As you may know, SAID's work- program, Projects and activities have a human right based approach. We work to strengthen

Groups and individuals to know their rights and demand for them. It is our conviction that the work of promoting human rights in accordance with the United Nation's Declaration and the various international Conventions and national laws and policies are critical in building a just and fair society where marginalized people have the possiblity to demand for their rights from duty bearers. Since our inception we have been supporting individuals whose rights are denied to fight for their rights.

Our Director of Operation, Teddy Ihens been examplary and courageous in fighting vested interests in his Community, who are denying people living in poverty their rights.

Some people in this Community, Amato have difficulty understanding why you have to fight for your rights when these are being trampled upon.

It is sad that our justice system does not guarantee justice for the oppresed and marginalized poor. Our traditional institutions lead by traditional rulers and their councils are failing to uphold Peace and development of many communities in Nigeria. I can give the example of our own traditional ruler in Amato, Eze Valentine Nwosu of Amato, Alike, Ikenanzizi, Obowo, Local Government Area, Imo State. There is hardly any family that enjoys Peace in Amato mostly because of the gross incompetence of this traditional leader and his cohorts.

As there is bound to be disagreements and disputes within families and between families and between individuals as well as Groups, the traditional institution is to help adjudicate and promote Peace and harmoy in the Community. What we see instead is gross corruption and incompetence that gives judgement to the highest bidder. This therefore promotes conflict and hinders Community development.

Sadly, this also the case with our customary and magistrate Courts in the villages who are hardly monitored by any one to ensure that chairpersons of these customary Courts and magistrates in presiding in villages observe due process and execute their duties in pursuit of justice.

Our Director Teddy Ihens, has personally had cases that the traditional ruler of the Community, Valentine Nwosu messed up and he had to take the cases to Court. We were reliably informed by some members of Eze's cabinet that they were paid to deny justice to the rightful owner and that whatever happens they would ensure that the owner loses. What a sad situation. Yet, the Courts are no better. Should we give up fighting for justice? As a human right fighter, it is both a moral and justice question for us. We strongly Believe that we should all be involved in fighting for justice in our communities. This is the only way, we can experience sustainable development.

Let me now, recount an experience, I had about two weeks ago in the magistrate Court at Umuariam in Obowo Local Government. I leave you to draw you own conclusion.

The Law emblem is a blindfolded person with a knife in one hand and a pair of balance in the other hand. This depicts the assumption that judges are not biased or sentimental. Below is a short abstract from a recent court hearing of a case between one Iheanaetu’s family and Iwuala’s family.

It was a case of accuse of treat to life leveled against The Iheanetu’s by The Anthony Iwuala’s because the former didn’t let the later have a piece of land that is located at Ugwumabiri Nwaevule, Amato that belong to the Iheanaetu’s family.

This case is at Umuariam Magistrate court.,

Council for Defense: (to the complainant): Do you know the accused,

Complainant(Iwuala): Yes

Council for Defense: Do you have any problem with the accused before you encroached into their land?

Complainant: No

Magistrate: defensively, (to the complainant): Did you encroach into their land?

The Iheanaetus’ council later said, “I will apply for no case submission since their problem is to establish the titleship of a piece of land …” but hardly had he finished when the magistrate told him bluntly that she would not grant him that. That he should not. Is this not a breach of law and justice?

Now my questions are:

1 Is the Magistrate who is presiding over the case supposed to play the role of council for prosecution? Is she supposed to interrupt the cross examination of either the complainant or the defendant or be defensive in favour of any party?

Such interruption as this suggests the magistrate to have

taken side for “God knows reasons”

2 Do you think the defendant can get fair judgment from this same court?

By Ekechukwu P C

Programs Manager,

SAID, Nigeria