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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fashola to endorse new Lagos traffic law Thursday


Global Reportes Vienna


Motorists seek adequate public enlightenment
BARRING last minute change of plans, Governor Babatunde Fashola will on Thursday sign Lagos State’s new traffic bill into law.
The bill, which was sponsored by the Chairman House Committee on Transport, Bisi Yusufu, was passed on July 12, 2012 by the State House of Assembly.
The bill seeks to criminalise traffic offences and sanction offenders as part of strategy to bring under control the chaotic traffic situation within the metropolis.
A source told The Guardian yesterday that the bill is among many functions the Governor is expected to perform on Thursday as scheduled in the manifest.
“The governor may sign the bill into law on Thursday”, the source said.
Meanwhile, more reactions continue to trail the resolve by the Lagos State government to curtail lawless motorists by applying far reaching sanctions.
A cross section of motorists who spoke with The Guardian yesterday commended the various steps taken by the Fashola’s administration to sanitise the chaotic traffic situation in the state.
While calling for adequate enlightenment, some respondents who spoke with The Guardian argued that implementation is the bane of several laws in this part of the world.
For example, a senior driver in one of the prominent transport companies in Lagos, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “We support the effort of the state government in this regard. My worry is the revenue or financial aspect of the new law. I hope this is not another opportunity for some people to get rich over night”.
He explained that the first thing to do is “educate those who are to enforce the law including the police and staff of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). The necessary equipment such as vehicles, video cameras and other items must be ready before the new law is allowed to take effect”.
Another motorist, Mr. Muyiwa B. Oloitan, said: “It’s a commendable step. But, how do you prove that I was smoking while driving? I cannot differentiate between fake and original licence. The Lagos state government should embark on an aggressive campaign before the law is effective. Apart from that, more alternatives to driving should be provided.”
Explaining further, Oloitan said numerous motorists within the metropolis are ignorant of the proposed laws, adding that the state government should “carry us along for the law to have its desired effect”.
He added: “I can tell you that most of the offenders especially the commercial motorcyclists and commercial bus drivers are not aware of the proposed law. Their thinking is that as soon as they are apprehended, they will bribe their way through”.
The proposed law stipulates that:
• Riding a motor-cycle against traffic.
• Riding on the kerb, median or road setbacks (Penalty) 1st time offender – N20,000 subsequent offender N30,000 or the rider’s motor-cycle will be impounded.
• One-way driving (Penalty) 3 years jail term after psychiatric examination.
• Smoking while driving (Penalty) N20,000 fine
• Failure to give way to traffic on the left at a roundabout (Penalty) N20,000 fine.
• Disobeying traffic control (Penalty) N20,000
• Violation of route by commercial vehicles (Penalty) N20,000 fine.
• Riding motor-cycle without crash helmet for rider and passenger (Penalty) N20,000 or 3 years imprisonment or both.
• Under-aged person, under 18 years old riding a motorcycle (Penalty) N20,000.
• Driving without valid driver’s licence. (Penalty) Vehicle to be impounded.
• Learner driver without permit (Penalty) N20,000
• Driving with fake number plate (Penalty) 1st offender N20,000 or 6 months imprisonment or both.
The Guardian

Turai Yar’adua rejects new land offers - By Iferi Etuk


Global Reporters Vienna


  • An out of court settlement attempt hits the rocks

The tussle between first lady, Patience Jonathan, and her predecessor, Turai Yar’adua, over a piece of land located in the Central Business District of Abuja, may be far from over.
An insider said the former first lady has rejected an offer of a new plot in exchange for the contentious property at a meeting that deliberated the proposal on Monday.
Sources had said the former first lady was being offered any other plot of her choice within the Central Business District, as a replacement for the contentious land earlier awarded to Yar’Adua’s Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF), but revoked and given to Jonathan’s African First Ladies’ Peace Mission.
One of the lawyers to WAYEF, Innocent Lagi, confirmed a consensus had not yet been reached; adding that the plots put before Yar’adua were not acceptable. “I can confirm to you that our demands have not been met yet,” he said.
Yar’adua had filed a suit an Abuja High Court challenging the withdrawal, and both sides told the court last Tuesday the matter will be settled out of court.
Daily Times

Nigeria needs brand new peoples’ constitution, not constitutional review – PRONACO


