All posts by Oscar Ogbodo

About Oscar Ogbodo

Oscar is a budding young Lawyer, resident in Enugu, Nigeria. He believes that the power to transform Nigeria lies in its people. His interest lies in areas such as Human Rights, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, and Business Law. He believes that the people of a Nation are it's most valuable resources, but can also be it's downfall, if not empowered and enlightened. He is currently a member of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators. He also gained valuable experience in Human Rights by volunteering at the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria and has conducted many Human Rights projects as a leader in the ESUT Law Clinic. His passion and fulfillment lies in sharing knowledge and connecting with people, learning to give more Love to humanity and improving his personal and professional skills. His hobbies include traveling, music, painting and playing chess.

How I quit Smoking | A story of Dirty Lungs and a Good Heart

In modern societies today, the rate of smoking habits keep increasing. Hence, the extreme difficulty associated with efforts to quit smoking. This is in spite of the various health disasters people know that such habit would bring and in spite of the clearly written label on cigarette packs that ‘smokers are liable to die young’. Some have argued that the caveat only applies to cigarette smokers, but not marijuana smokers, but this has been proven to be wrong!

Also, the use of shisha pots and vape pens has been a trending culture for some time. I can’t exactly say that shisha and vaporizers have the same effects as the traditional smoking culture, but it depends on the quality of the shisha/vape pen and the content or flavor being inhaled. Such devices with major parts made of rubber or plastic materials could be cancerous, but who knows? 

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These devices generate and/or insulate heat which reacts with the materials it is made of. We all know that high temperature has never been good friends with rubber and plastic. Moreover, while flavors from mint or other healthy herbs could be beneficial to the health but do not make you quite high, other variants like tobacco and cannabis would be adverse to the health.

This story is not about shisha or vape pens because these materials do not exactly produce smoke. They involve an indirect heating of the substance which produces the vapor or steam that is inhaled. Smoking, on the other hand, involves a direct burning of the substance which produces carbon monoxide (smoke) that is inhaled.

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People mostly smoke cigarettes, cigars, and marijuana, also called Indian hemp or Cannabis. Marijuana or Cannabis has been given many nicknames including; ìgbó, weed, pot, dope, kush, joint, blau, spliff, jombo, claro, maryjane, arizona, skonk, ganja, among others. I could go on and on condemning the habit of smoking, stating how it destroys your vital organs and that you should totally avoid it. But I think that would be cliché and may not bring any exclusive benefit from reading this, for the simple reason that when you searched ‘ effects of smoking in the body’ on Google, you got all the information in that regard. So I will tell a story. It’s the odyssey of a Nigerian who started smoking as a teenager and grew with the habit but later stopped after some life-changing ordeal.

 

How it all began

“10 minutes to go, start rounding up”, bellowed the examiner as Iyanu was putting the finishing touches to his drawing. The West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WAEC/WASSCE) had been going on for a while now and it was all smooth for him till that point. He was a brilliant kid who was always among the top three positions in his class. He was and still is good at the visual arts. The Fine Arts examination was the last paper and the excitement was building. In a few minutes, he would be done with Secondary School.

“Time up! Submit your papers!”, the examiner’s voice resounded across the hall. Having finished, he submitted his papers, then raced outside to join other classmates of his. Shouts of joy echoed outside as the Junior students congratulated them. They signed autographs and draw funny signs on their uniforms, as is the culture in many Nigerian Secondary Schools. Iyanu joined his classmates to the hostel. When two of them, Ciroma and Emeka prepared to go out and have fun. He was excited and wanted to join them too. So they agreed.

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The first ecstasy with Maryjane

Iyanu wanted to know where they were headed. But they told him to just relax and come along. They would have some really good time and that was all that mattered. He thought it would probably be a hotel, bar or night club, so he didn’t really bother. After all, he is a big boy now and can take care of himself. Contrary to his presumption, they didn’t go to a hotel or bar. Instead, they bought some alcohol at a supermarket, then went to a stream which was in a jungle behind the school premises. 

There, he saw some men and women, older than they were. They sat around; drinking, smoking, and playing music from portable speakers. Ciroma smiled and said to Iyanu; “Welcome to the zanga!” “This is the dopest bonk in the area where you’ll get higher than the skies”, said Emeka. Iyanu knew this place was no good, but he couldn’t just tell his friends he did not like it. That would not be cool. The cigarette and some other grass they were smoking was just much. Although he could handle a bottle of beer or two, he was not a smoker. “Make una come siddon” said one of the guys there, looking at them with bloodshot red eyes. Iyanu sat down on a bench with his friends and they opened the drinks. 

