Oforola and Olaukwu Reformed Bye-Laws

Preamble

NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

INPUTS MADE ON THE BYELAWS OF OFOROLA ANCIENT KINGDOM AND OLAUKWU AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITIES, OWERRI WEST L.G.A. , IMO STATE, NIGERIA, 2021

The National Human Rights Commission was established by National Human Rights Commission Act 1995 (as amended) in line with the Resolution 48/134 of the United Nations General Assembly which enjoins all member states to establish Independent National Institution for promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights.

The Commission serves as an extra judicial mechanism for the enhancement and respect of good enjoyment of Human Rights of all Nigerians and those living in Nigeria as encapsulated in Chapters II and IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It also provides avenue for public enlightenment, research and dialogue in order to raise awareness of Human Right issues.

Part of the Commission’s mandate is to liaise with other stakeholders for the purpose of advancing the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria which is why we have liaised with Honourbirth Foundation to ensure that the SLOC-VAWG project Powered by the ActionAid is realised and communities are sensitized and mobilized to promote, protect and enforce human rights.

Another part of the Commission’s mandate is to examine any existing legislation, administrative provisions and proposed bills or bye-laws for the purpose of ascertaining whether such enactment or proposed bill or bye-laws are consistent with human rights norms. It is on that note that we received the Byelaws of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities, Owerri West Local Government Area, Imo State, Nigeria, 2021, carefully perused it and made the following inputs, corrections, suggestions and mild alterations to wit:

1. Cover page: it is advised that “L.G.A.” be produced in full as “Local Government Area” as a legal and binding document should leave no room for ambiguity. The cover page should have a brief description of the byelaw that reads thus: “Byelaws to regulate the social activities of the Community, the State and Country at Large”.

2. Historical Conspectus of the Bye Laws: it will be better captioned as “INTRODUCTION”. The information to follow should simply read thus:

“We, the undersigned members of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Communities of Owerri West Local Government Area in Imo State of Nigeria, after trainings conducted by the Honourbirth Foundation in partnership with ActionAid for the Ezes in Council of the two Communities, Prince A.C Obichere of Oforola Autonomous Community, the Eze-in- council, Olaoma and  HRH Eze A. H. (Replace initials with full name) Ekeocha, Olaoma I of Olaukwu and all stakeholders of the Community having realized that the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as the International Community have eliminated harmful traditional norms that promote violence against Persons, have made a firm resolve to eradicate these norms, social injustices, shun Gender Based Violence, and promote, protect and enforce human rights of all persons. This Byelaw shall not be viewed as a Spanish Inquisition into the customs, practices and traditions of the Community but as a Byelaw to eradicate repugnant customs and protect the Communis Plebis from the excesses of the traditional norms.

We therefore do hereby make this byelaw as a policy statement in Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Communities and a document to combat social injustices in the Communities, the State and Country at Large.”

3. Table of Contents: This should contain title pages and Page numbers. Additional input to the Table of Contents was made thus:

4. Part One: Citation, Interpretation and Application: this is included in any piece of legislation to affirm its powers and abilities. This part should read thus:

(i) This Bye Law shall be cited as “The Bye Laws of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities, Owerri West Local Government Area, Imo State, Nigeria, 2021

(ii) This Bye Laws shall be binding on all members of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Communities.

 (iii) All words and expression used in this Bye Laws shall have the same meaning ascribed to them in the Laws of Nigeria and if any doubt arises regarding the meaning of any of the provisions of these Bye Laws, the matter shall be referred to the Eze in Council and his Cabinet for a ruling.

5. PART TWO: The Byelaws should provide for the enforcement committee of the Byelaws and their functions and in this case it is agreed that they be called the Opi Committee. Such should be provided thus:

(i) An Enforcement Committee is hereby established for the Byelaws of the Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities, Owerri West Local Government Area, Imo State, Nigeria known as the Opi Committee.

(ii) A Chairman, Vice Chairman, General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary and Public Relations Officer shall constitute the Opi Committee.

(iii)  The duties of the Management Committee shall include the following:

(a) Monitor, regulate and supervise the activities of members of the Community to ensure they comply with the laws and regulations of the Country and the Byelaws of the Community.

(b) To report to the appropriate authorities any complaint of human rights violations or any activity that contravenes the laws and regulations of the country and the Byelaws of the Community.

(c) Organize local trainings, seminars and workshops for members of the community on human rights issues for public enlightenment on the laws of the Country and the Byelaws of the Community

(d) They shall meet from time to time to review and direct the affairs of the Committee.