Global Reporters Vienna


The Pro National Conference Organization (PRONACO) on Monday in Lagos cautioned the National Assembly not to supplant the overwhelming yearnings of the Nigerian stakeholders for brand new peoples’ constitution and self-determination through its current review of the 1999 military constitution
Speaking through its Spokesperson, Olawale Okunniyi, PRONACO averred that though the National Assembly, by the provisions of section 8 and 9 of the 1999 constitution, can amend the constitution and also make laws thereof, unfortunately, what Nigerians want at this point in time is a brand new constitution that can be initiated, owned and defended by them.
PRONACO said the point being made by the Nigerian people is that the 1999 constitution was promulgated by its military authors as decree No 24 of 1999 but was dubiously tagged 1999 constitution of Nigeria, stressing that by all standard a military decree is a mere law and not a constitution and that there is a fundamental difference between a law and a constitution
The coalition also advised the National Assembly not to mix up its vested interest to amend the imposed military constitution as the same as giving the country a legitimate peoples’ constitution that can be owned by the Nigerian peoples arguing that the national assembly itself is also a product of Nigeria’s faulty constitutional foundation
Mr Okunniyi however said that the trouble with Nigeria is its military imposed civilian regime, which according to him was constitutionally designed by the military to fail by throwing up national crisis that will force Nigerians to call for military intervention.
PRONACO insisted that Nigeria is far from a peoples’ democracy given the foundation and legal template upon which the subsisting civil rule and its governmental structures were birthed in 1999, stressing that it is only the full ownership of the Nigerian constitution by its peoples that can help democratize and save the current civil rule from collapse
“By its faulty and illegitimate birth, no amount of tinkering or amendments of the existing decree 24 tagged 1999 constitution can turn it to a constitution not to talk of making it a peoples’ constitution. So there is no need for government to continue to waste Nigeria’s scares resources and time on a worthless and unproductive venture in the face of the monumental violence in the country
“The danger here is that there is now an unprecedented corruption and violence in the country and our people are being killed here and there on daily basis with a possible reprisal attacks and imminent civil war in the offing on the account of the existing unpopular constitutional governance structure foisted on the people by the military in 1999” the PRONACO spokesperson said.
Offers to help group seeking autonomy
Mr Okunniyi called on the various indigenous peoples, nationalities, federating units and regions in Nigeria, who so desire self-determination and political autonomy to formally approach PRONACO to help organize them to meet the criteria of the United Nations on self-determination and autonomy as spelt out in the new declaration of the United Nations on the self determination of indigenous peoples.
“Rather than continue the endless agitation for national conference and participate in an unhelpful constitution review exercise, indigenous peoples in Nigeria are hereby advised to urgently adopt the latest approach recommended by the United Nations in liberating themselves from the hostage of those currently benefiting from the existing corrupt and conflictual system in Nigeria” PRONACO said.
It will be recalled that the Senate reiterated at its retreat last week in Asaba, the Delta State capital that it is only through its adopted piece meal or incremental tinkering as provided in the 1999 constitution that the constitutional crisis of the country can be addressed and that those calling for national conference have no legal basis to do so
Mr Okunniyi however faulted that position by saying the same constitution already empowers the national assembly to make law for whatever it deems suitable for the good governance, welfare and security of the country, wondering what constituted the basis of invoking the doctrine of necessity in the Yar’adua/Jonathan saga
“Nigeria is already in an emergency situation given the horrendous bloodletting and bombings in the land, which requires that the national assembly if they are responsive and appreciate the national question, to urgently make law under section 4 or even 9 of the constitution for the convention of a peoples’ national conference or alternatively, invoke their invented ‘doctrine of necessity’ to enable a constituent assembly of the Nigerian peoples negotiate and neutralize an imminent civil strife in the country”
Channels Television

Tales from Nigerian prisons you’d never heard - By Thomas Abimbola


Global Reporters Vienna


Female Prisoners

For men and women who are able, Nigerian prisons have been described as hell on earth. ABIMBOLA THOMAS takes a peek into the world of women and children behind bars over the last three months.
JOY James is in her mid 20s. She never imagined that a short fainting spell would land her in prison. With a “good job” as a chef in highbrow Ikoyi, Lagos, Joy’s joy was full as she enjoyed all the perks that come with working for a top expatriate banker.
On the domestic front, she had not only moved into her own apartment, there was a man in her life and they were madly in love. To crown it all, Joy was pregnant with their first child.
But Joy’s joy came to a brutal end a few months ago when after a hard day’s work, she decided to withdraw some money at the bank which was intended for buying drugs. Feeling faint, she stopped to rest on the side of the road. “A little boy came to ask if I was okay, and before I knew it, a crowd had gathered. Next thing I knew, I landed in court where I was accused of attempted kidnapping.”
Joy, who was seven months pregnant then, is now an inmate at the 184-women strong Kirikiri Prisons.
Technically, she is not a convict; she is one of the 154 inmates awaiting trial behind the high walls of Kirikiri Female Prison.
To a first-time visitor, the Prisons building could be any structure housing any fellowship meeting. The enthusiastic clapping and singing of praise and worship songs was with the kind of fervour that would motivate any Christian gathering. Joy, The Guardian, a small group of church fellowship and other inmates were into deep praise singing and dancing at the prisons that Sunday afternoon in May.
To the uninitiated, these women inmates could be mistaken for any other religious gathering of the dark and fair skinned, tall, young, slim and old. But some of their tales locked in their hearts are unmistakably pathetic.
While the fellowship lasted, they were radiant and cheerful, but the moment it ended, they returned to regimented solitude, telling heart-moving stories in some cases.
After the day’s fellowship, Joy bemoaned fate’s cruelty to her. The father of her unborn child had run off since her ordeal began. Efforts to reach him by telephone or through emissaries yielded no positive result.
Her employer she regarded as her new family, did not only fail to render any assistance to her, but denied knowing her.
Joy’s bail was set at N25,000 but her family could not raise the amount.
If she could be let out on bail, Joy reasoned that she would be able to take care of herself and eat a balanced diet so that the unborn child then would survive. The food they are served “is most times inedible, with no extra nutrition from things like fruits and vegetables,” she said.
As she tells it, apart from the food, the sleeping condition is horrible, while access to good antenatal services, scan and other essential services during pregnancy do not exist. “Sometimes, when my case comes up in court, the warden asks for money to fuel the vehicle and since I have no money, there is nothing I can do but remain here and pray.”