“What is that dry grass those guys are rolling and smoking?” Iyanu asked his friends. “it’s weed. It makes you strong and smart, we call it the royal highness” Emeka said. “Don’t worry! You’ll get a taste of the real deal today”, said Ciroma. He went over to the guy with red eyes and bought some of the weed.

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Emeka and Ciroma rolled some of the weed in a  thin triangular paper, then gave a roll to Iyanu. He knew from school, that weed is a hard drug. He also hear that it was illegal and drives people crazy. But all these people were smoking it and they were not acting crazy. He was quite curious to know how it feels, so he took a drag, but could not get the smoke into his lungs. His friends showed him how to breathe it in, or he would not feel the highness. So he took a drag and swallowed the smoke. It hurt his throat, making him cough. They urged him to take in little drags since it was his first time. He did so and was able to handle the smoke with less cough.

At first, he felt nothing. But after 10 minutes of inhaling the weed, he started feeling happy. As the cannabinoids started taking action in his brain, he felt ecstatic. Gradually, he started enjoying himself. The music sounded much better, the environment became very colorful and he felt elated. He felt he could do anything now. He started talking more freely to his friends. Then he courageously went over to the guy with red eyes and shook his hands in greetings. He felt strong. So he started dancing to the music while singing along.

He was full of energy but soon ran out of breath. So he sat down and started talking to himself. He was hallucinating and everyone could hear him stage a coup d’etat. He would become the Nigerian president, legalize marijuana and travel to Las Vegas. After some time, he started singing and dancing again, telling everyone to come and join him. These continued for about 2 hours. When he finally got tired, he sat down. “Damn! I’m hungry! Can we go get something to eat?” He asked his friends. Emeka and Ciroma finished their second roll of weed, then bade goodbye to red eyes and others, then they took their leave.

 

Did you know?

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Cannabinoids are the active nutrients in Marijuana, with Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) being one of the most active. THC mimics a natural cannabinoid chemical in the brain called Anandamide. Like Anandamide, THC sends messages between neurotransmitters of the brain, affecting areas of the brain that control pleasure (such as sex and food), memory, thinking, concentration, movement, sensory reception, and time perception. It also has the ability to trigger the flooding release of a hormone called Dopamine in a dose that is way higher than it’s natural release. When this hormone is released to the brain, it activates parts of the brain that control feelings of happiness and ecstasy. This causes the euphoric ‘high’ that a person experiences. 

The first introduction of Iyanu’s teenage brain to THC gave him a unique experience. There is no high like the first high of marijuana. It may not always be euphoric for every first-timer. To some people, it could have the effect of discomfort, confusion, and loss of personal identity. But whatever the feeling, the first time is always unique and the experience cannot be like subsequent highs.

 

From the first Smoke, onto the next one

Iyanu and his friends went to a restaurant to eat. They ate so much before being satisfied. He had never eaten that much food in his life. When they got back to the hostel, he went straight to his bed and fell asleep. He slept like never before, from 2 pm to 10 pm.

The next day, he packed his bags and went home. He would never forget the experience of the day before. He knew that smoking was not good for his health. But doing it one time wouldn’t hurt anyone. During the holidays, a period of waiting for University admission notification, he enrolled for computer lessons. He did not have any urge to smoke again and seldom thought about it.

Some weeks later, the computer program was coming to an end and there would be a send forth party. During the party, some guys had weed and were smoking at a corner. He perceived the scent and was drawn to join in. That day, he got high again and it felt so good. He exchanged contacts with the guys there. That way, he could hook up with them and smoke some more during the holidays. Occasionally then, he would call the guys, go out with them into the bush or an uncompleted building where they would smoke and get high. 

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He didn’t really know these guys and they didn’t even talk much. They would just hook up, greet each other, and go smoking and playing music. It was fun, and Iyanu did not ever feel any urge to smoke. He just did it when he was bored and for recreational purposes. He had heard that weed was addictive, but he did not feel addicted to it. Whenever he wanted it and didn’t get it, he would simply forget it. At this stage, he could not roll a decent Joint and didn’t know where to buy Weed, so he smoked only when he hooked up with those guys and he only did it occasionally, like once or twice in two weeks. 

