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Nana Nwachukwu: #ScoopLegal: On forced deportation: Lest we descend into anarchy

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Nana Nwachukwu: #ScoopLegal: On forced deportation: Lest we descend into anarchy

by Nana Nwachukwu

Owing to spate of discussions going on about the recent incident where the Lagos State government sent back certain individuals to Anambra State, it has become necessary to see what the laws of Nigeria have to say about it.

READ: We Did Not Deport 67 Ibos, We Resettled Them – Lagos Government

READ: “Anambra Might Reciprocate Forced Deportation”: Obi Condemns Fashola In Letter To Pres. Jonathan

READ: Rotimi Fawole: #ScoopLegal: Is Gentrification A Suitable Basis For Forced Deportation In Lagos?

It is trite law that every Nigerian is entitled to being treated in a dignified manner without fear or favour according to Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria. Read below;

“34. (1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –

(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;

(b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and

(c) no person shall be required to perform forced of compulsory labour

(d) in the case of a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years for the purpose of his education or welfare;

(e) in the case of persons suffering from infectious or contagious disease, persons of unsound mind, persons addicted to drugs or alcohol or vagrants, for the purpose of their care or treatment or the protection of the community; or.”

 However, no law is read or interpreted in isolation. Each state is empowered to make laws for the safety and wellbeing of the state as stated in the Constitution and outlined under the Concurrent and Residual list.

Lagos State took this step in enacting a Criminal Code that takes into consideration the unique needs of the state in 2011. Under this law in Lagos State, loitering, soliciting for alms to depict nuisance constitute misdemeanours or in layman’s terms ‘small offences’. Find it below;

Section 166 Criminal law of Lagos State, Cap A384 Laws of Lagos State 2011 states as follows;

“166.—(1) The following persons:

(a) every prostitute:–

(i) behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in any public place;

(ii) loitering and persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution;

(b) every person who places himself in any public place to beg or gather alms, or causing or procuring or encouraging any child or children to do so;

(c) every person playing at any game of chance for money or money’s worth in any public place;

(d) every person who, in any public place, conducts himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace;

(e) every person endeavouring by the exposure of wounds or deformation to obtain or gather alms;

(f) every person going about as a gatherer or collector of alms, or endeavouring to procure charitable contributions of any nature or kind under any false or fraudulent pretence;

(g) every person who exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a prostitute in such a manner as to show that he is aiding or controlling prostitution with any person;

(h) every person found wandering in or on or near any premises or in any road or highway or any place adjacent to it or in any public place at such time and under such circumstances as to lead to the conclusion that such person is there for an illegal or disorderly purpose.

shall be deemed to be a disorderly person.

(2) A person found to be a disorderly person is guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to a fine of Fifteen Thousand Naira (N15,000.00) for the first offence and for every subsequent offence to a fine of Forty-Five Thousand Naira (N45,000.00) or imprisonment for three (3) months or both.

(3) An offender under this Section may be arrested without warrant.”

Before we talk very fast about the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 LFN 2004 being a Federal law, it seems that Lagos State borrowed a leaf from the Federal Law to produce its law as relating to vagabonds and nuisances. Look at the provisions of Section 249 below;

“249.         The following persons- 

(a) every common prostitute-

(i) behaving in a disorderly or indecent manner in any public place;

(ii) loitering and persistently importuning or soliciting persons for the purpose of prostitution;

(b) every person wandering or placing himself in any public place to beg or gather alms, or causing or procuring or encouraging any child or children so to do;

(c) every person playing at any game of chance for money or money’s worth in any public place; and

(d) every person who, in any public place, conducts himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace,

shall be deemed idle and disorderly persons, and may be arrested without warrant, and shall be guilty of a simple offence, and shall be liable to imprisonment for one month. ”

Now, the questions are these;

1. Should the Government of Lagos State have arrested the said persons without a warrant? The answer is yes. See Subsection 3 of Section 166 CCLS above.

For persons under 18, the Constitution says for ‘education’ or ‘welfare’. Lagos State having taken them into their custody is bound by law to take the necessary steps to provide for them as stipulated. There was no hint of expelling them to Onitsha or any other town except Lagos State would claim that it had made arrangements for their welfare which would be better welfare in the town they are being sent to. Does dumping them at Onitsha Bridge constitute better provisions? I think not.

Now for persons above 18 years adjudged to be of unsound mind, shouldn’t there be a mental home to which they could be sent to in Lagos? Did Lagos State Government write to Anambra State requesting assistance assuming all mental homes were filled to the brim and there was no accommodation? That is left for Lagos State to answer.

Now, to the persons assumed to be ‘Vagrants’, how Lagos State determined that beats my imagination. Shouldn’t they have been arraigned as required by Section 166 CCLS and 249 CC for the Court to hear them out and determine if they were vagrants or not?

2. What should Lagos State have done thereafter?

The law requires that every arrested person be granted a fair trial in other to determine guilt and culpability. See Section 35 (3) & (4) of the Constitution reproduced below;

“35 (3) Any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed in writing within twenty-four hours (and in a language that he understands) of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention. 

(4) Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time… 

  1. Did Lagos give the persons arrested a fair trial before dumping them at Onitsha?
  2. Were the persons dumped at Onitsha convicted of the offences listed in Section 166 of the CCLS?
  3. If they were convicted, have they served their time before being dumped there?
  4. If the answers to above questions are yes, does Lagos State owe them a duty of rehabilitation to prevent them from returning to the street?

I believe that the function of every government irrespective of the ‘state of origin’ policy is to ensure that citizens that have been in jail are rehabilitated for a better societal integration. However, given the lack of infrastructure for such and the nonchalant attitude of our Government as a whole, such policies as rehabilitation are often far-fetched.

According to the Constitution, no State Government has the right to expel any Nigerian citizen from any part of the country. See below;

“41. (1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.”

We have had Governors disrespecting the Constitution constantly like Governor Theodore Orji who ran Imo and Enugu citizens out of Abia State Government work force.

Now, if the Lagos State Government did not follow the above steps outlined by the law and if the answers to those questions are NO, then Lagos State must tender an unreserved apology to the individuals and the state where they were dumped in such a shabby manner. At least, that is what the Constitution says below abi?

“35. (6) Any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained shall be entitled to compensation and public apology from the appropriate authority or person; and in this subsection, “the appropriate authority or person” means an authority or person specified by law.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @purehaire.

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