Civil Society Organizations and Professional bodies in Nigeria have expressed worry at the rate poor and vulnerable Nigerians are facing the full wrath of the law over petty acts that constitute offences often committed due to poverty and hunger.
The citizen groups at the meeting held at the Abuja office of Lawyers Alert (LA), agreed to work together as a coalition to advocate for the decriminalization of petty offences in the country.
The need for the advocacy for the decriminalization of petty offences in the country became imperative given the manner indigent citizens are languishing in prisons for acts like hawking, loitering, sex work, theft of food items and suppose breach of public peace for which many indigent citizens have been convicted sentenced.
Participants at the meeting expressed strong will to work together towards decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria and resolved to expand the coalition by bring in more partners.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abuja Chapter, Mr. Folami Aluko said NBA would continue to partner and use its links within the justice sector in the furtherance of judicial advocacy towards decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria.
The President of Lawyers Alert (LA) Mr. Rommy Mom who was the convener of the coalition expressed great pleasure at the willingness of the groups to work together and the desire to bring in more partners so as to achieve the objective.
Mom particularly noted the diverse nature of the coalition which comprised almost all stakeholders and expressed optimism that the objective of decriminalization of petty offences would be realised.
The Director Legal for Lawyers Alert, Mr. Bamidele Jacobs observed that petty offences wear the face of poverty and that it is another way of discriminating against the poor and the vulnerable.
Also speaking, Mr. Afolabi Olawale of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stated that the entire purpose of the coalition and its objectives fits that of the NHRC and that the commission would be fully involved in the efforts towards achieving the objective.
The groups at the meeting include the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Girl to Woman, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF).
Others are Lawyers Alert Nigeria, Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights (COLaHR) Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Philip Akpavie & Associates and Drug Harm Reduction Network in Nigeria (DHRAN).