He was totally in control. And whenever he smoked he would feel more confident. He would bravely talk to girls whom he was shy to approach when sober. He would easily compose poems, write stories, draw and paint beautifully. He would dance so well to music like Chris Brown and he generally became more social. He made new friends with people who do not smoke and he had more girlfriends. He was so cool, exhibiting smartness and boldness whenever he was high. 

He figured why musicians and other celebrities take drugs a lot, and doing what Davido and Burnaboy does, made him feel like a celebrity already. Little did he know that drugs have ruined many celebrities in the past and more of them today are really trying to quit the habit. Others take expensive steps to ensure that their use of drugs are medically examined and managed in order to ensure it does not destroy them and their career. Some of the celebrities may afford to smoke and get away with it because they can always afford the medical expenses involved.

 

Campus life and Freedom to Smoke

He later got admission into a Nigerian University. He was very happy because he would be living alone, without the supervision of his parents. He would be free to do what he liked and go where he wanted at any time he deemed fit. When he resumed school, he hooked up with guys that smoke over there. They would smoke freely in their rooms in the morning before going out for lectures. This made them to be very jovial and bold with their classmates. Gradually, Iyanu started smoking more regularly. He learned how to roll a decent joint. At this time, he could easily buy Weed and smoke on his own whenever he wanted. He became very used to it, but the more he smoked, the less he would feel the high, so he started smoking more rolls and buying stronger strains or species of Cannabis just to get high. Gradually, smoking became a habit of his as he began to do it daily.

 

The Addict

One day, the Police arrested the drug dealers in town and there was no supply of Weed for a whole week. During these times, he could barely handle himself, as he had a strong urge to smoke Weed again. He became confused, shy, scattered, withdrawn and antisocial. He saw the other guys smoking cigarettes so he decided to try it, maybe he could get a bit high. The cigarette was nothing like Weed. The smoke was thicker, and it didn’t get him as high as weed. He smoked 10 sticks of cigarettes at a sitting. Even though he didn’t get high like Weed, it was an alternative that calmed down the urge to smoke Weed.

 

The Struggle to quit smoking

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Sometimes, he tried to quit smoking, knowing it was unhealthy, destructive and illegal. But he could only succeed for a few weeks and get back to it again. He tried so many times, but couldn’t get himself to quit. The urge to smoke would always defeat his will power. Without knowing it, Iyanu had become an addicted chain smoker. He would spend most of his money buying weed or cigarettes and food. Then he would lie to his parents, so they send more money. 

He didn’t want to join any bad gang, so he took the precaution of not joining any group of people who smoke together for social or recreational purposes. He knew that such groups could lead to cultism or other forms of criminal behavior. He began to spend more time indoors, smoking and playing music only. He could hardly concentrate on his books and he stopped spending time with his friends. 

 

The junkie who couldn’t quit smoking

Official SEVICS website how-to-quit-smoking How I quit Smoking | A story of Dirty Lungs and a Good Heart Lifestyle  quit smoking life change addiction management  His youthful and handsome appearance started fading. His skin shriveled. He looked older and haggard. His teeth and fingernails became discolored. The smoking habit gradually made him antisocial, his academic grades plummeted, he started dressing shabbily, he missed lectures frequently and when he attended, he would sleep off in class because he could not concentrate.

Having tried so many times to quit smoking, but to no avail, he gave up and embraced the drug. He became more careless about the addiction, seeing it as a normal thing. He would buy weed in large quantities and store in his room, and occasionally he would invite a few people and throw a party in his room, smoking and drinking on weekdays.

 

Consequences 

One day, he was caught by the police. He had gone to buy weed from the local dealers. Unknown to him, there were policemen in that area, stalking the dealers to see if they could catch their leader. They saw him buy the weed, and on his way out, he was arrested. It is quite usual for policemen to issues warning and release drug offenders if they were willing to part with some cash. When  Iyanu realized that he could be in police trouble, he panicked and tried to escape. The Officers restrained and dragged him to the police station. Iyanu was detained.

The policemen gave him the most severe beating he has ever received in his entire life. The inflicted wounds on him for trying to resist arrest. His parents were called and notified of the arrest. When they arrived, the police officers did not agree to grant him bail at first, insisting that he must be charged to court and remanded in prison. Luckily for him, his father had some contacts who could pull strings in the police force. After some calls and contemplations, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) agreed to grant him bail. The condition was that his parents pay ₦100,000. They paid the money and took him home that day.

