Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Child Rights: Uwais’ Position on Tobacco Bill Faulted

Lawyer-Aides in the National Assembly (LANASS) has faulted the position of the wife of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mrs. Maryam Uwais, to the effect that Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, violated the rights of the young persons by not allowing them to present their position at the just concluded Public Hearing on the Tobacco Control Bill.
Uwais had reportedly sent a protest letter to the Senate President, Senator David Mark, on the purported breach of the rights of some secondary school students who had stormed the National Assembly to witness the public hearing.
The body, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said that while Obasanjo-Bello based her decision on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, Uwais had anchored her protest on the provisions of Section 3 of the Child Rights Act.
The Section reads: “The provisions in Chapter 1V of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999, or any successive constitutional provisions relating to fundamental rights, shall apply as if those provisions are expressly stated in this Act.” LANASS said, “From the above provision, it is clear for all purposes and intent that the drafters of the Child Rights Act made it subject to the constitution and besides, it is elementary that the basic law above all laws in every nation is its constitution.”
The group further poked a hole in Uwais’ argument that Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which provides for the Right of Freedom of Expression of every Nigerian, including the secondary school students.
According to the body, “True, not limited by age but this Section and others-37, 38, 40 and 41, in Chapter 4 are limited by the Derogation Clause as provided in Section 45 (1) of the same Constitution.
“It reads thus: Nothing in Sections 36, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society-(a) in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality and public health; or (b) for the purposes of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.”
The body said, “Sequel to that is the provision of Section 45 (1) (b) that such limitations on the above-named sections can be for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons, which, predictably and for the test of reasonableness, is one of the reasons adduced by the Senator (Obasanjo-Bello) for her action that the young persons be refrained from public discussions on smoking for protectionist reasons.”
LANASS said that it could not agree more because “these young people are not even supposed to be found in places where such topics are being discussed, ab-initio.”
It observed that Uwais in her position cited Section 19 of the Child Rights Act with the footnote-“Responsibilities of a Child and Parent” but that she omitted to mention Section 20 with the footnote-“Parent, etc., to provide guidance with respect to Child’s Responsibilities.”
Accusing Uwais of insincerity for citing only Section 19 without taking it together with Section 20, LANASS argued that it is only when “both sections are read together as a whole that sufficient legal analysis of that part of the Act might have been done.”
The body also tackled Uwais for berating Obasanjo-Bello for purportedly misconstruing the Senate Committee Public hearing as a court.
According to the body, “: But unknown to most Nigerians, the senator was right and Mrs. Uwais, ironically, was the erring party. Court, as defined by Section 2 of the Evidence Act, is not restricted to a structure or building where judgments are pronounced but includes judges, magistrates and all persons empowered to take evidence except arbitrators.
“Since National Assembly Committees are empowered, by law, to take evidence, they could constitute what is a court, following the provisions of the Evidence Act. “Therefore, the Senator (Obasanjo-Bello) was accurate in her analogy; even if it appears she had no knowledge of the legal truth of her statements.”