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Monday, 9 December 2013


Early today’s morning as I quaffed cups of hot American coffee, I engaged in a discussion with a young female lawyer born in Jos, Plateau state, and the topic was on the new vocation of Nigeria’s first lady Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan which seems to have significantly shifted from mundane politics to what may be considered as the pristine pursuit of noble causes.
I heaped profound praises on the significant paradigm shift of the wife of Nigeria’s President for embracing the noble causes of fighting against sexual violations of women and waging unrelenting advocacy campaign against the emerging dangerous trend of cyber bullying and other ramifications of child abuses through the internet.  
But my lawyer friend asked me how much professional fee that the wife of Nigeria’s President has paid me for vigorously pouring encomiums on her new approach to human rights advocacy with specific reference to pursuing women’s rights.
My response was straight to the point when I flatly told her that I have not received any form of financial compensation.
Further, I informed my friend, a female lawyer in her late 20’s that a human rights group that I founded was the first to criticize Mrs. Jonathan for getting herself so much involved in the partisan muddy waters of divisive politics of her state of origin-Rivers state even as we advised her some months back to concentrate her time and resources towards advancing some noble causes such as fighting for the promotion of the fundamental human rights of women.
My reason for inquiring if my group’s advocacy urging Mrs. Jonathan to embrace the pursuit of noble causes has paid off is because of two major events in which the wife of President Jonathan made speeches that underscore her fundamental paradigm shift from the world of politics to pursuing good humanitarian causes.
Indeed the public Relations Managers of the wife of President Jonathan seems to be responsive to critical opinions which are against her getting involved in partisan political warfare.
The first event which took place at the behest of the wife of Nigeria’s President was primarily focused on strategies for combating the emerging crimes of cyber bullying and the attendant child abuses through online sources. This event was attended by high profile World leaders including the former Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Ehud Barack.
The second event took place only last weekend in Paris, France at the behest of the wife of the French President-Ms. Valerie Trierweder on the sideline of the Elysee Summit for peace and security in Africa hosted by the French government. The Nigerian President was among over 50 world leaders that attended the global anti-terrorism event.
The noble roles played by Mrs. Patience Jonathan could be a perfect response to the groundswell of criticism trailing her less than dignifying involvement in the political fight going on between the Rivers state governor Chibuike Amaechi and her husband-President Jonathan which is interpreted by political observers as a fight over rumoured Presidential ambitions of both men come 2015 election.
Mrs. Jonathan was also criticized for wielding too much state powers whenever she visits other cities such as the traffic lock down that characterized her visit to Lagos state early in the year and also the women's political rally that closed down central business District of Abuja to traffic only last few months.
But the well oiled media think tank working for Mrs. Jonathan wants us to believe that Mrs. Jonathan’s paradigm shift was purely on humanitarian ground.
In one of the few articles published in recent times in praise of the first lady’s new humanitarian crusade, Emma Okonji stated that the acceptance of Mrs. Jonathan to champion the global campaign on child online protection will inevitably create positive global image for Nigeria.
He wrote thus; “When in May 10, 2013, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the body that is regulating telecommunications operations globally, with the United Nation’s Cyber Security executing arm, which is known as the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threat (IMPACT), visited Nigeria to present a certificate of appointment to the first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, as the ‘Child Online Protection Champion’ (COPC), many experts in the Nigerian technology industry, saw the appointment as a turning point for Nigeria to redeem its image on cyber security fraud, labelled against the country”.
The ITU-IMPACT team that visited the first lady, and gave her the global appointment, according to Emma Okonji, was led by the Director of Telecoms Development Bureau of ITU, Mr. Brahima Sanou. The team is reportedly passionate about addressing the menace of child online abuse globally, and was looking for someone with high personality, and commitment to drive its agenda in curbing online fraud and online child abuse. It beamed its search light on Nigeria and found the first lady, who then, was already the President of African First Ladies Peace Mission. So recalled Emma Okonji who authored this highly patronizing article for the Wife of the Nigerian President.
Okonji further told his readers that by virtue of her commitment and involvement to charitable activities in and outside Nigeria, Mrs. Jonathan accepted the appointment and had since swung into action in championing the campaign for global child online protection as well as addressing online fraud in Nigeria; so wrote Emma Okonji in Thisday newspaper of October 24th 2013.
But her role on the global stage took place in Paris, France when she mounted the rostrum to campaign for the rights of women against sexual violence.
Dateline December 6th 2013: the wife of Nigerian President demonstrated to the World her positive dimension which had remained relatively unknown locally when she read a well written speech whereby she made strong case for the African girl child and women to be protected by law against sexual offences just as she remarkably stated the obvious that 'behind every rape case is a man'.
Mrs. Patience Jonathan in perhaps what will become for a long time to come as one of her finest public speeches called for stiffer penalties backed by effective laws against perpetrators of sexual violence against women.
Going down memory lane drawing from the rich accounts of wanton sexual violations of women and girls whose nations especially in Africa witnessed one civil strife or the other, the Nigerian first lady said conflict-related sexual abuse should not be regarded as unavoidable or acceptable consequences of war because of their devastating consequences.   The wife of the Nigerian President made this remarkable speech against the backdrop of a recent report by the Human Rights Watch that the Northern Nigerian based armed Islamic terrorists were in the habit of abducting girls for sex. 
I will return to that all important call for stiffer legal framework to be erected by governments against perpetrators of series of sexual violence against women and girls.