See our article on the Nigerian Police and their to deal with them
Click to read article

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Turning Points

When they got home, his parents talked to him in a manner they had never done before. He was such a good boy, or so they thought. Now they were so disappointed in him. They still loved him, but they did not trust or respect him anymore. His privacy was taken away, everything he did and everywhere he went was monitored. He was deeply sorry and ashamed of himself. If only he could go back in time, but it was too late. Only the future remains and he wanted to make his parents proud and regain their trust and respect. 

This time he was at home, he could not access weed or cigarettes, and after 2 weeks, he started experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as loss of appetite, depression and lack of sleep. He also started falling sick frequently with illnesses he had never suffered before, and he developed chest pain and peptic ulcer. The doctor prescribed some medicines for him and told him that if he was faithful to the prescription, he would be free from the illness after a few years. Otherwise, the chest pain and ulcer could develop into heart disease and cancer. So he took the medications faithfully.

 

 

How Iyanu quit smoking

 

When this happened, he was already in his final year of studies at the University. His parents requested the School Authorities to provide a copy of his grades and were duly disappointed. Iyanu had failed 7 courses which meant he would definitely not graduate with his classmates even if he passes his final exams. The final exams were coming up, but his parents refused to let him go back to school, moreover, he was not feeling well. He did not graduate that year. 

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After 3 months, he stopped experiencing the withdrawal symptoms. He was made to practice meditation and yoga in order to help him gain focus and concentration. His parents refused to pay any further school fees, instead, they deferred his admission for 3 years. They asked him to learn a skill, make some money and then he would be able to pay his own school fees whenever he was ready to return to school. They paid for him to learn computer programming, and during these times, he was not given any pocket money. He also learned how to play guitar and how to paint like a professional artist.

2 years later, Iyanu got back his life on track. He became responsible again and started planning to go back to school. Learning those skills had made him independent and he did not get the urge to smoke ever again. He totally overcame the addiction because of his parent’s discipline and support, and because he had committed to stop smoking after the terrible experience of being arrested by the police. He wanted to make his parents proud, to make up for the embarrassment he had caused them. He desperately needed to regain their trust and respect.

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Did you know?

Smoking of any kind has harmful effects on the respiratory system. Marijuana and Cigarettes contain carcinogens and nicotine respectively. These chemicals damage the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the digestive system, the immune system, and the nervous system. Although Marijuana has been particularly tested for as being beneficial for treating diseases like cancer, insomnia, and depression, there is no conclusive research for these and it is strictly reserved for patients who have received prescription for using the drug. Moreover, smoking is never a healthy way to use it. Cigarettes, on the other hand, are pure poison with no benefits whatsoever. Both products should be avoided.

 

TIPS ON HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

  1. 1. Addiction mindset: Addiction is in the mind, therefore, the first step to quitting should start from the mind. A person who wants to stop smoking must make a decision to quit for good. Even if you fail at your resolve, do not give up.
  2. Stay Motivated: The decision to quit could be for any reason that is right. It could be for health, academic, professional or social reasons, but make sure you are doing it for you, not because of someone else. Doing it for someone else may not always hold water, except that person is always there to watch you and/or your love and commitment to that person is profound. In my experience, only Jesus, Allah, a spouse or family could qualify for these. Sometimes though, death and distance can separate you from a spouse or family. All in all, it’s best you quit for yourself.
  3. Dispose of all accessories and tools which you used for smoking.
  4. Avoid people and places you know could tempt you or bring back memories of being high.
  5. Divert your time and attention to doing something else. Something you enjoy doing and requires concentration. It could be a hobby such as drawing and painting, or a skill like learning a musical instrument.
  6. Play games like chess, checkers, Monopoly, Whot or Ludo.
  7. Change environment. Relocate to a different place where you will be away from all associations and memories you may have formed from smoking and getting high.
  8. Pray and read the Word of God. Participate in spiritual activities and join a religious group that is not judgemental or hypocritical, but loving and supportive.
  9. Practice meditation and yoga. Also, get involved in physical activities and exercise regularly. If possible, hire a trainer and create a gym goal that you must achieve with the trainer.
  10. Seek external help, eg going to a therapist or psychologist who can help you to quit smoking.
  11. Use E-cigarettes or Vaporizers instead of smoking. Make sure you avoid tobacco and cannabis flavors and herbs and use vaporizers that are mainly made of ceramic or glass even though they are usually more expensive. You could use mint and rosemary flavors or herbs, or other flavors and herbs that are beneficial to the health. Only use this option if you are certain or you have a system of checks to make sure that you don’t buy tobacco or cannabis flavors, and ensure to buy quality vape pens made of glass or ceramic.
  12. Get an extra job or a part-time job to keep you busy.
  13. Spend more time with family and friends, people you love and those who also love and support you.
  14. Avoid alcohol altogether, or only drink once in a long while, and when you do, don’t go more than drinks having more than 7% alcoholic content at a sitting. Alcohol serves as a trigger for the urge to smoke and there is always a mental association created between drinking and smoking.