Titi’s tale of troubles
IF Joy’s situation is pathetic, Titi’s is truly terrible.
Titi’s journey to jail began when she exchanged hot words with a neighbour. What started as a hot argument soon became a battle of blows. About 20 days later, the person she fought with died. On May 10, 2010, she landed in Kirikiri Women Prisons. The worst part is that she was fighting the deceased because of a friend.
Then pregnant, Titi put to bed on July 21, 2010. Unlike when she had her first child in an hospital close to home, when relations, friends and well-wishers swarmed her like bees to honey, this time, she was on her own. There were no visitors or any form of assistance that usually comes the way of a woman going to have an infant.
But Titi could still count herself lucky, unlike other less fortunate inmates who have no shoulder to lean on; her mother was willing to take over care of her child at 18 months. In her words: “Putting to bed here was a horrible experience to say the least. I had my first child in an hospital on the outside and attempting to compare the deliveries will be a waste of time.”
For Titi, the physical torture, lack of good food, bad accommodation and other essential needs of life that were denied her are bearable, what she found most troubling and unbearable were the psychological torture and the nasty words from the wardens which to her were the height of humiliation.
The food was a major complaint as she described it as “just terrible.” She further explained that the only luxury for a woman who has recently put to bed in prisons is a stay in the prisons’ clinic for two weeks after which it is back to the cell with a two-week old baby. She lamented: “No thought is given to the fact that the child is innocent of every accusation.”
Other jailed mothers revealed that there is no special diet for children. Titi who gave birth to her child in prisons and had the child with her till she was 18 months old, had to make personal arrangements for the child’s feeding. The women revealed that the only thing they get from the prison for their baby are 10 diapers a week.
A warden confirmed that the prison does not make provision to feed infants; food rations are specifically for the mother as it is for any other prisoner.

Grace’s grass to grass story
IF the stories of Joy and Titi are sad, that of Grace Ibrahim (not real name) is worse.
Born 31 years ago, even in the outside world, she led a life of solitude; many avoided her after she was diagnosed with epilepsy at an early age.
Grace’s condition moved from the frying pan to fire when, what she claimed to be a minor argument with her neighbour led to her being sent packing from where she used to live. A perceived Good Samaritan gave her free accommodation in her shop.
She was sleeping in the shop when a demolition team from the Ministry of Environment, Lagos State, came to raze down the shop. A firearm was found in the shop and she was promptly detained since she could not produce the real owner of the shop. While going through this ordeal, even to the point of detention, Grace didn’t realize she was already pregnant.
She claimed the gun did not belong to her: “I did not know there was a gun in the shop. If I knew, will I have been sleeping there?” She revealed that she truly had no other place to go and that was why despite the fact that she had learnt that the Ministry of Environment demolition team was coming, she was still sleeping at the shop, praying that it would take a little more time before they got to the shop. She further explained that the friend who gave her the key to the shop never said there was a gun there and left her to suffer for a crime she knew nothing about.
It was when she started having some strange feelings in the wake of being thrown in a police cell and appearing before a judge, about four months into her ordeal, she finally realized she was pregnant.
According to her, the experience of being pregnant and putting to bed while incarcerated was not an easy one. She said: “In this place, even someone that is not pregnant is not okay. What then do you expect of pregnant women?” After giving birth, the wardens and doctor instructed her not to breastfeed. Less than 10 days later, the child died. After spending four years in prison, her case was dismissed recently and she has been released.

Children in prison
THE Kirikiri Female Prisons allows inmates keep their babies till the child is 18 months old. At this point, the inmate is advised to consider which of her family members can be contacted to take care of the child. In the past, if there were no family member willing to do this, arrangements were made by the wardens in the welfare department for a religious or charity organisation to take charge of the child pending the release of the mother. Things have changed. A warden in the welfare department who preferred to remain anonymous said: “We tried to get one lady called Chidinma to talk to you but she is very stubborn. Her baby is almost 18 months and she has a family in Lagos. She insists on keeping the child here. Following due process, after liaising with her family, we are going to forcefully take the child when the time is right.
“In the past, wardens tried to make arrangement for such kids to go to motherless babies homes or orphanages till the mothers come out but after a recent scandal where we were accused of selling a child that died before the mother came out, we now hands off and put empathy aside. Obedience is mandatory, whether she likes it or not, that child will be taken from her at the right time.”