I will briefly touch on the cyber crime of sexual abuses of children commonly categorized by international experts as cyber bullying and I will make reference to Britain whereby there exists scientific and verifiable statistics on this crime against humanity. In Nigeria, we are deficient of good and verifiable scientific statistics on any crime and this bad practice must change if we are to be regarded as making bold effort to fight crime.
For a better appreciation of this newly emerging crime of cyber bullying, I consulted the website of and learnt that this is a form of teen violence that can do lasting harm to young people.
Bullying statistics show that cyber bullying is a serious problem among teens. By being more aware of cyber bullying, teens and adults can help to fight the evil trend. From this perspective it can be seen that the paradigm shift of Mrs. Jonathan to now embrace waging an effective crusade against online child abuse, is indeed a noble cause which must be sustained and vigorously replicated by wives of the governors of Nigeria’s 36 states and the nation’s capital, so as to make the needed national impact.
Experts say that cyber bullying can take many forms and shapes such as; sending mean messages or threats to a person’s email account or cell phone; spreading rumors online or through texts; posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites or web pages; stealing a person’s account information to break into their account and send damaging messages; pretending to be someone else online to hurt another person; taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them through cell phones or the internet; and sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person. These variety of crime are predominantly seen in Nigeria especially among the younger persons that perpetually fiddle around with series of newly introduced phones.
Cyber bullying, according to the website aforementioned, can be very damaging to adolescents and teens. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Also, once things are circulated on the internet, they may never disappear, resurfacing at later times to renew the pain of cyber bullying. These are eternal facts.
Many cyber bullies, they continued, think that bullying others online is funny. Cyber bullies may not realize the consequences for themselves of cyber bullying. The things teens post online now may reflect badly on them later when they apply for college or a job. 
 Also, cyber bullies and their parents may face legal charges for cyber bullying, and if the cyber bullying was sexual in nature or involved sexting, the result can include being registered as a sex offender, especially in the United Kingdom, so reasoned this writer cited in the website being quoted here.           
Some emerging facts on this crime are as follows; over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying; more than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online; over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet; and well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.  These are facts recorded in the United Kingdom but in Nigeria there are even more sinister dimensions to this cyber crime which go undocumented. 
From the above facts, it can now be appreciated that the crusade just started by Mrs. Jonathan is no mean task which must be fought with every vigor and resources. The Nigerian government must galvanize the existing agencies of government in the Federal ministry of science and also Technology to wage a big but pragmatic campaign against cyber bullying which obviously poses serious danger not just to our teens but even adults. For instance I receive an average of six correspondences from cyber fraudsters posing as beautiful female models who are soliciting for sexual liaison.     
The Nigerian first lady should focus her attention to the ongoing prosecution of the killers of Miss. Cynthia Osokogu, the 25 year old post-graduate student of Nasarawa state university who was lured to a Lagos hotel by cyber criminals and gruesomely killed.
It is indeed a national shame that such brutal cyber crime took place in Lagos over one year now and the wheel of justice is so weak and slow to deliver the desired justice to the alleged killers. There are a thousand and one of such cases. The wife of President Jonathan should use her proximity to the seat of power to ensure that the office of the federal Attorney General and those of the 36 States of the Federation and Abuja are compelled to embrace this fight against cyber criminals.
On her other noble cause of speaking out against sexual violation of women, it is important that her campaign permeate the Nigerian legal system because charity begins at home.
Mrs. Jonathan should begin by constituting a team of legal and human rights experts or should send for some of the past recommendations made by the various committees set up by the office of the Federal Attorney General regarding the weak legal regimes against rape and other sexual violations of Nigerian women.
Mrs. Jonathan should pick up a copy of the well written legal book by one of Nigeria’s finest intellectuals on women law and human rights Professor (Mrs.) Joy Ngozi Ezeilo of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu state.
In her scholarly book aptly titled: “Women, law and human rights”, Professor Ezeilo expertly exposed the legal lacuna on laws relating to sexual violations of Nigerian women.
For instance, Professor Ezeilo observed that the penal code, like the criminal code, contains provisions which contravene women’s rights and tend to perpetuate violence against women.
She wrote thus; “For instance, section 55(1)(d) of the Penal Code states that: nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt upon any person and which is done… by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife such husband and wife being subject to any native law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful".
I, too, completely dissociate myself from any native practice that dehumanizes women sexually.
The wife of the Nigerian President should hold series of workshops to build the capacity of wives of the high profile political office holders in all parts of Nigeria so that individually, they can use their high standing in the society to wage national campaign against sexual violence targeted against women.
Importantly, to achieve better result, the National Human Rights Commission must train police operatives all over the country to become aware of the red flags of rape and sexual violence of Nigerian women because in latin we know that no one can give what he/she does not have (nomen dat quod nan habet). In order for the Nigerian police to key in to the fight now being waged against sexual violence against women by the wife of President Jonathan, the operatives who come in contact daily with the ordinary citizens must be educated and made aware of the new trends that comply to global best practices in the fight against sexual violations of women.
The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs must embark on pragmatic advocacy all across the country in partnership with the states ministries of women affairs and credible civil society organizations to sensitize Nigerians about these twin evils of cyber crime and sexual violations of women and also monitor how laws against these crimes are enforced across board.
The Nigerian first lady should go beyond sermons on political rostrum to engage in practical advocacy. She should be supported by all of us so that our women can be protected.

* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA;    blogs;         


Wednesday, 4 December 2013


In far away United Kingdom, a new frontier of battle has begun between users of the popular social media and the law enforcement authority following some new sets of guidelines on how not to make comments concerning ongoing court proceedings.

In Nigeria however, it is a different kettle of fish entirely because those clothed with the legal authority as law enforcement agents are the worst culprits of engaging in unwholesome practices in the media that undermine equitable dispensation of substantial justice.

On one hand, the British legal authority say those clear sets of advisory guidelines were issued to protect litigants from being denied substantial justice due to prejudices possibly conveyed in comments made in the social media by persons who may or may not be directly involved in the process. But members of the online community see these guidelines as another frontier of consistent pattern of attack against freedom of speech.   

Dateline December 4th 2013: the popular British private television Skynews interviewed the United Kingdom’s government’s top legal adviser who affirmed that the new social media guidelines for users will help ‘facilitate commentary in a lawful way’.
As stated earlier, the import of the new official British directive is that Facebook and Twitter users will be shown previously unpublished legal notes to stop them inadvertently breaking the law by commenting on court cases online.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC said the advisories, which have previously been issued only to print and broadcast media outlets on a "not for publication" basis, are designed to make sure that fair trials take place.
He said he had changed the policy to stop the public tripping over legal pitfalls by commenting on court cases in a potentially prejudicial manner.
"Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post," he said.
"This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system. In days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk", he stated.
"That is no longer the case and is why I have decided to publish the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media. This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media - quite the opposite in fact. It's designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way", he stressed.
"I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online", he said.
"This change also brings more openness to Government's dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for what they do and say."
The advisories will be published on the Attorney General's Office (AGO) section of the website and also through the AGO's twitter feed - @AGO--UK.
A leading British print media The Independent on Wednesday December 4th 2013 recalled that last month a man was given a suspended prison sentence for contempt after tweeting images purporting to be of Jamie Bulger’s killer Jon Venables, who has been given a new identity by the state.
The same British newspaper also told the readers that this week Peaches Geldof, the daughter of the Band Aid founder Bob Geldof, apologized for tweeting the names of two mothers whose babies were abused by the Welsh rock singer Ian Watkins.
Incidentally, this is only the first time that the British government has decided to warn members of the public on the far reaching adverse consequences of committing contempt of court through their comments on the social media. Hitherto, for the last 32 years newspapers and broadcasters in Britain have received, on not-for- publication basis, notices warning them of the potential pitfalls they face in reporting sensitive court cases. The Independent reported that so far, ten of such notices have been issued in 2013, twice the number released in an average year.
Already users of the social media have dubbed the new government's approach in British society as a declaration of war and several negative reactions have flooded the various social media sites.
But legal experts say that impartiality and objectivity are essential elements of substantial justice even as they say whatever would lead to the negation of these core values of good justice must be curbed in the interest of social justice.
Nigeria’s erstwhile Chief Justice is one of those who think that it is imperative to safeguard the principles of impartiality and objectivity in order to ensure equitable justice delivery mechanism in any civilized society.
