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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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.

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.

photo credit- Premier News

“A PEOPLE AT RISK: COVID 19 IN NIGERIA’S CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES”

Photo credit – Human Rights Watch

It was reported on 31st March, 2020 that inmates of the Kaduna custodial center attempted a jail break due to fears that COVID -19 was in in their facility. This particular center has a holding capacity of 540 but currently holds 1200 – 1400 inmates at an average. Social distancing or self-isolation in an overcrowded environment is impossible as it is also the case in other custodial centers across the country.  Reports further stated that in other to curb the unrest, arms where fired at inmates which led to injury of two. This is a flagrant human rights violation that could have been avoided if the government has been more proactive.

We are fighting a common enemy of which only few nations of the world are exempted for now.  In other to completely combat the coronavirus, protection of the lives of vulnerable populations must be prioritized. The unsanitary conditions of our congested facilities, the non-existence of health care and the absence of specialized hands in prison would lead to fatal consequences. Faith based organizations, NGOS and individuals who support the welfare of inmates have been restricted from visits and major cities are on lockdown. This means malnutrition among inmates would be at an increase making them less immune to the virus infection.

 Furthermore, the risk of the virus been brought into the centers by staff who are daily commuting from the prisons to their communities is as high as a staff contracting it and spreading it in their communities especially as correctional staff offer essential services and  thus are not affected by any lockdown. Eventually, we would all suffer the consequences of a further delay in decongestion.

We hereby urge the presidency and the governors of all states to leverage on their powers under S.175 of the 1999 Constitution to decongest our prisons now. We recommend that the following set of inmates be released as releasing them would not lead to a surge in criminal activity or fuel social unrest at this time.Inmates over the age of 65 who have served at least one-third of their sentence. 

  1. Inmates over the age of 55 with underlying health conditions.
  2. Minor offenders with a sentence of less than three years.
  3. Minor offenders serving terms with an option of fine.
  4. All pregnant women awaiting trial should be granted bail with conditions that will ensure their attendance at trial when court sessions resumes.

We further recommend that part of the funds donated towards combating the COVID-19 should be directed towards the swift implementation of these measures and the measures spelled out in the Nigerian Correctional Service Strategic Preparedness Plan.

These measures could spare thousands of hospitalizations, relieve pressure on our nation’s already strained health system and, most importantly, save lives. The cost of decongestion far outweighs the cost of a jail break or a COVID-19 Outbreak. We urge the government to recognize the urgency at hand and take immediate action.

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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.

Everybody is born free and equal.

30 DAYS OF HOPE CAMPAIGN

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“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” 

Nelson Mandela

Hi guys,

Many people have reached out to us asking how they can be part of the great work we are doing albeit remotely.

Today we  introduce an opportunity for everyone to be part of the work we do through the 30 days of hope campaign which  raises awareness about the plight of people living behind bars across various correctional facilities in Nigeria. We would also use this period to inform the public about  relevant innovations in the newly enacted Corrections Act 2019.

To participate, share with us a short story about a time when you visited a correctional facility in  Nigeria or your perception  about correctional facilities in Nigeria generally.

Send your story with your name and picture to letstalk@hopebehindbarsafrica.org or via whatsapp to Yemisi-08160018800.

Together we will shine the light in the darkest places.

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