Prisoners call for alternative punishment
TWO convicts who are serving six months sentences each for child abuse with an 11-month-old and nine-month-old babies each, have appealed to the government to consider alternate forms of punishment for those involved in cases that can be considered as “medium or minimum degree” offenses while nursing. They claim that the prisons is not equipped to handle babies and so women with babies should be pardoned or punished in a different way.
“Imagine being imprisoned with women on death row, accused prostitutes, armed robbers, and countless other offenders,” said the mother of nine-month-old boy who was sentenced shortly after giving birth.
She protests that her baby has been having boils on the head for weeks and because the clinic is not well equipped, he is not getting better. She said that it is not surprising when you consider where she has to bathe him; the kind of food she has to eat while breastfeeding and that the environment generally is not ideal. She puts forth an interesting argument in asking The Guardian to consider the kind of crowd they mix with including sleeping with people on death row whose state of mind is precarious with the risk of a maiming spree in the middle of the night.
The mother of the 11-month-old places more emphasis on the psychological ramifications of a mother and child in prisons. “When the government knows that the prisons is ill-equipped to handle children, why should they imprison us together? Have they never heard of community service? If we are to tell the truth, does this demeaning experience reform or harden us the more?”

Civil society and medical doctors’ opinion
A LAWYER, Mrs. Bisi Ajayi-Kayode who has been reaching out to women prisoners and done some studies on their situation subscribed to the two females’ argument.
Bisi explained that, “oftentimes, pregnant women and children residing in prisons with their mothers are invisible to the legal and prison systems. Children who share imprisonments with their mothers automatically become victims of the frequently deficient, overcrowded and harsh prisons systems.”
Versatile with awaiting trial inmates and a human rights activist, Bisi disclosed that the state’s criminal law policy on the one hand and fundamental human rights obligations on the other create a dilemma in considering the plight of pregnant women and nursing mothers with special attention to the child, which is basically innocent regardless of the crime of the mother.
She said: “The global response to this matter has been the application of the principle of the best interest of the child, which has been codified in international human rights instruments and ratified by many countries. The instruments upheld that pregnant women who are deprived of their liberty should receive humane treatment in particular during delivery and while caring for their new born and the best interest of the child must be sought at all times.”
Prisons healthcare services are under-resourced and under-staffed. The particular dietary requirements of pregnant women are not considered or catered for by prisons authorities. The foods provided are insufficient to cover the nutritional requirements of pregnant women.
Particularly in low-income countries such as Nigeria, children are often traumatized and are likely to suffer from acute-emotional and developmental problems as well as being at the risk of inadequate care in under-resourced state institutions or by alternative caregivers.
While the women’s prisons has it better because it is not as congested as most of the male prisons, the other side of the argument has not been deeply considered. A trip to most male prisons at any given time reveals a long line of visitors including wives, family members especially mothers, and in some cases business associate coming to visit the inmates. A look at the female prisons at the same time reveals a desert. A large percentage of female inmates are rejected by family members and others are divorced by husbands who cannot accept the scorn of a wife who has darned the green or blue of prisons’ wear. More pathetic are those women who are serving time because their husbands have committed crimes and are now nowhere to be found.
In an ironic twist, these women and others whose family have cast them away because of their predicament turn to each other and an alternate family is found in the other inmates.
Many people believe that the government has abandoned the prisons system and the condition of most Nigerian prisons confirms this.
Religious organisations and other charity groups shoulder a heavy burden by meeting a very large percentage of the needs of the prisons. Government seems to believe its only responsibility is building of prisons structures, the prisons service is ill-funded and it is expected to run itself.
Mrs. Amoiho Isi, who was once an inmate and in prisons for three months on a case of mistaken identity and now runs an NGO that specialises in prisons, says: “From experience, I know that virtually everything is poor in prisons - the food, treatment from wardens, welfare, name it.” She claims that but for NGOs, religious organisations and charity groups, the Nigerian prisons system would probably have collapsed.
A top-level official agrees with Isi but insists that if the NGOs and other bodies decide to go away, the prisoners will not die. He calls on the public to partner with the prisons too as they do with the police presently.
The prisons official who spoke anonymously, revealed that inadequate funding of the prisons and greed of many wardens are responsible for the corrupt practices wardens are involved in. He revealed that many corrupt officials have been caught in disgraceful acts and have been dismissed, but he believes there is need for more funding.
A paediatrician, Dr. Yemi Gbenro speaking from the medical point of view, says that the harsh, punitive environment of prisons can permanently damage the psychological and mental wellbeing of children. “This is why you find children in this category having consistently recurring cases of psychological problems including depression, aggressive behaviour, regression, sleeping problems, eating problems, running away, truancy, poor school grades and delinquency.”
Guardian