6. PART THREE: Abolishment of Osu and all Caste Systems: This should read thus:

“Henceforth, the Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities abolishes, abrogates, and eliminates the derogating practice of all Caste Systems that once existed in the community, be it Osu, Ume, Ohu, Aru etc. and pronounce them barbaric, anti-social, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and as such violates the human rights of members of the Community.

We believe that all human beings are equal and free as created by God and have equal rights and privileges in the society.

Any person, group or association found practicing this System will be reported to the appropriate authorities and made to face the wrath of the law in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and all relevant laws of the Country.”

7. PART FOUR: Equal Sharing of Estate between the Male and Female Child: this should read thus:

” Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities hereby declares that the WILL of a dead person be respected and enforced to the latter.

If a man dies intestate, his estate shall be transferred as an inheritance to his Wife. His wife shall have all the rights as would have been accrued to the man if he were alive. In the absence of his Wife, his Children shall inherit.

The said estate will be shared EQUALLY between both female and male children. Female children shall have rights over their parent’s estate just as much as the male children. Where there are only female children, they shall inherit in totality their parent’s estate.

No child shall have custody or greater share over the others on grounds of sex or position in the family as such will amount to a violation of the laws of the Country and will be dealt with by the appropriate authorities.”

8. PART FIVE: Harmful Widowhood Practices: This part should read thus:

” Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities condemns the intimidation, harassments, abuses, unjustifiable attacks, humiliation and other unjust and illegal activities meted out on women especially Widows in the Community especially by the Mgbotos and other groups in the community.

The old and brutish practices of the rites performed on a widow stops forthwith. Any person, group or association who violates this order shall be reported to the appropriate authorities and be made to face the wrath of the law.

9. PART SIX: Ostracism: this should be read thus:

“The Ostracism, exclusion, excommunication, exiling, expulsion, isolation, rejection or banishment of any member of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities from their land, family, neighborhood, group, association, public places or functions and the like in any form, manner or circumstance is hereby abolished. It is a clear violation of the human rights of a person and as such anyone found to engage in this shall be reported to the appropriate authorities and be made to face the wrath of the law.”

10. PART SEVEN: Religious Activities: this part should read as follows:

“The Constitution of Nigeria guarantees Freedom of Association and Assembly, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion. Every member of the Community is free to practice his chosen Religion without interference including the freedom to observe or refuse to observe any day that is connected to his/her Religion according to the provisions of the law.

Anyone found infringing on these rights shall be reported to the appropriate authorities and be made to face the wrath of the law.”

11. PART EIGHT: Female Genital Mutilation: this part should read thus:

“The age-long tradition of mutilating, cutting or circumcising the genitals of the female children for beautification, controlling the woman’s sexuality to ensure virginity and fidelity, and decreasing sexual urges endangers her life, amounts to no good, causes long-term health complications and is a clear violation of human rights.

Henceforth it is pronounced abolished and anyone found practicing it shall be reported to the appropriate authorities and be made to face the wrath of the law.

12. PART NINE: Marriage and other related matters: this should read thus:

“A Customary/Traditional Law Marriage in Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities is said to be legal and complete when the Bride Price of the Woman is paid and Blessings have been given by both parents of the Couple. If these conditions are not met, no Customary/traditional law marriage has taken place.

However, if a woman gets pregnant out of wedlock, it will not be the sole responsibility of the mother to take care of the child. The father of the child shall take responsibility for the child’s necessaries and welfare as well and shall be fully involved in the upbringing of the child. If he neglects this duty, he shall be reported to the appropriate authorities and be made to face the wrath of the law. Both parents of the child must have full, unconditional and unhindered access to the child at all times.”

13. PART TEN: Amendment: the amendment clause will be reproduced to with:

“This Bye Law shall be amended by a special resolution of members of the Opi Committee at General Meetings supported by two thirds of all the members of the Committee present at the General Meeting.

14. PART ELEVEN: Power to make regulations: this clause shall clearly read thus:

“The Eze in Council shall have the power to make regulations in connection with this byelaw and the power may be exercised by the Opi Committee at General Meetings as the case may be and such regulations or any other regulations shall be binding on all members of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities.”

15. PART TWELVE: Commencement of Operation: this part will read thus:

“This Bye Law shall take effect from the date of the adoption and signing of this Bye Law by the Eze in Council, Secretary of the Palace and the President General of the Town Union of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities at the Palace of the Eze in Council. After it is presented to the Eze in Council, it shall be certified, signed and sealed by the Eze in Council, Secretary of the Palace and the President General of the Town Union of Oforola Ancient Kingdom and Olaukwu Autonomous Communities.

