REPORT OF A ONE DAY SENSITISATION WORKSHOP FOR JUDGES/MAGISTRATES AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ON THE PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH ALBINISM HELD AT HIGH COURT COMPLEX, INDEPENDENT LAYOUT, ENUGU ON THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2019.
1.0 OPENING SESSION
The workshop commenced by 1:00pm with an opening prayer by Barr. Christopher Okorie from National Human Rights Commission, Ebonyi state and a resource person. This was followed with self-introduction by participants. Heads of agencies that attended the workshop were: Commandant (Mrs.) Chinwe Kannu, Commandant Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp, Enugu State; CP Ndubuisi Ogbodo, Comptroller Prisons, Enugu State; A.C. Bot (SP), Comptroller of Custom in Charge of Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi States; Barr. Nwoye Nwadi, representing Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Enugu State; SP Barr. Paschal Nwachukwu, representing the Commissioner of Police Enugu State.
Participants in a group photograph
In his welcome address, the Founder/CEO of the Foundation, Mr. Jake Epelle thanked the participants for creating time for this one day sensitization workshop. He stated that the aim of the workshop was to sensitise the participants on the issues and challenges faced by persons with albinism especially in accessing justice system. He added that the workshop will improve the knowledge of the participants in facilitating the justice system for persons with albinism especially women and children with albinism.
In her goodwill message, the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Hon. Justice N.P. Emehelu who was represented by Hon. Justice N.N. Nebo stated that it was a good honour for her to be part of this all important sensitization workshop. She thanked the leadership of the Foundation for this proactive step towards ensuring that the rights of persons with albinism are protected. She stated that persons with albinism should be protected from discrimination, abuse and violation of their rights. She concluded by saying that the courts will always ensure that the rights of persons with albinism are not violated and urged all stakeholders to do same.
2.0 TECHNICAL SESSION
The first technical session was a plenary, which looked at the Myths, Misconceptions, experience sharing and moderated by the Founder/CEO of the Foundation, Mr. Jake Epelle. The Panelists were Prof. (Mrs.) Uchenna Ijoma a woman with albinism and Mr. Emeka Ugwu, Enugu State Coordinator of the Albino Foundation. The plenary session was put forward for the panelists to share their experiences on the challenges they faced while growing up and how they were able to overcome those challenges. It was equally for the participants to get first-hand information on what living with albinism is like from people who have succeeded in live irrespective of their condition. The two panelists highlighted their experiences coping with the health challenges, discrimination from family members and the society, bullying and discrimination from peers and teachers while in school, frustrations and how they were able to overcome these challenges.
A cross section of participants at the workshop
The next technical session was a presentation on the Role of the Judiciary/Law Enforcement Agencies in the protection and Enforcement of the rights of persons with albinism and was presented by Barr. Christopher Okorie from the National Human Rights Commission, Ebonyi State. He started by saying that every human person has rights by the very fact that she/he is a human being. He stated that it was based on the above that the United Nations declaration on human rights and other international instrument, the African Charter on human and peoples rights and other regional human rights instrument, chapter 2 and 4 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, especially the “Discrimination against persons with disabilities” (prohibition Act 2018) which seeks to criminalize the act of discriminating against persons with disabilities. He also talked about the challenges faced by persons with albinism and how to ensure that they are mainstreamed into justice system. He concluded that the challenges of protecting and enforcing the rights of persons with albinism should not be left on the shoulders of the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies. He stated that human rights are better protected through preventive measures.
Dignitaries at the workshop
The second and last presentation was presented by Barr. Sylverster Ohiri of the National Human Rights Commission, Enugu Office. He did a PowerPoint presentation on “Persons with Albinism and the UN Convention of the rights of persons with disabilities”. He stated that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has referred to women with albinism as a group of women in a vulnerable situation, meaning that they are at risk of being victims of multiple discrimination. He added that “According to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, violence against women is deeply rooted in multiple layers of discrimination and inequality”. He said that as these layers of discrimination intersect, violence against women intensifies. Addressing systematic discrimination and marginalization is crucial to ending violence against women.
He stated that the Committee expressed concern at reports that women and girls with albinism had been targeted in ritual killings, recommending that the State party should protect them. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has also expressed serious concerns at reports of killings of and attacks against children with albinism, addressing this issue under the right to equality and non-discrimination (art. 2 of the Convention), among other rights. In the case of Burundi, the Committee expressed concern in its concluding observations that “de facto discrimination of children prevails [in the country] and is tolerated in the State party vis-à-vis … albino children” The Committee encouraged the State party to review legislative instruments and adopt a comprehensive strategy, including awareness-raising, to eliminate discrimination on any grounds and against all vulnerable groups, particularly children with albinism.
Prof. (Mrs.) Uchenna Ijoma sharing her experience as a person with albinism at the workshop
2.1 Responses from Heads of Agencies
- Prisons: According to the Heads of Prisons, Ndubuisi Ogbodo, he stated that no person with albinism have been admitted into the Nigerian Prison. He added that even though the Prison Service has never had a person with albinism in their custody, the workshop has further educated him on the issues and challenges faced by persons with albinism and how to address them if he come in contact with them in his course of duty. He thanked the Foundation for organizing this workshop.
- Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp (NSCDC): The Commandant of NSCDC, Chinwe Kannu shared her experience about a lady with albinism who was employed in the service and was being molested by a superior officer. She stated that she had to approach the lady who shared her challenges with her. She added that after sharing her experience with her she confronted the male officer even though the Officer was her superior at that time. She stated that persons with albinism face a lot of challenges both at home and in their work places. She urged participants to see persons with albinism as a human being and should be treated as such. She stated that her experience with the lady in her office was the first time she came across the challenges faced by persons with albinism and since then she has been protecting persons with albinism who has one challenge or the other especially when the person approaches her.
- Nigerian Custom: the Comptroller of Custom, SP A.C. Bot stated that persons with albinism have never been caught with any form of contraband goods. But added that they should keep it up and should not hide under this guise and commit crime. He stated that abled persons can use this opportunity to lure them into committing crime which could dent their image and reputation in the country.
- Commissioner of Police: the representative of the Commissioner who is also in charge of Legal Department in the Enugu Command of the Nigerian Police, SP Barr. Pascal Nwachukwu stated that they have never had any person with albinism in their custody or having committed crime. He stated that accolade should be given to persons with albinism. He stated that crime prevention should be everyone’s business and should not be left in the hands of police or security agencies alone and urged the Foundation to maintain the tempo of the sensitization so as to get to other parts of the country and more importantly those at the grassroots.
- Chief Judge: the representative of the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice N.N. Nebo stated that she did not know much about the issues and challenges faced by persons with albinism before the workshop. She stated that the workshop really opened her eyes on the issues and how to address them. She urged the participants to judiciously make use of the knowledge they have gained to ensure access to justice system for persons with albinism and other disabilities.
A cross section of participants at the workshop
The workshop provided opportunity for the participants to understand the issues and challenges faced by persons with albinism and how to ensure that persons with albinism are mainstreamed into the justice system. The participants recommended that similar sensitization workshops should be taken to the grassroots where majority of the public lack the understanding on the issues and challenges faced by persons with albinism. They also recommended that traditional and religious leaders should be sensitized to reduce the myths and misconceptions associated with albinism and the culture and tradition. In all, thirty three (33) persons (17 males and 16 females) attended the workshop.