Tales from Nigerian prisons you’d never heard (2) - By Abimbola Thomas


Global Reporters Vienna

Female prisoners
‘ Incarcerating a child with the mother only creates a new generation of criminals’
Nigerian Prisons authorities insist that female prisoners in Kirikiri, Lagos, are well treated and even luckier than their counterparts in other prisons in the country for having an entire facility to themselves. But the Kirikiri female prisoners say they are not aware of the ‘amenities’ the authorities are talking about. ABIMBOLA THOMAS spoke to the two parties - the female prisoners and the authorities.The female prisoners’ ordeal story started from yesterday.
A PRACTISING psychologist, Dr. Robinson Okosun believes that the act of incarcerating a child with the mother only creates a new generation of criminals. While he agrees that the intention of not wanting to separate a mother and child is good, the effect though is far from good because this creates a taint that will affect the child for life.
He said: “When the child grows up, it will affect his self esteem. His identity will be distorted by the fact that he has had a taste of prison especially if he was born while the mother was there. His friends in school will tease him about it and he will want to question what led the mother to prison. Nightmares might begin and he will have problems mixing with his peers. Even if he is intelligent, his dignity is robbed to an extent and his work rate will be affected.”
Okosun, who has a Doctorate Degree in Psychology from the University of Ibadan further stresses that the child’s performance in life’s affairs will be faced with several mental challenges, which will lead to something similar to a split personality with positive and negative sides. If not well managed, a confused thinking emerges and stress levels heighten in him.
A bid to escape this confusion could push this individual to criminal elements. Traits like drinking, drug abuse and heavy smoking could emerge. As he matures, a need for therapy to reintegrate him into society is needful. “A comment by a friend could knock back a process that took a long time to build. Wayward people will welcome him and before you know it, we’ll see a new generation of a human being pushed to criminal behaviour from the troubles that arose in the mind by being born in prison. While the intentions are genuine for not wanting to separate a mother and child, the resultant effect can be disastrous. I will say that women in pregnancy or with children should be punished in other ways rather that incarceration with the child. If the offense is so terrible that no alternative can be sought, then, the child should be taken from the woman. Children in prison should be seriously discouraged, the psychological implications can be very harmful,” he said.

Prisons official’s reaction
THE Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Nigeria Prisons Service in Lagos, Chuks Njoku agrees that Nigerian prisons like prisons elsewhere in the world are not five-star hotels, but he will not also agree with the prisoner’s description of the Kirikiri Female Prisons.
The middle-aged prisons officer said it is impossible for the prisons warden not to take an inmate awaiting trial to court because there was no fuel in the car.
Njoku said emphatically that the government provides fuel for the vehicles to go to court almost on a daily basis. “A woman in that condition will not go to court because of fuel? That’s impossible. The next thing is for the court to issue a summons for us to appear and explain,” he exclaimed.
Njoku however admits that the Kirikiri Prisons has only one vehicle for its every day use as the other one is grounded in need of mechanical repairs (as at May when this interview was held).
On medical care for pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants in prison, the PRO again disagrees with the claims of the inmates and the warden’s account. Njoku says that the prisons system has several doctors in its employment who draw up a dietary chart for pregnant women and nursing mothers and this is what they are fed on.
Surprisingly, two different wardens with years of experience between them that The Guardian spoke with have no idea of this special arrangement.
The PRO’s response to the issue of condemned prisoners and nursing mothers living in the same cell was an invitation for The Guardian to come into the prison to see the facilities such as a day care centre, a nursery and a special cell for nursing mothers.
Like the special diet for the kids, the wardens and the women involved do not know of the existence of such facilities and so cannot take advantage of them.
The PRO blames the effects of imprisonment on the psyche of the inmates which could justify the inaccurate information The Guardian was presented with. But the wardens’ account was at variance with this official position.

‘Down Under’ offers the best bargain for pregnant prisoners and jailed infants
Online research by The Guardian reveals that the conditions of pregnant prisoners and babies in jail are not better elsewhere in the world except in Australia.
IF jail-bound pregnant women, the unborn child, infants, and even their husbands were given a chance to chose where they would serve their jail terms, they would definitely chose Australia, a country many would not love to visit because it is far from any part of the world.
In Australia, there is a special prison for pregnant women. Here they are assigned to a unit, which has two bedrooms, a kitchen and all the amenities they need to be comfortable.
Husbands are allowed to visit. They could stay during childbirth and stay the night and over weekends.
Swedish prisons and other Scandinavian countries also give special treatment to pregnant women in jail.
In Argentina, pregnant women, women with children younger than five and those with handicapped children spend their prison term at home under house arrest.
In the United States (U.S.), the conditions of pregnant women in jail puts a big question mark on the integrity of a country that prides itself as the land of human rights, freedom and liberty, according to the National Women’s Law Centre and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights report on “Mothers Behind Bars” on the treatment of pregnant and parenting women in U.S. prisons.
There are currently more women behind bars than ever before in the U.S. Most of them are non-violent, first-time offenders. They are also mothers. Two-thirds of women in prisons have at least one child under age 18. The report graded states based on their policies in three key areas: Prenatal care, shackling of pregnant women, and family-based treatment programmes as an alternative to incarceration. Overall, 21 states received failing grades. Another 22 states earned C-. Only Pennsylvania got an A-.
In neighbouring Canada, human rights organisations recently described the act of shackling women who are in labour and giving birth as positively medieval, and exceptionally cruel. Canadian Tina Reynolds, a mother and formerly incarcerated woman gave birth to her son while in 558/59 prisons for a parole violation:
“When I went into labour, my water broke. The van came to pick me up, I was shackled. Once I was in the van, I was handcuffed. I was taken to the hospital. The handcuffs were taken off, but the shackles weren’t. I walked to the wheelchair that they brought over to me and I sat in the wheelchair with shackles on me. They re-handcuffed me once I was in the wheelchair and took me up to the floor where women had their children.
“When I got there, I was handcuffed with one hand. At the last minute, before I gave birth, I was unshackled so that my feet were free. After I gave birth to him, the shackles went back on and the handcuffs stayed on while I held my son on my chest.”
Prison condition is not better in Britain. Between 2005 and 2008, 283 babies were born in British prisons. Some mothers recall going into labour at night, to the sound of fighting. Many babies were delivered through emergency caesarean; many were born with prison officers in the doorway, in uniform, looking on. One factor which seriously compromises the standard of antenatal care in Britain is worker shortages. For example, there is shortage of prison officers to accompany prisoners to ultrasound scans and other external appointments. These appointments often have to be cancelled and rescheduled. Also near-term pregnant prisoners are forced to travel hundreds of miles in claustrophobic prison vans known to inmates as “sweatboxes” according to reports by The Guardian of London.
Fact  Box
12 Abnormalities that are the norm in Kirikiri Female Prisons
Eighty per cent of inmates are technically not supposed to be prisoners as their cases are awaiting trial;
The pregnant women of Kirikiri Prisons do not get special dietary consideration;
The children in prisons because of their mothers’ crime do not have a place in food arrangements;
The ante-natal and post-natal facilities are next to non-existent;
Wardens are not given specialised training to handle inmates that need special attention. The only qualification for the job is that they are women caring for women;
All inmates interact in an open space and are separated by cells at night. They can decide to sleep in each other’s cells;
Government does not perform its role of meeting the daily needs of prisoners; missionary bodies, charity groups and NGO perform these functions;
Inmates in the female prisons hardly ever have visitors;
Most women inmates are in prison for crimes committed by husbands and relations;
Female inmates are not separated by the degree of the offence into minimum, medium and maximum prisons;
Most inmates don’t take advantage of skill acquisition centre at the prison that will prepare them for life after jail; and
Psychological torture and abuse by wardens are commonplace especially of women in labour and those involved in fights, but if they are rich and generous, a warden can be their best friend.
Reporter’s Diary: On the trail of women and children in jail

