, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and F.C.T, got to a fine start, gaining more grounds in Lagos, Edo, Kano and Abuja. Over 200 indigent pre-trial detainees have been represented since the inception of the project in August 2020, and 154 number of cases have been completed with the percentage of female to male being 1 to 9. 

According to Ms. Beatrice Oserime, (the Head, Legal Team of Flemer Project Initiative), “the project objective was to have 400 inmates represented within a year, but judicial activities in Nigeria have been marred with a myriad of challenges, such as the covid 19 restrictions to gain access to correctional facilities, unfortunate destruction of Court buildings, and the disruption of Court sittings by hoodlums during the #EndSars protests  in October, stalling several cases across some cities where the project was on-going”. She also stated that the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) strike, which led to the closure of various courts in Nigeria for a period of about 3 months, also resulted in delay in attending to pending cases.

Emmanuel Okorie, (the Coordinator of Access to Justice project for Hope Behind Bars Africa in Edo State), stated that during the course of the project, several cases were referred to the project office in Edo State by several Magistrates’ upon realization of the impact of Hope Behind Bars efforts at decongesting the Edo State Correctional Facilities. A total 78 (seventy-eight) cases have been concluded within the state and some pending, before the unfortunate incidence of the jail break reported in the Edo State Correctional facilities, which in turn slowed down the progress of these pending cases. 

The Executive Director of Hope Behind Bars Africa, Ms. Funke Adeoye, stated that most of the cases, handled by volunteers’ lawyers in the project, had no business in the criminal justice system. She decried the frequent interference in civil cases by the Nigerian Police despite rebukes by the courts, and clear provisions of the law. According to her, “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015 excludes the Nigeria Police from civil disputes. Section 8(2) of the Act states that a suspect shall not be arrested merely on a civil wrong or breach of contract but this is not the case in reality. Ms. Adeoye also, decried situations where persons with mental health challenges were sent to Prison for offences like loitering when all they needed was medical care.

The project which is exclusively designed to benefit marginalised inmates charged with minor offences is now entering its second year. The various organisations involved will be deepening the work in Kano, FCT and Nasarawa. We therefore urge all stakeholders in the Nigeria Criminal Justice system to utilize the opportunities presented by “Access to Justice for 400” project to ensure speedy access to justice for indigent pre-trial detainees.

END

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WOMEN BEHIND BARS ENGAGED BY THE EMBASSY OF GERMANY FOR THE PRODUCTION OF FACE MASKS

WOMEN BEHIND BARS ENGAGED BY THE EMBASSY OF GERMANY FOR THE PRODUCTION OF FACE MASKS.

It is often said that treasures are found in the darkest places. Such is the case with the incarcerated women of Suleja Custodial Center (Prison) who despite their incarcerated state have found a way to be a beacon of hope to underserved persons during the pandemic through the Ankara Face Mask Project.

 

As part of our empowerment behind bars project (Made in Corrections), we donated 4 brand new sewing machines and other tailoring equipment to the female ward of Suleja Custodial Center. For 3 weeks we helped to refine the sewing and tailoring skills of the inmates with the approval of the Controller.

 

 

The Ankara Face Mask Project is an initiative of Mrs Briggit Ory the German Ambasador to Nigeria as part of the Embassy’s response to COVID-19 in Nigeria in partnership with  Stewards of the Enviroment for Sustainable Change Initiative. Hope behind Bars Africa served as a field implementation partner in executing the project as 10 incarcerated women were paid the Nigerian Minimum Wage for making 138 face masks each. The face masks were branded, laundered and distributed for free to persons in underserved communities including all the inmates and officers of the prison. In total, 11 communities were reached and 5500 face masks distributed.

SHORT COURSE ON CAPITAL REPRESENTATION FOR LAW CLINIC STUDENTS AND YOUNG LAWYERS

HOPE BEHIND BARS AFRICA ORGANISES SHORT COURSE ON CAPITAL REPRESENTATION FOR LAW CLINIC STUDENTS AND YOUNG LAWYERS

With support from Accountability Lab, Hope behind bars Africa had a successful capacity building training for Law students and young lawyers in the month of July, 2020.