In 2007, he wrote a scholarly piece titled “towards strengthening judicial integrity: the Nigerian experience,” whereby he took time to expouse on those critical points of law.
On judicial impartiality and objectivity, the former Nigeria’s top judge stated thus; “impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to the process by which decisions are made. Judges must perform their judicial duties without favour, bias or prejudice and ensure that their conduct both in and out of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession and the litigants in the impartiality of the judicial system”,
Impartiality, in the considered opinion of Justice Musdapher, means that the judge treats parties before him/her equally and providing them with an equal opportunity to make their respective cases.
“Impartiality means that the judge has no personal interest in the outcome of the suit with impartiality, comes objectivity. It means making judicial decisions on the basis of considerations that are external to the judge and may even be at conflict with the personal views of the judge”, Justice Musdapher affirmed.
Chukwuma Machukwu-Ume, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Imo State Attorney General and commissioner for justice, is of the opinion that impartiality and objectivity are needed so as to guarantee substantial justice.
In a book he wrote on the person of the retired Chief Judge of Bayelsa State (K.D. Ungbuku) the new Imo state Justice commissioner had alluded to the above critical point of presence of impartiality and objectivity in arriving at substantial justice when he wrote thus; “one goal Hon. Justice Ungbuku pursued without reservation in his trials, orders rulings and judgments, was substantial justice. Not justice based on technicality or intellectuality, it was justice to whosoever it belonged, in the eyes of God and the law”.

Whereas the British legal authorities are busy designing, devising and implementing measures to enforce impartiality and objective in justice delivery, Nigeria sinks deeper into the abyss of wanton abuses of the rights of litigants not only in the social media but even from the operatives of the Nigerian Police Force who by the constitutional provisions ought to play the role of law enforcement. These abuses make an observer to wonder why Nigeria has not changed positively even when the nation got most of our common laws and the establishment of law enforcement agencies from the then British colonial masters.
The operatives of the Nigerian Police Force are not the only guilty party because even other law enforcement agents like those of the anti-graft bodies and other para-military entities do engage in the public parade of suspects and are in the habit of prejudicing these criminal matters that should have been adjudicated by the courts of law.
The illegality of parading crime suspects have got to an abysmal state so much so that even little children being breast- fed by female crime suspects are regularly paraded by the operative of the Nigerian police force.
What all the above institutional abuses mean is that Nigeria still has a very long way to go in order to restore sanity, impartiality and objectivity in the justice delivery mechanism in practice in all parts of Nigeria.

As Barack Obama stated that "change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek," Nigerians generally must make rapid advances in areas of promotion and protection of the fundamental human rights of all citizens including those classified as being in conflict with the law.

While we watch the ongoing debate in the United Kingdom regarding the new sets of operational guidelines, it is imperative that the Nigerian legal authority begin comprehensive capacity building of law enforcement officers to comply with global best practices and stop indulging in media trials of suspects which in the long run prejudices the judicial decisions in those matters.
The Nigerian media landscape is also in need of sweeping reforms to enable reporters and essentially the line editors, respect the fundamental human rights of all crime suspects who are considered innocent in the eyes of the law unless and until a valid and competent judicial pronouncement is made to prove otherwise.
Nigerian legal authorities should also introduce binding guidelines to safeguard the principles of impartiality and objectivity in justice delivery. It is a fact that the online community in Nigeria is filled with hate messages and other adversarial comments that undermine equitable dispensation of substantial justice.

*    Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF      NIGERIA; blogs;