AN incidental viewing of Cable News Network (CNN) Back Story promo of the plight of children and pregnant mothers in South African prisons triggered my interest.
Near term at the time, I could not cope with the rigour an investigation that will do justice to the story would entail. An eventually stillbirth was the impelling factor. The moment I was fully recovered, the desire to investigate what women in less than ideal circumstances go through in Nigerian prisons seemed natural.
I shared the idea with my supervising editor who agreed that we should look at the plight of pregnant women and children in Nigerian prisons.
My first contact was with a charity organisation involved in the Prison Ministry. They brought forth disturbing allegations of wardens prostituting prisoners. Thankfully, this allegation proved baseless (at least at Kirikiri Female Prisons that  I visited) but other issues mentioned in the story are likewise bothersome.
Attempts to gain entry to the prisons through the establishment proved unproductive and so I went in as a member of a Christian fellowship group. Initially, I was just another missionary. Subsequently, I made my intentions known to the wardens and they initially resisted the idea of a member of the press interacting and asking questions from the inmates. Based on the cordial relationship between the officials and the group I went with, permission was finally granted on the condition that my questions would be pre-examined and a welfare person would be present at every interview.
Societal factors ensured that most of the women who agreed to speak would do so only if their identities where concealed, except Joy and Titi who were ready to share their names. The same thing went for the wardens for the purpose of job security.
Despite the harsh condition in which they are kept, a top prisons official believes that female inmates in Lagos are lucky to have a whole prison to themselves unlike other states where sexes are separated by cells and wings. It does not diminish the fact that in other climes, prisoners are separated by degrees which give rise to the minimum, medium and maximum prisons. Yet, the system wonders why there is a vicious circle with the prison hardly ever successfully reforming anyone with some individuals coming out more skilled in criminal acts?
Another concern is the culture of imprisoning a mother for years when the husband who committed the crime had absconded. Little thought is given to the innocent children that the women leaves behind. These children could become the criminals of tomorrow without any parental supervision.
As can be expected in a prison of close to 200 inmates with all sorts of people represented, The Guardian did not miss its fair share of abuse in the process of putting this piece together but most memorable was a lady called Chidinma. The officer on duty advised against talking to her but the lure of the tall, fair complexioned lady with her good-looking, equally fair complexioned son on her hip was too hard to resist. The Guardian approached her but before introduction was completed, she sharply and rudely retorted: “What do you want from me? Abeg, I don’t want to talk to anybody. Please, leave me alone or is it by force?” With the egg fresh on my face, the warden explained that the lady is somewhat stubborn which was why she carefully picks inmates who would be more receptive for interviews.
The rain was sometimes a major challenge because some visits had to be suspended when it was too heavy and others had to be attended when the showers were light enough. The inmates appeared to appreciate braving the weather to visit because they never forgot to ask for special blessings from us during chilly temperatures.
After speaking to the PRO, The Guardian was told by the lady in charge of the Prisons Ministry which took The Guardian in that they had been given a tough time the next time they went on a visit. This happened to be the first time in over eight weeks that The Guardian had not gone with them. A source high up in the prisons service also called to let The Guardian know that publishing the story might lead to the wardens who granted access to the inmates being sacked.
The Guardian sincerely hopes this will not happen. Those ladies are not just wardens but are like family to some of the inmates whose families have rejected them. They would go so far as organising naming ceremonies for the inmates’ babies at their own expense. To punish such women for a failure that is essentially the system’s would be just wrong.
An officer that could have granted The Guardian official entry had made inflexible travel arrangements. Why then should prison officers on duty be punished?
As nice as they were, photographs where strictly forbidden for security reasons. Even without pictures, one hopes that this story will move the powers that be to look into the plight of prisoners, not just women and children, but prisoners generally especially the countless awaiting trial inmates who waste years of their lives, and of course the prison warders who are given little incentives.
Guardian