 

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POLICE BRUTALITY IN NIGERIA | HOW TO SEEK REDRESS

“Police is your friend” is a popular maxim displayed in Police Stations across Nigeria. That doesn’t matter anyway since Police Brutality in Nigeria is absolutely higher than it has ever been. Most Nigerians have experienced police brutality or any of its variants. These could be police harassment, extortion, torture, arbitrary detention and in extreme cases, extrajudicial killing. It is safe to say that the widespread fear of the Nigeria Police is justified. I bet you agree. Have you had an encounter with the Police? How did you handle yours? 

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I am my friends ran into some problems with the Police during the holidays.  Below is our story and how we dealt with it.

How We were Robbed by the Police

The small fashion business which I started with three of my friends about 2 years ago was growing. The customer base was increasing and we made big sales during the festive season last year. This new year, we decided to treat ourselves well by buying ourselves a car and going on a vacation to Calabar for some enjoyment. We were on our way back from that vacation, all three of us in the new Hyundai Accent. Then we were stopped on the road by some police officers and asked to pull over. We came down from the car and these police officers started shouting orders with angry voices- ‘Oya open that boot’, ‘where una laptops?’, ‘bring your phone jaree, awon Yahoo boys’.

At that moment, I actually thought these may not be real police officers because I never had such experience before. Upon unlocking our phones, they immediately went to our social media chats, SMS messages, Gallery, Crypto and Forex applications. The chats with our associates in China from where we imported materials for our Fashion business were quickly pinned as our attempt to defraud foreigners using social media. Our crypto wallets were tagged as our way of laundering fraud money without being noticed and the policemen accused us of being internet fraudsters. 

All attempts to explain to these officers fell on deaf ears. They would not hear that we ran a fashion business, not minding the various evidence of our business we showed to them. These officers seized our car key and our phones. We could not make phone calls. Their last resort was that we could either bail ourselves there with ₦50,000 each or if we get to the station. we would be detained and the bail price would increase per person. The three of us could not provide the money there, and we asked to make phone calls for people who would get the money for us. They let us make the calls. Unfortunately, after making the calls, no one could get the money to us because we were on the highway, very far from our State. We then asked the officers if we could make mobile transfer of funds directly to their accounts using our phones. They disagreed at first, insisting that they would detain us in cells if we did not bring the money. However, after much deliberations, they said they would accept mobile transfers only on the condition that we would pay ₦70,000 each. We had no option, we needed to get home, so we transferred the money to them, and they let us go!

The Pain of Loss and Our Resolve to Fight the Police

Kabiru would not have it. He kept on venting his anger throughout our journey home. “Efosa”, he said, calling my attention from the road, “How could we be robbed of our hard-earned money like that? detained and treated like criminals by the very people who were charged to protect us”?  This got me thinking; our business is legitimate and we pay our taxes. Kabiru insisted we must do something about it otherwise we would never be safe, even in the hands of those who should ensure our safety. “These policemen would detain and extort more people, and who says it could not happen to us again? Some of these police officers have so much darkness in their blood as if their black uniform is a symbol of their evil hearts. But I know some other good police officers though, Segun added. 

We knew we had to tackle this. It is our duty as citizens of Nigeria who pay taxes and it is our right as human beings with dignity to follow this issue up. We knew that there is no guarantee that the police officers would be brought to book even if we took action. And we also didn’t know what particular action to take at that moment.

 

Channels for Seeking Redress

The next day, we conducted some research on what could be done and we came up with the following options:

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1.) Get a Lawyer and go to court; This was the most obvious option and the first to come to mind. We didn’t need any research to figure this out, actually. But court cases were always fraught with technicalities, long delays in getting justice and also quite expensive. We would definitely lose more than ₦50,000 each, or spend close to that amount in pursuing the case, and we were not even sure we would win. Technicalities in court can upturn the course of justice. It may well not be worth the stress, we have a business to run.

