PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATIONHURILAWS has since 1998 litigated on constitutional matters in the following fields:
- Expansion of Access to Courts,
- Justiciability and Enforceability of Social and Economic Rights,
- Environmental Rights Enforcement,
- Housing Rights,
- Administrative Detention,
- Freedom of Information,
- Constitutionality of the Death Penalty,
- Death Row Conditions,
- Bail Procedure,
- Prison Condition,
- Election Tribunal Petitions
- Litigation to expand the process of registration of political parties, etc
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) programme has produced landmark groundbreaking decisions in diverse fields of constitutional and public law. The core litigation programme is the Strategic Impact Litigation (SIL) Project - a broad based test case litigation programme to bring selected human rights cases before the superior courts to establish and advance judicial norms on human rights in Nigerian law. Selected legal/human rights themes include:
The constitutionality of the death penalty
The constitutionality of the "Holding Charge Syndrome" (the long-term incarceration on remand without trial of suspected criminals in Nigeria). HURILAWS has pursued in Bayo Johnson this campaign up to the Supreme Court in Nigeria, and in planning to approach the African Commission on Human Rights and ECOWAS Court.
The status and application of social and economic rights established under the African Charter on
Human and People’s Rights in Nigerian law
State provision of legal assistance
Death Row conditions in Nigerian prisons.
Admissibility of wrongfully obtained criminal evidence
Electoral Law Reform
Establishing and advancing environmental rights
Advancing women’s rights through litigation
Illustrations of successful HURILAWS SIL litigations include:
Agbokaba V. Director State Security Services (1995)
The Court of Appeal held that the state could not withdraw a citizens passport as that would amount to denying the citizen the means of exercising his right of exit and entry into Nigeria as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Peter Nemi V. Attorney General of Lagos state (1997)
The issue of the constitutionality of prolonged incarceration in dehumanizing conditions of death row prisoners and the rights of prisoners to humane treatment was brought before the court. The Court of Appeal held that prisoners have enforceable rights as citizens and suggested that prolonged incarceration of convicted prisoners could constitute breach of their right to dignified and humane treatment.
Bayo Johnson V. Attorney General of Lagos State (1997)
The Court of Appeal held unconstitutional the holding charge system whereby police arraign suspects on token charges to secure their detention in prison for lengthy, unspecified periods of time. This decision becomes pertinent when considering the usual refrain from the police that investigations are continuing while the suspect is kept away in perpetual detention. Johnson also influenenced the passage of Lagos State’s Administration of Criminal Law.
Onuoha Kalu V. The State (1998)
HURILAWS litigated the constitutionality of the death penalty in a bid to abolish the death penalty in Nigeria. Though the Supreme Court agreed with most of HURILAWS submissions, it held that the death penalty is constitutional since the Constitution of Nigeria explicitly permits it. The Court, however, stated that the National Assembly can take steps to tackle the issue of the practice of the death penalty in Nigeria. Additionally, the Court left open the question of whether remaining on death row for a significant amount of time might amount to a procedural rights violation, but hinted that such prolonged detention is improper—a question HURILAWS will pursue in upcoming SIL.
Other pending cases or issues:
HURILAWS & 2 others V. The National Assembly & 2 others Suit, No. FHC/L/CS/216/09
This action seeks to guarantee fair and expeditious dispensation of election litigations in Nigeria. HURILAWS team is asking the Court to hold that the National Assembly has no constitutional powers to make rules of procedure for Election Petition Tribunals and the Court of Appeals in the exercise of their jurisdictions over election petitions and appeals arising from election petitions. HURILAWS believes such power being exercised by the National Assembly not only violates principles of separation of powers, but also infringes on fundamental principles of fair hearings (i.e. nemo judex in causa sua: you cannot be a judge in your own case), since most members of the National Assembly normally have their elections challenged at election petition tribunals.
Kabiru Omolade & Idowu Shobowale V. A.G. Lagos State & I.G.P.
This action seeks to challenge the capital sentence issued to the appellants by the High Court of Lagos, which was based on alleged confessional statements of the appellants. HURILAWS seeks to use this case to establish standards of procedure which would protect suspects of crime from abuse and violation of their Miranda rights and ensure strict compliance by the police and other law enforcement agencies of the fundamental rights of citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Innocent Onwuchia V A.G. Oyo State & I.G.P.
HURILAWS through this action will challenge the conviction of the appellant, which was based solely on a confession induced by torture. HURILAWS will also through this case examine the impact of the death penalty by examining the death row phenomenon; the question left open by Kalu v. State.
Examination of the States obligation to the insane in the criminal justice system: HURILAWS is in the process of consultations with its team of Counsel and a Psychiatrist with the aim instituting action against the government on behalf of suspects and inmates who are or have become insane while in police or prison custody. This action aims to compel government to remove these convicts/suspects and transfer them to mental facilities where they can receive proper medical attention and care as most times these police stations and prisons do not have the capabilities to cope thus leading to these individuals suffering degrading and inhuman treatment.