Ogoni on the path of enforcing full independence

Global Reporters Vienna



Sets up Native Court System

The Ogoni Kingdom, Rivers State, is no longer waiting for further political intervention to enforce its autonomy within the Nigerian nation-state. The kingdom under no defined political authority, last weekend, was said to have established native court system to administer justice to the local population within its entity. 
The native court system, it was gathered, is a three tier system which comprises village, district and appeal courts. The court system will function as an independent arm of the Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority (OCIA).

It was indicated that the court is to improve the effective administration of justice for nearly 96 per cent of the Ogoni population who allegedly suffer in silence without access to the justice at the grassroots.

President of the Ogoni mass organisation, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, was reported to have announced the establishment of the Ogoni Customary Court Council.

Diigbo, said to have, while addressing the newly elected Ogoni lawmakers, said that the council is to review and produce comprehensive customary court laws indigenous to Ogoni. He observed that laws meant for the administration of justice in Ogoni Land should be such that can protect all indigenous rights.

The screening and appointment of officers of the council will be completed in the first week of August 2012, it was gathered.

Diigbo said that the Ogoni authority will collaborate with the national government and relevant international institutions and NGOs to standardize the work of the council.

It could however, not be ascertained if the desire for autonomy was the idea behind the advocacy for the ''unbundling'' of Nigeria by Senator Magnus Abe, representing Ogoni Land in the National Assembly.
National Daily

Kanu’s exit excites Portsmouth


Global Reporters Vienna


Portsmouth administrator Trevor Birch says he has been “encouraged” by the progress the club have made in their attempts to avoid liquidation following the exit of Kanu from Fratton Park.
Birch has given the club until August 10 to get rid of all their remaining senior players or reach compromise agreements with them.
With Kanu now gone, the side have just three senior players at the club.
“We’ve made encouraging progress,” Birch told BBC Sport.
Administrators PKF also confirmed on Monday that the former Arsenal striker, who has reached the end of his 14-day notice period, is still involved in a dispute over unpaid wages.
Because of that dispute, PKF are now filing a submission to the Football League and are pushing for a hearing to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Kanu, who has walked out on the final year of his contract, is reportedly claiming up to £3m in periods of unpaid wages since 2006 and Birch has asked for a tribunal to intervene.
In the past week Greg Halford, Erik Huseklepp, David Norris and Luke Varney all left the club, to leave just Dave Kitson, Liam Lawrence and Tal Ben Haim at Fratton Park.
Balram Chainrai’s Portpin and the Pompey Supporters Trust are vying for ownership of the stricken club who will start next season in League One on minus 10 points.
Punch

Swiss player booted out of Olympics for racist tweet



Switzerland footballer Michel Morganella has been sent home from the Olympics after racially abusing South Korea’s players on Twitter, team officials confirmed on Monday.
Morganella had directed an offensive jibe at South Korea’s players after Switzerland’s 2-1 defeat to the Asian giants on Sunday.

Planned demolition of 19 Abuja towns creates panic - By Adelani Adepegba


Global Reporters Vienna


Planned demolition of houses in 19 satellite town of the Federal Capital Territory has created panic among Abuja residents.
Already, the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council has marked structures to be pulled down in Mpape near highbrow Maitama area.
Other settlements to be affected are Idu, Karmo, Dape, Tasha, Gwagwa, Saburi, Zauda, Jahi and Gishiri.
The rest are Mabushi, Kuchigoro, Chika, Aleita, Piwoyi, Lugbe, Pyakassa, Tudun -Wada, Dei-Dei and Guzape.
Our correspondent learnt that a majority of the owners of the property had been running around for alternative accommodation before the arrival of the demolition teams.
It was learnt that residents, whose houses were marked for demolition at Mpape, had been searching for accommodation at Kubwa, Dutse Alhaji, Gwarimpa.
The Public Relations Officer, AMMC, Mrs. Josie Mudasiru, told our correspondent on Monday that the demolition would affect property without genuine land allocation documents and building approvals.
She explained that the demolition would be carried out in the 19 communities as part of measures to rid the FCT of illegal structures.
Mudasiru said, “We have sensitised the affected communities about the structures that will be affected during the exercise. All buildings on illegally acquired land and every structure without legal building approval/document will be pulled down.”
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre has flayed the FCT Administration over the planned demolition describing it as insensitive and inhuman.
Policy and legislative advocacy officer of the centre, Kolawole Banwo who spoke with newsmen condemned the decision and called on the administration to rescind it.
Punch

