A new Bill seeking to contravene existing laws on the protection of the unborn child and other matters is the bone of contention between law makers and human rights lawyers. GBUBEMI GOD’S COVENANT SNR reports.
A bill now before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and Legal Matters, seeking to eliminate violence in public life, including physical, sexual and harmful traditional practices among others, has come under criticism by a firm of legal experts working in conjunction with the United Nations Conventions in New York, USA.
Operating in Nigeria under the umbrella of the Project for Human Development (PHD), the firm, after interpreting some sub-sections in Articles 38, 43 and 44 of the bill, raised objection to the letters and the intent to which the bill, if passed into law, could defeat the very rights it seeks to protect.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Times at the firm’s Bishop Crowther Street, Surulere office last week, Lawyer Sonnie Ekwowusi, said the bill was laudable on the surface except that there were addenda that were very vital to safeguard the right of the citizenry, especially that of the unborn child.
“As at now, this bill as it is presently constituted, gives a right of abortion to abortionists. As a lawyer who has been attending the United Nations Conventions in New York and public hearings, I can tell you that the phrase ‘Service Providers’ also includes abortion providers. Now, I know why the International Projects Assistance Services (IPAS), an international abortion lobby group, is rejoicing over the passage of the bill.”
In a strongly worded letter dated March 5 to the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary & Legal Matters, Senator Dahiru Umaru, Ekwowusi wrote, “Senator Umaru, we must re-word this bill, to avoid giving IPAS and other abortionists the right to abortion in our country. We must state that Service Providers does NOT include abortion providers.”
Of particular note is the attempt to make the bill override and/or supersede other laws in Nigeria!, the lawyer said.
“This is dangerous. It means that all the sections dealing with abortion in the CRIMINAL and PENAL CODES have been superseded by this bill.”
In its submission to the Senate Chairman, PHD in conjunction with other chambers and human rights bodies, chronicled the objectionable articles and sub-sections as follows:
PART 1: ARTICLE 2, SUB SECTION 1(1)
Any person who inflicts physical injury on a person, including the unborn child, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding five years or fine not exceeding N100,000.00 or to both such fine and imprisonment.
PART 2: ARTICLE 37, SUB-SECTION 1 (1 A)
Every victim is entitled to receive necessary material, medical, psychological, social and legal assistance through governmental agencies and/or non-governmental agencies providing such assistance, with the exception of abortion services.
PART 3: SERVICE PROVIDERS
Article 38, subsection 2b; Draw up guidelines in consonance with the existing laws in Nigeria and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for the operation of the accredited service providers.
ARTICLE 43 (2)
Any provisions of the Bill shall not contravene existing laws.
PART 6: INTERPRETATION, ARTICLE 44.
It should include the definition of person in the list of interpretation i.e. the bill must define a person so as to provide a guide to proper understanding of its provisions.
DEFINITION OF PERSON; HUMAN; HUMAN BEING – The terms ‘human being’ or ‘person’ include each and every member of the species Homo sapiens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.
6. PART 6: INTERPRETATION, ARTICLE 44: “VULNERABLE GROUPS” means women, children – born and unborn -, persons living under extreme poverty, persons with disability, the sick and the elderly, ethnic and religious minority groups, refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants.”
7. PART 6: INTERPRETATION, ARTICLE 44 (INCLUDE INTERPRETATION FOR A SERVICE PROVIDER). “Service Provider” excludes abortion services.
Ekwowusi told Daily Times the letter has been delivered and the Senate owes an obligation tocall for a public hearing, failing which the lawyers may head to court.