2.) Go to the National Human Rights Commission; This seemed to be a quicker approach. The commission would take administrative action by sending our grievances to the Commissioner of Police or the Inspector-General of Police, and they could even take up a case in court on our behalf, saving us the expenses. But then again, there was no guarantee that the commission would take up our case seriously, and getting a government agency to help you against another government agency didn’t sound very promising. The success of our case would depend greatly on the weight of evidence we had against these police officers, and in the willingness of the Commission to follow it up with tenacity.

3.) The Police Public Complaints Unit; This is a department of the Nigerian Police Force that deals with public complaints of police brutality. Getting the police to deal with its own officers may be the best way to seek redress, or it may leave us exposed and lead to more persecution by other police officers who could make us a target. Anyway, we have heard news of some police officers being expelled from the Force, and even charged, prosecuted and convicted. We have also heard rumors that these officers who were presented as having been dealt with properly, were simply redeployed to another State, in a jurisdiction where no one would recognize them. Anyway, we were not ruling out this option either. We visited their website using this link. From where we got their contact information. We also learned that every State Police Headquarters have a Human Rights Office where we could go and make our complaints.

4.) The Public Complaints Commission; This commission generally handles complaints against any public officer, civil servant or government office and can be reached here. It seemed a bit wide including them in our options because they deal mostly with Civil servants and other public officials, but we did not rule it out.

There are also many other Non-government organizations which could help in different ways. And we resolved to find these NGOs and see how they can help us too. We decided that since we could not afford option no.1, and there was no guarantee that any single option would provide a remedy, we decided to take options 2 to 4. 

The Irreplaceable Role of Evidence in Claims of Police Brutality

Upon enquires, we understood that whatever channel we would use for seeking redress, concrete evidence was key. Evidence to identify the officers, and to link them with the corrupt practice. Thankfully though, we have a video camera which was attached on the car’s dashboard and captured everything that happened. The camera was able to capture their faces, their names, and numbers as written on their uniforms. Everything that happened that day was recorded. Also, the records of the mobile transfers which we made to their account was extremely relevant. With this evidence, we filed our complaints. And we had hope. Real hope that we would get remedy for the injustice done to us. 

Social Media is a Potent Weapon Against Police Brutality

To fuel the flame of our complaints, we also used our social media and other available media channels to tell the public of our plight with the policemen, and the steps we had taken to seek redress. We also released the video footage to the public. Getting reactions from individuals and organizations made the agencies before which we laid complaints to give priority to our case and make efforts to bring the Police Officers to justice.

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Hope: how it is almost ending… 

Having done these, we had hope. Hope that Human Rights are still real, recognized and enforceable in the Nigerian society. Hope that the Nigeria Police Force still had some discipline and dignity towards its duties, not minding the misconducts of ‘evil’ Police Officers among them. Hope that the ordinary Nigerian citizen can get justice without bribing his way through. Our Joy lies in the fact that by taking steps to enforce our rights instead of sulking and complaining bitterly without doing anything, we would give others hope and encourage them to take steps in enforcing their rights too. 

What you can do?

We now encourage citizens to rise up and gear up. Here are a few suggestions to help you anytime your rights or those of any other persons are being violated: 

  • Make efforts to discreetly take pictures or record videos of the event as this will serve as invaluable evidence in seeking redress. Try to capture the faces of the police officers, and if possible, their names and numbers too. 
  • Remember to be discreet, evil police officers are known to be trigger happy too. 
  • Making wired transfers instead of cash would also provide evidence. 
  • Take note of the location where the event takes place. Police Officers are territorial.

Truly, there is no guarantee of getting a remedy, but the assertion of our freedom and dignity serves as warning bells to the bad police officers to keep off, or they could get burnt by our ‘wahala’. Activate your rights today! 

Have you had any experience of Police brutality? How did you handle yours? Are you taking any precautions to ensure that you do not fall victim to police brutality, extortion, and harassment? Let’s have your thoughts…

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THE PROSPECTS OF UPHOLDING THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN IN NIGERIA

Early on a Monday morning, around 4 AM, I was awake and preparing to travel for a conference in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. I was very excited as this was my first time going to the capital city so I left home a bit too early. I got to the motor park at Ogbete market, Enugu state by 5 AM only to find out that they had not opened for the day, so I had to wait. While waiting in front of the motor park, I observed some children who were sleeping outside, on top of tables in market stalls. There were two boys and three girls there. It occurred to me that they were homeless and the only place they could lay their head to sleep was in the market, exposed to whatever dangers that may come with the night. So I asked myself- are these children less human than I am? Do they not have rights protected by the law? What could be done to mitigate such situations in our society?