International Women’s Day Celebration

Honourbirth Foundation management and staff, the Opi Committee, the Nigerian News Guide Presenter and the Adolescent Girls Club marched observed a road walk today, 14th March, 2022, in the land of Oforola/Olaukwu Communities, starting from the Ekegbuehi market square down to Federal College of Land Resources Technology, Oforola (FECOLAT) in recognition of the International Women’s Day titled “Break the Bias”.

All forms of bias, molestation, victimization, etc that women and girls are often exposed to where mentioned and the need for them to rise and break them off their shoulders was harped on.
The need for women to speak out when their rights are violated and the right place to go to when the need for that arises were greatly emphasized.

At FECOLAT, Dr Jonah Chukwu Marcylo the deputy Provost academics expressed on behalf of the school management his gratitude to the group for the awareness, he said that the school offers it’s certificate based on character and learning worthiness.

He encouraged the adolescent girls to acquire tertiary education as it is the key to women and girls emacipation.

With Support from ActionAid Nigeria, Honourbirth Foundation and Opi Committee successfully carried out it’s OPI FESTIVAL today, 26th February, 2022.

The festival provided the opportunity to sensitize the attendees on issues
around Gender Based Violence, Sex and Gender Based Violence and Violence
Against Women and Girls.

Awards were presented to deserving stakeholders, influencers, state and
non-state actors, CSOs, ActionAid Nigeria, Vivian Efem Bassey, the Ezes of the
2 project communities, the Regent, Oforola Ancient kingdom Opi committee
members that excelled exceptionally in the discharge of their duties. 16 awards
on promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls were presented to the
groups first above provided while participant certificates were presented to 20
Opi committee members, 4 women teacher facilitators were presented with Teacher
counselors certificates that empower them to function as women teacher
facilitators in Oforola community secondary school, 4 Peer education
facilitator’s certificates that empower them to function as peer education
facilitators during and after the end of the project.

Highlights of the festival were cultural dance by the Adolescent girls club,
Oforola community secondary school, welcome song, match past by the adolescent
girls club.

Drama presentation on teenage pregnancy and response was presented by the
identified women groups. News was caste by the adolescent girls club. The news
centered on the benefits of the SLOC project in the communities, harmful
traditional norms, the rights of women and girls and a commendation of the
contributions of ActionAid Nigeria and HBF SLOC project implementation in
Oforola and Olaukwu communities.

The women anthem was sang by the women members of the Opi committee, the
peer education facilitators, the women teacher counselors, the identified women
and girls groups members.

 In attendance were the Ezes of Olaukwu and Oforola communities, the member
representing Owerri West constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly and
the majority leader of the Imo state House of Assembly, the Interim monitoring
committee chairman (IMC), Owerri west L.G.A, the Imo state chairperson FIDA,
the NHRC Imo state coordinator and barrister Ihunaya Okoroji of the legal
department, NHRC Imo state, reps of Alliance for Africa, Imo state committee on
ending violence against women and girls, (IPAD) Imo people alliance for
democracy, the media – darling fm, Orient fm and the Nigerian Newsguide news
paper), the secretary Olaukwu Owerri west council of traditional rulers
 represented all traditional rulers in Owerri west L.G.A at the festival.

 Eze Appolo Ekeocha, Olama 1 of Olaukwu and Eze Kingsely Ajoku, Eze Ola
II of Oforola Ancient kingdom pledged to give their continued support to the
project, the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls. They
promised to invest materially and financially to the  course of promoting
the rights of women and girls in their communities and beyond even after the
expiration of the tenure of the SLOC project in their communities.

The Sec. Owerri West Counsel of traditional rulers, Dr. Lucky Okoro, Oha III of Eziobodo community on behalf of all Ezes in Owerri West L.G.A promised to liaise with the Opi committee in Oforola/Olaukwu communities to establish similar committees in all communities. He said he will with other Ezes in the L.G.A hold a meeting with the Opi committee on a date that will be communicated to the committee after the Ezes must have meet on a date that will not be later than 3rd week in March, 2022.

The chairperson FIDA and the Imo state coordinator of the NHRC presented speeches while the Ezes of the 2 project communities, the ED HBF, presented their welcome addresses, the valedictory speech was presented by the Opi committee, chairman, Sir Emma Chukwu.

 The Opi committee anniversary cake was cut to mark its one year of inception.

The adolescent girls club, Oforola community secondary school played a football match with the adolescent girls from Obinze comprehensive secondary school, Owerri west L.G.A to mark the end of the festival.

Interestingly, women and girls in Oforola and Olaukwu communities now inherit land from the various villages were they hail from as against the previous norm that provided for the exclusion of women and girls in land inheritance. The reformed bye-laws document is a handy tool for the enforcement of this right as survivors rely on it in instituting complaint.

