Posted by Emeka Umeagbalasi & Justus Ijeoma | 31 July 2013 | 3,580 times
The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law sees the last weekend defence by the Government of Lagos State over its roles in dumping in Onitsha Upper Iweka of 72 less privileged citizens, which it called destitute; as constitutionally impeachable. This is because it amounts to gross misconduct, contrary to Section 188(2b) of the Constitution. It is also a grave violation of Section 1(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. By Section 1(3), the Constitution does not share her supremacy with any other law and policy in Nigeria that are clearly incoherent with her provisions. From every indication, the Government of Lagos State is a clear opposite of an enclave under organic solidarity and a rabid proponent of mechanical solidarity.
Following thunderous and deafening condemnations that trailed the dumping of 72 destitute in Onitsha Upper Iweka, Southeast Nigeria by the Government of Lagos State through its office of Youths & Social Development and the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command; the State Government, which initially denied knowledge of the criminal exercise, has spoken out and claimed responsibility. According to the Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Youths & Social Development, Dr. Enitan Dolapo Badru, who spoke to the Guardian Newspapers last weekend, “at least 1,708 beggars and destitute have been expelled from Lagos to their various States and countries since January 2013, in government bid to rid the streets of beggars and the mentally challenged.”
The Special Adviser further said as follows: “The international standard requires the State to reunite them with their families.” “The end result is to reunite them back with their families. We are not repatriating them out of Lagos, we are reuniting them with their families because once we rescue them, we cannot as a government, hold a child under the age of 18 in custody without parental or guardian’s consent. We found out that a lot of children on the streets of Lagos come from outside the state thinking that Lagos is an Eldorado. It is unfortunate that many of them are underage and very vulnerable because they can be introduced to so many vices.
“When we rescue them, we try as much as possible to carry out social investigation to know where they actually come from and why they absconded in the first place. And this takes time, because most of them don’t usually tell the truth since they don’t want to go back home. Once we have them in our custody, we must take a Court Order to keep them since the law provides for that and we cannot keep them indefinitely, so we still need to send them back to their parents. And our practice is to get in touch with the social welfare services of their respective states, which would in turn get in touch with the families.
“ In the last one year, a total number of 3,114 beggars/destitute/mentally-challenged have been rescued in day and night operations and 2,695 were taken to the Rehabilitation and Training Centre, Owutu, Ikorodu, where the state government has made provisions for facilities to help in turning their lives around, while the mentally-unstable are given medical attention.”
Apart from monumental contradictions inherent in the watery defence, our sociological, legal and criminological analysis of same, as put up by the Government of Lagos State clearly shows that the State is psychiatrically challenged. Our questions arising from the said public statement of defence are: 1. Which provisions of the Constitution or Nigerian Criminal Code empower Lagos State Government to engage in reckless internal deportation and dumping of citizens in another federating territory at ungodly hours? 2. Which court in Nigeria can grant an order detaining citizens including minors accused of simple offences, misdemeanors and juvenile delinquencies in illegal detention centers without public and family access and trial for over seven months? 3. Is Section 166(1&2) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011 superior to the 1999 Constitution and her Criminal Code? 4. Are “disorderly conducts, anti begging and wandering” laws of Lagos State capital offenses? 5. Is Lagos State Government a police investigator, a prosecutor, a trial judge or magistrate and a prison officer? 6. Is it correct to say that among the 54 “destitute” escapees dumped by Lagos State Government in another federating territory at ungodly hours are violent criminals including assassins, kidnapers and armed robbers, imported to terrorize the State for the purpose of securing a political advantage or goal for its ruling party?
7. Who is a destitute and how does Lagos State Government determine who a destitute is? 8. Are area boys or “alayes” destitute and if yes, are they not up to 40% of the Lagos State poor residents and have they all been jailed or evacuated from the streets of Lagos State? 9. Is one Tinubu Bola-a so called political godfather not a former destitute and which known and highly rated secondary school did he attend if he was born with golden spoon? 10. What is the main purpose of government; does it exist for political appointees and the rich or is it established for the welfare of majority poor citizens including the so called destitute? 11. Are there no beggars, hawkers, lepers, the aged and bodily and mentally disabled on the streets of the western capitals including the United States of America?
It is important to point out that one of the reasons why the early Nigerian capital was moved from Calabar to Lagos was because of its melting pot status. A number of former slaves were also settled in Lagos. In other words, nobody owns Lagos. Most of the past and present political appointees in the State including an immediate past governor, the State Assembly members and those occupying the Alausa Government House at Ikeja are not from Lagos State, likewise many, if not most of the notable politicians and NGO leaders. Lagos is like the United States where nobody owns America. The word “America” is derived from an individual named “Amerigo Vespucci”. He was a great sailor and explorer that came in early 1500s after Christopher Columbus who came before him in 1490s. In their adventurous exploring project, they discovered a new world, which later became “America”. Lagos shares similarity with America in that it means “lakes” in Portuguese, having been so named by a Portuguese Settlement. Its traditional name is “Eko”(war camp); a name given to it by its Benin Conquerors of the Benin Empire(1440-1897).
While reiterating our unequivocal condemnation of the atrocious action of the Government of Lagos State and call for searchlights of the Federal Government and the citizens to be beamed on same at all times; we wish to appreciate the steps taken so far by the Government of Anambra State, which last night (30-07-2013) held a high powered meeting with the Federal Government of Nigeria at which a strongly-worded written petition against the Government of Lagos State was submitted. We still want the Government of Anambra State to weigh the option of going to the Supreme Court against the Government of Lagos State to establish a case of grave violation of the Constitution against it including invasion of its federating territory at odds and ungodly hours with malicious intents.
Another measure that would deter the belligerent and lawless Government of Lagos State from engaging in such callous action in future is by instituting a class action on behalf of the dumped citizens, seeking billions of naira worth of compensation to them for infringement of their fundamental human rights. The President is also called upon to order the Inspector General of Police to investigate the roles of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police in the unconstitutional and despicable action. In the course of the IGP’s investigation, all illegal detention centers in Lagos State where citizens are held for months without trial under the guise of “operation flush out destitute”, should be identified and closed down. The Federal Government should, as a matter of uttermost immediacy and federating importance, review all sets of laws and policies being operated by the Government of Lagos State with a view to bringing them into conformity with Nigeria’s mother laws especially the 1999 Constitution.
*Comrade Umeagbalasi is Chairman of the Board of Intersociety while Comrade Ijeoma is Head, Publicity Desk. •Photo shows Governor Fashola.
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