Posted by News Express | 31 July 2013 | 5,530 times
In this concluding part of our exclusive interview, the first part of which was published yesterday, international lawyer and firebrand activist Emeka Ugwuonye speaks on the idea behind his wave-making NGO, the Due Process Advocates (DPA), and how it is preparing the ground for radical change in Nigeria.
I am really very excited to talk about the Due Process Advocates (DPA). Yes, we have made tremendous progress with it. DPA came from a simple idea. With so much injustices in Nigeria, so much corruption, so much backwardness and failure of the leaders to develop this country and give our people a true chance to live fair, happy, prosperous and peaceful life, I felt it would be nice to mobilise Nigerians and friends all over the world to come together and make a contribution and to overcome the collective action problems that have held the people back.
DPA is going to provide its members and the entire Nigerian community and beyond a multi-opportunity platform. It is a platform to advocate for justice, rule of law and due process. It is a platform for us to learn more about law and about rights and how to enforce these rights. It is becoming increasingly a centre for sharing of information on contemporary issues of interest for members and the society at large.
The way DPA is set up currently is such that anybody with a Facebook profile could go to DPA wall and learn something, just by following the discussions and debates on what is going on. For instance, there has been more public debate on the controversy over the Senate vote that became known as a vote for under-age marriage. There has been more debate on DPA on that issue than anywhere else among Nigerians. Also, the issue of the law-in-the-making against gay marriages is being intensely discussed on DPA, and many people come out thanking DPA for the opportunity to participate in such discussions and to learn from them.
We are providing in DPA an alternative democracy or alternative parliament where people could debate and discuss issues that affect Nigeria. It is providing platform for sampling of the opinion of Nigerians. We shall soon sponsor some bills for the legislature. Indeed, I could tell you that there is now more debate on DPA than you have in any of the Nigeria’s legislative houses.
DPA, at the moment, has established some basic forms of legal aid intervention for poor people, whether they are our members or not. Once there is an obvious need for justice and legal services, we have lawyers ready to pounce. In the next 12 months DPA is going to have a minimum of two lawyers in each of the 36 states for such intervention. DPA expects to be able to deploy lawyers to any venue where there is a threat to justice and we believe that we could intervene with urgent legal services.
Apart from this, DPA is looking into other areas where we could support and help the weak and vulnerable people. For instance, we are working on establishing a hotline for sexual harassment cases, be it at work or in the universities. Once a person in power uses overt or covert threat to demand sex from his subordinate, the victim now has a place to go and we would be there to level the playing field and make it possible for her NO to be respected by her superior.
Another area is public interest litigation. And two cases come to mind immediately. First is the dumping of bodies in Ezu River in Anambra State. Second is the story now being investigated by DPA that some 70 beggars were unlawfully removed from Lagos in South-West Nigeria and dumped at Onitsha in the South-East. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, these two cases are going to end up in court soon.
DPA is in the process of establishing physical presence in several cities both in Nigeria and other countries. It will have news processing and coverage for its members. We are about to establish short online courses in law, human right matters, and business for our members and the general public. We are affiliating with some institutions overseas and some renounced professors would teach courts in our programs.
DPA is a place to be. To see what DPA has come to mean for its members, you can look at some of the things that some new members have said about DPA, just in the past 24 hours. One commented: “What a rare opportunity and privilege I have to be a member. A big thank you goes to my big friend ….. who suggested and linked me to this group. Thanks to all.” Another member commented today, thus: “… To be honest with you, [DPA] is the place to be …..“.
I feel great when I read reactions like the above, made publicly. But you must know that no one person could build anything like this. So, I must give credit to DPA Admin crew. They are super. And further credit goes to DPA members in general. DPA is blessed with quality membership. The men and women here are very intelligent, mature and polite. We don’t have the sort of rancour that tears up many other groups. Every member is eager to support, to help, to get us going. I receive calls and inboxes from members who have only one question: “Barrister, how can I help?” With this kind of people, I am so confident of the future of DPA. As time goes on, many more people would become aware of DPA’s good work and they would rush to join and we would be happy to have them aboard.
We shall grow and grow and give Nigeria a realistic opportunity and voice in their own affairs. That is the goal.
•Photo shows Emeka Ugwuonye.
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