 

ActionAid Nigeria Mentoring, Outcoming and Harvesting Visit led by Vivian Efem Bassey

A visit to the Palace of HRH, Eze Engr Comrd. Kingsley Ajoku, Eze Ola II of Oforola Ancient Kingdom.

ActionAid Nigeria Team leader, Vivian Efem Bassey expressed her joy at the visible changes in the traditional norms of the community that promote VAWG and the support the Eze and his cabinet members have given to the project.

The Eze said that there has been a great improvement since the project commenced like a reduction in Female Genital Mutilation prevalence, child labor, harmful widowhood practices etc. In conclusion he said that all practices that are negative are forbidden by his throne.

The team proceeded to the palace of HRH, Eze Apollo Ekeocha, Olaoma I of Olaukwu Community.

The Eze gladly welcomed the team.
He noted that he was greatly excited when the project was brought to the community because he has been challenged by various cases of VAWG in his community.

He said that in October, 2022, the Osu caste system will be abolished in his community. He also said that before the inception of the project, Female Genital Mutilation, dehumanizing widowhood practices were predominant, but now these practices have been abolished and the community dwellers now respect the property rights of women and girls and women are given farmlands while girls can inherit part of their family property.

He went further to say that the community contact with Honourbirth Foundation and ActionAid Nigeria SLOC-VAWG Project is divine Providence and that the project came at the right time.

ActionAidNigeria.

HonourbirthFoundation.

SLOC-VAWG-PROJECT

Christmas celebration party for all OVCs in Oforola and Olaukwu Communities on 20th December, 2021.

The program started with an Opening prayer from one of the Children after which Mr. Kelvin Ezekwe, Opi committee provost, sensitized the children on Child’s Right Law. He made them to understand their rights as children and that they should speak up when such rights are being violated.

He listed all forms of violence against women and girls and the child and enjoined the children to report case of violence against them to the foundation, their parents and their teachers.

The chairman of the Opi committee and the secretary of the committee reminded the children that the party was organized by the foundation and the Opi committee but that the SLOC-VAWG project in the communities is funded by ActionAid Nigeria. They also counseled the children to trade with caution during this festive period and to be good ambassadors of their families and the foundation to the larger security.

The adolescent girls club members presented a welcome song and a cultural dance. Special gifts where given to children who presented marvellously amongst others and also to those who answered questions correctly.

The ED, Honourbirth Foundation expressed her profound joy to all the children, Opi Committee members that graced the Occasion.

The children’s joy knew no bounds as the shook hands with Father Christmas who in return gave them presents. Food and drinks were served as the occasion came to an end.

SLOCVAWG

ACTIONAIDNIGERIA

Honourbirth Foundation held an open air awareness creation activity at the Ekegbuehi Oforola market day today being the 8th December, 2021 to mark the 16 days of activism to challenge VAW.

The foundation sensitized the women on harmful traditional norms that promote VAWG, strengthened the capacity of women to challenge the culture of silence among women. It also used the activity to sensitize women on the dangers associated with FGM. She also told them that the common type of FGM is the type 4 and it has the same consequences as other types of FGM. The women were informed of the law in Imo State that punishes offenders as well as charged them to report cases of FGM to relevant agencies and the foundation.

The women members of the Opi committee co-facilitated while the adolescent girls club members of Oforola community secondary school attended the program.

Outcome:

  1. The community women and traders became aware of the law in Imo state that prohibits FGM and the penalty provided for offenders.
  2. That type 4 of FGM has similar health implications like the other types of FGM.
  3. That FGM is an act of violence against women and girls and should be reported.
  4. That FGM is not to prepare a girl for a blissful marriage live, but was designed by men to limit women from fully enjoying their sexual and reproductive rights.

Today is a significant day in History.

Women all over the world begin our 16 days of activism. In this season, we draw attention to various issues, we draw attention to various issues of women.

Our key concern today is the rising insecurity and increasing vulnerability of women and girls in Nigeria.

Insecurity affects us in diverse ways. Lives are drastically and dramatically changed. We are concerned about the absence of women at the peace building table.

We are concerned about the implications of Violence to physical, mental and emotional health of women and girls.

We worry over daily loss of lives, displacement of families, rising food insecurity, childhood marriage and increasing source of vvf, high girl child dropout of schools and GBV.

We call on government, the relevant institutions and civil society groups to rise to the challenge of creating safer world for all people.

Women are demanding an end to weaponizing poverty and sexual exploitation of women and girls which is exacerbated by insecurity.