The Capacity building training was a combination of virtual knowledge sharing sessions and on-site trainings, 15 deserving applicants were selected and the virtual sessions were open to interested persons. A total of 75 persons participated and the feedback on the insightfulness of the session were amazing.

Here are the highlights from the training program.

Day 1- We had Kulani Ngobeni from Stellenboch University and Rosemary Ochiwu from Nigerian Law School speak on the role of law students in criminal justice reforms.

Day 2- We had Bamisope Adeyanju a multi-award winning scholar from Columbia University speak on public interest lawyering.

Day 3- We had facilitators from the Cornell University Center on the Death Penalty and other Makwanyane Institute fellows speak on cross border issues relating to the death penalty. We had astute professor Sandra Babcock– Clinical Professor at Cornell, Paulina Lucio Maymon-JD student at American Washington University, Funke Adeoye-Makwanyane fellow and several others.

The feedback was amazing as the applicants opined that they learnt more than they had anticipated for from the sessions.

PRESS RELEASE

1000 INDIGENT PRE-TRIAL DETAINEES IN NIGERIA TO GET FREE LEGAL REPRESENTATION THROUGH NGO PARTNERSHIP

Date: Monday, 17th August 2020 

As of July 2020, 72.7% of incarcerated persons across Nigeria’s Correctional facilities are awaiting trial. This is so despite the decongestion activities occasioned by the pandemic carried out by the Federal government and various state governments within the past 4 months. With the restriction on visits to custodial centers to prevent the coronavirus from getting into Nigeria’s Correctional Facilities, the human rights of several indigent pre-trial detainees are violated as they are been denied access to justice.

Access to Justice for 1000 Pre-trial Detainees summarily called Justice for 1000 is an initiative of Flemer Project Initiative in partnership with Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative which is funded by Partners West Africa and The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (Hill). Flemer Project Initiative is an organization that helps indigent pretrial detainees conclude their matters in court as quickly as possible with the help of young volunteer lawyers, and uses tech to monitor the progress of representation provided by the lawyers. Hope behind Bars Africa is an organization with the mission of being a beacon of hope to the incarcerated using action, education, and advocacy. Both organizations have previously provided free legal representation to over 130 indigent pretrial detainees in Lagos and F.C.T, Abia, Edo, Niger, and Nasarawa state respectively.

The project has the following objectives:

– To facilitate access to justice for indigent pretrial detainees charged with minor offenses by supporting and incentivizing young lawyers who provide legal representation to such persons within the earliest possible time.  

– To work with all relevant stakeholders in the Criminal Justice System towards holistic decongestion of correctional facilities.

– To promote the implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Nigerian Correctional Service Act on provisions that relates to alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice practices in criminal matters.

The project is set to kick start in Lagos, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and F.C.T by August 2020.

END

For further information, kindly contact:  

Flemer Project Initiative                                     Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative

Email: flemerproject@gmail.com                               Email: letstalk@hopebehindbarsafrica.org

Telephone: +234-90338147                                     Telephone: +234-8057872764

Emergency Welfare Intervention for Prison Inmates

The world is currently battling the Corona Virus Pandemic. COVID-19 is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms show up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus. The symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, Diarrhea and Headache. In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death. Also, some patients may not show any such symptoms. Such patients may just be carriers of the virus, and can spread it to others. Diagnosis with only a physical examination may be difficult because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold.

Doubtless the covid19 season is a tough season for everyone. This is even more so for people in confined places like the Nigerian Correctional Facilities where the movement and social distancing is very limited because of space. This is why as is our mandate to reach out to inmates, on 11th May, Hope Behind Bars Africa Initiative with support from LEAP Africa, Citi bank and Dow Chemicals through the COVID19 Emergency Prison Fund took interventions to the prisons.

Our core message centres around protection and prevention of spread through prison decongestion as a means to #zerocovid19inprison. We also sensitised on social distancing, use of face masks, thorough hand washing and a proper hygiene system. We interacted with the prison officers and provided pictorial IEC materials donated by Youth rise Nigeria to enable them properly guide the inmates.

With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the number of usual supports enjoyed by this prisons has greatly dwindled. We therefore supported inmates with palliatives which includes 5 bags of 50kg rice, -2 bags of garri, 1 bag of beans, 3 gallons of red oil, 2 bags of salt (50 pieces each), Half bag of sugar, 1 bag of Kulikuli, 1 and half carton of Milo,1 and half cartoon of Milk 1 cartoon of Maggi, 20 pieces of Minimie Chin Chin, 5 cartons of digestive biscuit, 10 cartoons of Viva detergent, 5 cartons of bathing soap, 12 Mosquito nets, 20 bathing buckets, 20 packs of toilet rolls, 2 and half packs of Sanitary pads, 1 cartoon of Dettol disinfectant, 36 pieces of Vaseline,  3 hand washing drums, 20 Hand sanitizers for officers, 20 face mask for officers to all 228  inmates  and officers of Old Keffi Correctional Facility.

Call For Application

Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative in partnership with Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide invites suitably qualified candidates to apply for its 1st Short Course on Capital Representation for Law Students and Young lawyers scheduled to take place in July 2020.

Introduction

As at May 2020, 72.2% of people in correctional facilities in Nigeria are awaiting trial. Research indicates that indigent pre-trial detainees struggle to access legal representation as few attorneys specialize in criminal defense. Due to systemic failures and lack of resources innocent women and men risk been sentenced to death for offences they never committed. It is our belief that because the death penalty is an irreparable sanction, its imposition should only occur when the defendant is well-represented.

Course Overview

The course encourages its participants to approach death penalty representation strategically beginning from the first meeting with the client in prison. It includes topics that examine the steps involved in interviewing and counseling clients facing capital charges and how to elicit facts for mitigation investigation. Participants will be introduced to how issues of mental health and intellectual disability come to play in their client’s case.  Other presentations include International human rights law and how to approach UN treaty bodies, maximizing the law clinic experience to compete globally and a session that opens participants up to the possibilities in capital representation using the Malawi Capital Resentencing Project as a case study. Beyond the theoretical aspect, interested and selected participants will have the opportunity to learn empirically with the organization’s capital trial project.”

Faculty

The faculty consists of practitioners from  Cornell University Center on Death Penalty Worldwide, the alumni of its Makwanyane Institute and its human rights partners combining both an academic analysis and a practical assessment of different human rights/death penalty situation faced by law clinic students and lawyers around the world.

Eligibility Criteria

Participants need to be :

  • Law students from 300 level to 500 level who have shown interest in pro bono work or are members of a law clinic. OR young lawyers  less than 3 years post call with demonstrable interest in human rights or criminal justice.
  • Be resident in Abuja, Nigeria.                

 *Female students and lawyers are strongly encouraged to apply.

RECENT NEWS

WE SECURE THE RELEASE OF 5 INDIGENT AWAITING TRIAL INMATES!

On the 27th of April, 2020 we secured the release of 5 indigent young men who were inmates of Oko correctional Facility, Benin-city, Edo state. This comes under our Access to Justice Program and specifically Zero COVID 19 in prison decongestion project.

All 5 men had spent more time awaiting trial than the time they would have spent had they been convicted for the various crimes for which they were charged.

For Emmanuel Adan (pseudonym), the main offence he was charged with under S.428 of the criminal code law of Edo carried a fine of N40 but he had spent 5 months in prison already. The other 4 were arrested for wandering and breach of peace since February. An offence which carries a fine of 1 month imprisonment with no option of fine. One of them, had come from Ebonyi to visit a relative when he was arrested.

We wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Edo state Hon. Justice Esther Edigin informing her about 8 of our cases prior to the decongestion exercise and during the exercise, our counsel Emmanuel Okorie who had been representing the defendants advocated for their release. Out of the 8 cases we submitted, 5 were released. This is addition to 8 other inmates released by the CJ. The CJ expressed her appreciation and commended us for partnering with the state to make the decongestion exercise smooth.

We supported the inmates with funds for their logistics and
immence plans have begun for their reintergration back to the society.

Over time, public health emergencies such as the corona virus outbreak poses huge socio-economic burden on individuals, families and nations. Evidence shows that vulnerable populations especially people in shielded environments such as correctional facilities are disproportionately affected in multiple ways.

This is the case for correctional facilities in Nigeria, a country with 70% of its prison population awaiting trial with little or non existent healthcare systems behind bars, congested cells and inmates living in unsanitary conditions.

As an organisation, we are advocating for the decongestion of Nigeria’s custodial centres  as a major step to fighting COVID 19 in prison. In addition, we launched the a COVID 19  ‘Emergency Welfare intervention for Prison Inmates’  This is to supplement the efforts of the government in catering for the prison population. This is of utmost importance at this moment considering that the religious organisations and NGOS who otherwise support the efforts of the government have been banned from prison visits.

We secured approval from the Comptroller of Prisons, Nasarawa state Command CP Felix to pilot the first phase of this project at the Keffi Custodial centre.

We call on the members of the public and organizations to join us as we take relief items to this very vulnerable population.

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Hope behind Bars Africa organizes knowledge sharing session On Death Penalty with Law Clinic Students

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In July 2019, our Executive Director and Senior Counsel, Funke Adeoye, joined 14 other Capital Defense lawyers in common law countries in Africa to be trained by world class capital defense attorneys, practitioners, mental health experts etc on ] best practices in representing  clients  facing the death penalty. The training was organised by Cornell University’s Center on Death Penalty Worldwide’s Makwanyane Institute, an institute named after the celebrated case of S v Makwanyane where capital punishment was abolished in South Africa.

As part of our Death Penalty project at Hope Behind Bars Africa, we organised our first knowledge sharing session for law clinic students of University of Abuja law school.

The aim of the training was to create awareness and introduce issues around death penalty to aspiring advocates and capital defenders as well as to create a forum for further engagement on the topic.

The time spent with the students was engaging and interactive and we look forward to more opportunities to create awareness on this global issue.

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nhrc

Hope Behind Bars Africa Secures the Support of the National Human Rights Commission

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning”
Bill Gates

Today, a delegation of Hope Behind bars Africa led by the Executive Director, Funke Adeoye paid a working visit to the National Human Rights Commission at its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Commision, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, received us alongside Mr. Iheme Richmond, Assistant Director (Investigation and Montitoring) who also  leads the team at the Commission on  Police, Prisons and Other Regulatory Bodies. Also in attendance from Hope Behind Bars Africa were Osarieme Omoruyi, Esher Akhigbe, Nkechi Dim, and Emmanuel Agabi.

After we shared our impact story with him, the Executive Secretary Mr. Tony Ojukwu, expressed his excitement at the sight of young people working passionately on human rights and access to justice issues . He stated that the commission is willing to provide support to Hope behind Bars Africa in all ways possible. He also espoused the need for us to enlarge our capacity for greater impact.

He further stated specific prison related  projects that the commission had carried out with the hope of continuity and urged us to keep up the good work as we sealed the support  of the Commission towards ensuring that Human Rights is entrenched across correctional facilities in  Nigeria, one custodial centre at a time.

For us at the organisation, we believe partnerships are necessary to achieving our goals in line with Sustainable Development Goal 17 which is Partnership for the SDGs and we look forward to sharing ways in which this first visit to the commission would result in us making more impact to our beneficiaries and to the society at large.