Well, the sight of children hawking on the streets have become a normal thing in Nigeria, I guess I must have taken special notice of these ones because the market was not busy with its endless buzz at this time of the morning. Recently in the news on the radio, I heard of a child in Onitsha who had been beaten to a coma by her mistress. Who knows what this child must have been going through and for how long, before this particular incident? Yet we claim to have laws in Nigeria that protect the rights of children? Maybe these laws are meant for only the privileged children after all-or maybe not. Let us examine the legal framework of child rights in Nigeria.

THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN UNDER NIGERIAN LAW

Human rights are simply inherent entitlements and freedoms which every human being is- or should be duly accorded, merely by virtue of being human and nothing more. Rights are naturally inherent, but they would mean nothing if not recognized and protected by the law. In Nigeria, it is evident that even though rights are recognized and protected by the law, they still mean nothing until adequate measures are established and maintained for the proper enforcement of these rights.

The principal law that provides for human rights in Nigeria which applies to all citizens is the 1999 Constitution which makes provisions for Fundamental Human Rights under Chapter 4. However, the Childs Rights Act was enacted by the National Assembly in 2003. It is not only the first comprehensive legislation on the rights of children but also very ambitious legislation as far as the rights of Nigerian children is concerned.

This Childs Rights Act makes extensive provisions concerning freedoms and entitlements which accrue to every Nigerian below 18 years. Some of the provisions of this Act are as follows:

  • The interests of a child shall be of paramount consideration if every action was taken by any natural or juristic person which affects the welfare or well being of the child, and every person or entity which is charged with the care and custody of children shall give due protection and care necessary for the wellbeing of the child and in conformity with accepted and established standards and authorities.

  • The Act also incorporates the provisions of chapter 4 of the Constitution to apply in relation to children and interpreted in line with the language and purpose of the Act and also provided for certain specific rights such as the Right to be respected, accorded dignity and stay free from torture, abuse, slavery or servitude in the custody of a parent, guardian or other authority. Other rights include the Right to be free from torture, slavery or all forms of abuse, Right to live a healthy life and duties of government and parents to make provisions in that regard, Right to parental care and protection, Rights to education, to free primary education, and the duties of government and parents to provide such education, and other rights and responsibilities too.

  • The Act goes further to prohibit certain practices which are harmful and infringe the rights of the child. Thus, a person below 18 years shall not be capable of entering into a valid marriage or of being betrothed and any person who is involved in such marriage is committing an offence which is punishable with a fine or imprisonment, or both. Also, a child shall not be given skin marks or tattoos and shall not be exposed to the use or trafficking of narcotic or psychotropic hard drugs, no person shall involve a child or use a child in the performance of criminal activities and no person shall abduct or remove a child from the lawful custody of his parents or guardians. Anybody who indulges in these acts shall be liable to various punishments as stipulated under the act.

  • The subjection of children to exploitative labour is prohibited and every act which amounts to forced or unlawful labor or which amounts to child trafficking such as selling, hiring, or otherwise dealing with children for the purpose of begging, hawking, prostitution, slavery, pornography, drug trafficking or any other illegal activity which prevents the child from enjoy his dignity, being cared for and getting a good education. All these are punishable under the Act.

  • No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child and it is immaterial whether the child gave consent or whether the offender believed the child to be above 18 years. A child shall not be subjected to any form of sexual exploitation or any other form of exploitation.

  • A child shall not be recruited into any branch of the armed forces or be directly involved in any military activities and it is an offence to make a harmful publication which is against the interest of the child.

  • The Act makes various other relevant provisions which relate to the interests of a child in various circumstances and grants government the necessary powers to enable them to enforce and protect the Rights written therein. It is advised that you should acquiesce yourself with a copy of this Act and read through.

