Lawyers Alert in Collaboration with Pidi-Nigeria in a press release which was made available for publicity has called on the Bauchi State Government to decriminalize petty offences in order to reduce incidences of overcrowding in correctional centres and its disproportionate impact on marginalised population in the state.
The Spokeman of the two organizations who is also the chairman of Prison Inmate Development Initiative, Mbami Iliya Sabka made it known that Petty offences are minor offences for which the punishment is ‘a warning, community service, a low-value fine or short term of imprisonment.
He made it known that the cases which are in courts and Police detention centres in all localities of the State right from the beginning of this year and even during the COVID-19 pandemic season as monitored by PIDI-Nigeria are petty offences. Mbami made it known that frequent petty offences seen were the non-payment of debt (under charges of ‘fraudulent conversion’ or ‘obtaining by false pretences’), loitering, Prostitution, Homosexuality, minor traffic and Sanitation offences.
In his News letter, he said while they call on government at the state level in Bauchi to decriminalize the petty offences such as traffic offences, Sanitation, loitering and non-payment of debt offences, we equally seek for the reform of sanctions for MSM and other minor offences. He made it known that the laws that relate to petty offences and the way they are being enforced have human rights violations and Socio-economic impacts. He further lament that arrest and imprisonment of petty offenders inappropriately causes marginalization and discrimination to the poor and the minors.
He made mention that according to the observation made by Lawyers Alert and Pidi-Nigeria, majority of those are arrested, punished and imprisoned for petty offenses are poor and unemployed. He said some of them sleep in public places, relies on loans to run their businesses and can’t pay fines which later made them a prisoners. In his letter, he said it is unfortunate that the human rights implications of petty offenses, especially for the downtrodden, far outweigh the required attention it is receiving from stakeholders. He said it is time to work cooperatively to bring about reforms that protect the rights of all, including the poor.
Mbami said that they encourage the duty bearers such as the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, the Commissioner of Police, the Controller of Nigeria Correctional Service, Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, and the Human Rights Commission to consider our plea for the decriminalisation of petty offences, and the reform of sanctions for LGBTQI. He said a project which is supported by OSIWA on the decriminalization of petty offenses in Nigeria is presently going on and human rights violations associated with petty offenses have been documented.
According to him, PIDI and Lawyers Alert have carried out advocacy campaigns and provided legal support to survivors of petty offenses violations across the 6 geo-political zones of the country. He said they are half way into the project and we propose to have a lesson sharing with stakeholders towards strategizing on identified gaps and/or strengthening the successes recorded in pilot states.