Lagos: Still at the mercy of danfo drivers


Global Reporters Vienna

* Danfo buses in Lagos…can they be phased out?
By LEKE ADESERI, South West Regional Editor, EVELYN USMAN & EBUN SESSOU
OF all the problems facing Lagos, the worst might be traffic. Chaotic traffic in Lagos is man-made – a phenomenon as destructive and inevitable as the rains that falls anytime of the year.
Some residents believe that there is no weekend for traffic in Lagos.
Traffic is every day and Lagosians have words for traffic the way Eskimos have words for snow: congestion, logjam, lock-down, holdup, gridlock, deadlock, and the wonderfully evocative go-slow.
Summary of danfo drivers’ psyche: The most popular commercial bus in Lagos is known as a Danfo. Someone at a time said that “the average Danfo driver either has psychological  imbalance or he is possessed by some spirit of self destruction.
“They drive like they get a medal every time they bash or scratch their vehicles, and they have no problems scratching yours. Who else would change lanes without indicating or race into an express road without looking out for other drivers knowing very well that he do not have the right of way?
Danfo drivers of course. They have never ceased to amaze me with the kind of risks they take, the norm for them is for the conductor to hang by the door, and shout to attract passengers, they just seem unable to sit down in the bus ..”
* Danfo buses in Lagos…can they be phased out?
According to him; “Clearly the Danfo driver is unpredictable and unwell, plus they think they are stunt men.”
Case study: Sometime in June, the Lagos State Government issued a 48-hour ultimatum to commercial bus operators, danfo drivers, in Ikorodu, especially those indiscriminately discharging and loading passengers at the town’s roundabout, to move to the designated motor park at Sabo or face the wrath of the law. The order by the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, said the move was aimed at ensuring the safety of lives and free flow of traffic in the area.
Special offences
The General Manager of LASTMA, Babatunde Edu, issued the order during a meeting jointly organised by the agency and the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and other Special Offences for the National Union of Road Transport Workers and the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria at Alausa, Ikeja. The following week, life was back to ‘normal’ with the danfo drivers doing the exact opposite of what the order stipulated.
Although some efforts were made to arrest some of them, the government had to abandon the enforcement drive because the commercial bus operators are fond of flouting traffic rules and regulations. They always drive in directions prohibited by the law and have turned every nook and cranny of Ikorodu into parks rather than using the dedicated spaces allocated to them.
Lagos’ unsuccessful plan to phase-out Danfo: The introduction of the now popular Lagbus by the Lagos State government, some years ago, no doubt signified some attempts by the state government to improve on the chaotic transportation system in the city.
It is on record that despite its explosive population, which enumerators had put at over 18 million people, the city has been battling with the problem of finding a suitable means of conveying this vast population of residents from one place to the other.
For instance, before the advent of the Lagbus, a public private partnership initiative between the Lagos State government and some investors in the state, the former capital city had been under the siege of the Molue and the yellow buses, popularly known as danfo.
Fresh hope but for how long
“It is no longer business as usual for Lagos State residents and road users who are bent on going against traffic laws and regulations. Right now, measures are in-place to ensure that offenders are brought to book.” This is according to Bisi Yusuff, a lawmaker representing Alimosho constituency 1 and the Chairman House committee on Transportation, Commerce and Industry who added that there is severe punishment awaiting road offender in the state.
Traffic offenders
In a chat with Vanguard, he said further: “Traffic offenders will not go unpunished. There are measures in-place to ensure that traffic offenders do not go unpunished. And that is what agencies like Motor Vehicle Administration is embarking upon. Its operation is already in place, right now, there are bigger plans by the agency.”
His words: “This agency is saddled with the responsible of tracing any vehicle with its number plate. A motorist can be traced to his or her house through his or her number plate. Therefore, it is no longer needed for any traffic agency to run after traffic offenders. The only thing is to get the number plate and anyone who is caught will be brought to book. Again, anyone who violates traffic light rules and regulations would be fined the sum of N30,000.
While calling on Lagos residents to take the responsibility of arresting traffic offenders and handing them over to the appropriate agency for proper prosecution, he said, “anyone who wants to arrest traffic offenders must be extra careful and such individuals must know that they have limits. The first step is to capture the number plate of the vehicle and hand over the information to nearest law enforcement agent for proper arrest and prosecution.”
Why commercial buses flout traffic order
From investigation, it was observed that some vehicles which violate traffic order when intercepted, are found to be owned by uniform men, officials of LASTMA and leaders of NURTW or the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN. Most of them are familiar with senior officers at the other end of the divide.
Most times when erring commercial vehicle drivers are apprehended, calls are immediately put through to their owners who in turn, speak with the officials of the contravening agency, at the end of which the vehicles are released. In some cases, the drivers turn out to be serving or retired uniform men who usually plead for the essence of  esprit de corps .
At times also, it was discovered that some of the arresting officials bow to the temptation of corruption by accepting gratification which are never remitted into government coffers, before the vehicles are released to the owners, an action  commercial vehicle drivers gladly opt for.
It was reliably gathered that sometimes, some impounded vehicles are taken to LASTMA offices but would not be parked inside the yard, apparently to give the erring motorists an impression that they meant business. This, however, occurred when a huge amount is demanded.
Vanguard