Having examined these laws, the question arises as to its relevance in society because they are not being properly enforced. Res ipsa loquitur, the average Nigerian on the streets will tell you how much child abuse is witnessed every day as a normal activity, or you can take a stroll into a Nigerian market and see for yourself. The reasons for this inefficiency in the enforcement of child rights are due to the many limitations which abound and militate against adequate compliance with the Childs Rights Act. Some of these limitations are:

  • Ignorance and illiteracy is a major hindrance to the enforceability of the provisions of the Act. Many Nigerian parents have not the minutest knowledge of the existence of such law, not to talk of knowing the proper measures to take in order to prevent abuse of their children by guardians. Ignorant or illiterate parents also contribute to the abuse of their children due to lack of adequate discipline on their own part to enable them to know the effects of such abuse on the children.

  • Poverty is another problem that leads to child abuse. Many parents end up involving child trafficking when they are too poor to take care of their children. They send off the children as maids or servants to people in the city, sometimes in exchange for a regular payment or some ‘gratification’. These children often end up being abused, maltreated, subjected to hard labour, denied quality education or even tortured badly. Poverty can also make parents to subject their children to labour such as hawking when they are supposed to be in school.

  • Absence of government agencies charged with the specific responsibility of enforcing the rights of children. Although there are agencies that function to enforce and promote human rights such as the National Human Rights Commission and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, these agencies are not equipped and properly funded to handle matters involving the rights of children.

  • The practice of establishing orphanages and shelters for homeless children has not developed in Nigeria. Although we have motherless babies’ homes, they are mostly not equipped with child care facilities and infrastructure; therefore they are only capable of taking care of babies, not growing children.

The limitations mentioned above are only but a few hindrances to the protection and proper enforcement of the rights of children in Nigeria. The purpose of this work would not be complete if suggestions are not provided on how we can protect the rights of children in our society.

RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD RIGHTS

  • Public enlightenment and educational campaigns is a major positive step towards this objective. Government agencies and NGOs could sponsor and engage in campaigns around rural areas, schools and media house, providing relevant information as to the negative effects of child abuse and various options and methods available to avoid such.

  • Parents who are poor and unable to take adequate care of their children should be aided with child support funds. The government could make provisions for these funds in form of loans or grants and when these are made available, effort must be made to ensure that news of such reaches to the most rural areas and less developed parts of the cities. Such will help to mitigate cases of child labour and child trafficking.

  • A government agency should be established with one sole responsibility of preventing child abuse, detecting and tackling any infringement to the rights of the child. Such an agency should be adequately supported with facilities and finance that will enable them to handle the numerous cases of child abuse in the country.

  • The provision of free and quality education, at least up to the secondary school level should be made by the government. This will be a great panacea to mitigate child labour and abuse.

  • Vocational training and skill acquisition facilities should also be established by the government for children. So that people who are unable to afford a university education can learn some useful skills that will help them develop themselves and contribute positively to the development of society.

  • Family planning should be encouraged among parents and newlywed couples. Religious organizations and health practitioners have an important role to play in this regard. These organizations should educate couples on the need to give birth to children whom they can take care of according to their financial buoyancy and capability. The use of contraceptives should be encouraged in this regard so that couples will not give birth to children they did not plan for.

  • The government through established agencies should get actively involved in prosecuting and punishing people who engage in various kinds of child abuse. Thus parents and guardians who infringe the rights of their children should be prosecuted according to the law and punishments such as the imposition of fine and payment of compensation to the child should be meted out to offenders.

  • Children who are the wards of abusive or incompetent parents or guardians should be separated from them and put in the custody of established state facilities that are adequately equipped for taking care of children.

  • Correctional and rehabilitation facilities for juvenile offenders should be established and maintained by the state. Also, children’s homes and orphanages should be established, maintained and properly equipped by the state.

  • Lawyers, activists and concerned citizens also have very important roles to play. They should sponsor and institute legal actions to compel the government to enforce the provisions of the Childs Rights Act, such as free and quality education and the construction of orphanages, correctional facilities and skill acquisition centres.

  • The police and other law enforcement agencies should not be allowed to detain persons below 18 years in prisons or police cells.

CONCLUSION

It is pertinent at this stage, to highlight the importance of enforcing the rights of children. This cannot be overemphasized because the fate of today’s children determines the state of tomorrow’s society.

Children who are neglected or abused today would have the wrong image of life and are most likely to grow up and become criminals who would torment society without mercies. However, when children are given the proper attention at the tender age when they are still malleable, they would likely grow up to become assets and resource persons in the society.

It is, therefore, very important that the rights of children are upheld and protected in order to secure the future of our society with peace.