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.