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CSOs form alliance on decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria

By Olawale Oyegbade, Osogbo, S/W Bureau Chief

Some Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria have formed an alliance to collaborate, synergize and work together in advocating for the decriminalization of petty offences in the country.

At a strategic meeting in Abuja organized by Lawyers Alert Nigeria, the participants drawn from various CSOs dissected the issue of petty offences considering the manner indigent citizens have been unnecessarily arrested, maltreated and imprisoned.

The Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja branch, Mr Folarin Aluko reviewed the concept of petty offences and noted that poor people have been the victims.

He said when a segment of the society become the target of a particular law, it's an indication of inequality which also amounts to discrimination and should not be encouraged.

Mr Bamidele Jacobs, Director, Legal Matter at Lawyers Alert Nigeria speaking at the meeting in Abuja on Tuesday

The NBA Chairman lamented that many citizens were languishing in prisons for committing petty offences and that this contributes to prisons congestion across the country.

Aluko said there is need to decriminalize petty offences just as he frowned at wrong, unwarranted and indiscriminate arrest of citizens, especially the indigent and vulnerable by security men, particularly in Abuja.

Also speaking, the Deputy Director, Prison Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) Ogechi Ogu expressed worry over prison congestion in the country, saying that many of the prisoners got there for committing petty offences.

She also said most of the victims of petty offences are poor people who might have committed such offences while pursuing their means of livelihood. She added that there is need to raise awareness of punishable offences and enlighten citizens to know their rights.

Ogu also condemned the arbitrary arrests of indigent citizens in Abuja by security operatives and advised government agencies to be responsible and respect the dignity of Nigerian citizens when they are discharging their lawful duties.

The President of Lawyers Alert Nigeria, Mr Rommy Mom also frowned that arresting, humiliating and prosecuting helpless citizens over petty offences should stop. He commended the partners for forming an alliance to actualise the decriminalization of petty offences.

He said the setting up of the Alliance for Decriminalization of Petty Offences was to ensure that all stakeholders work together as a team to achieve the goal.

Mom said the vision of the coalition is to achieve decimalization of petty offences in Nigeria by employing research, advocacy, litigation and awareness creation as tools.

A human right lawyer and Litigation Officer of Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights, Barrister Victor Eboh commended Lawyers Alert Nigeria for championing the campaign for the decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria.

The Director, Legal Matter at Lawyers Alert Nigeria, Mr Bamidele Jacobs said decriminalization of petty offences has become very imperative given the plight of the poor people who are victims.

Representatives of Legal Aid Council, FIDA Nigeria and Dorothy Njemanze Foundation among others also pledged commitment to ensure decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria.