Know Your Rights Nigeria / Know Your Constitution
The #KnowYourRightsNigeria and #KnowYourConstitution campaign was designed to simplify and educate people on their rights, alongside pro-bono legal services to the disadvantaged groups (women, children and the poor) who could not afford lawyers’ fee.
Every Wednesdays on UNILAG 103.FM in Lagos, with a population of 18 million, Adeola Austin Oyinlade, a lawyer hosted Know Your Constitution, a live radio programme where he educated listeners on their rights and gave out a dedicated phone line for listeners to report human rights abuses.
On Mondays, Oyinlade and volunteers, who are lawyers, hosted #KnowYourRightsNigeria on Twitter.
Using the @KYCInitiative Twitter handle, he encouraged people to report human rights issues that arose in their daily lives and gave them free legal advice and support.
He also took the campaign to the streets of Lagos, where people were empowered on their rights, with a demonstration of how constitutional rights have relevance to their everyday lives.
In general Nigerians fear any form of contact with law enforcement agents. This is largely borne out of ignorance of their rights under the law, which had been exploited.
The campaign sought to give Nigerians and Non-Nigerians alike the legal knowledge to keep them fully abreast of the whole gamut or corpus of rights available to them under the law, and equip them with the information needed to stand up and defend themselves against any infraction.
The objectives were to use law as a tool of social engineering and problem-solving and to expand the frontiers of human rights in Nigeria.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
The campaign objectives were achieved through specific activities designed and carried out during the campaign. They included:
- Access to free legal services such as: legal opinion, to those who requested it, conciliation as an alternative dispute resolution, and litigation where it was necessary, especially for disadvantaged groups, including women, children and persons who are poor and unable to afford the legal services of lawyers in Nigeria.
- Human rights education by simplifying and explaining the human rights enshrined in national legislation and other law in force, so that the genera public could understand it.
This was done via radio (UNILAG 103.1 FM, Lagos), social media platform (Twitter), and street campaigns.
Amongst the several platforms for engagement with Nigerians, social media platforms have proven very effective.
The effectiveness came from the relative ease of access, the anonymity it can confer on participants, the relative speed of dissemination and the general prevalence of Android, Blackberry and other feature phones users.
The #KnowYourRightsNigeria campaign on Twitter educated millions of Nigerians on their rights and other legal gridlocks, and rode upon the innovative mobile technological advancement in Nigeria to launch a bottom-up popularisation of pioneering free legal services.
Using social media effectively achieves its launching nationally with a push of buttons in peoples’ palms.
This campaign made a real difference for the situation of women, children and the masses.
It has been successful as a campaign that gave people the legal knowledge needed to understand the scope of their rights in force in Nigeria, empowered them with the information required to enforce their rights and provided access to the justice platform for the poor with just a push of buttons in their palms, in case of infringement.
The campaign also provided legal assistance to victims of indiscriminate arrest, domestic violence, and people whose rights to liberty had been violated by the police.
Based on a report, the campaign has successfully responded to about three thousand human rights issues on all platforms of its campaign between 1 July, 2014 and 31 October, 2015.
In Lagos, the commercial capital city of Nigeria, it is common that innocent people walking on the streets are arrested without committing any offence, in order to extort them financially.
Seeking the release of people indiscriminately or wrongly arrested in Nigeria by the police was a great risk since the same police are to grant bail to those arrested.
In order to overcome this challenge Oyinlade, who doubled as the founder of this initiative, successfully branded his initiative, to the admiration of the top hierarchy of state police command and treated them as partners in promoting and protecting human rights in Lagos, among other states in Nigeria.
With his working relationship with the office of Police Public Relations officers in Lagos and few other states, he had been able to seek release of those detained illegally free of charge.
The lessons include:
- Human rights activism can be broadening by using social media platforms to encompass the facilitation of civil engagement and human rights promotion alongside creative responses to human rights issues that arise in people daily life activities.
- Access to justice can be made possible via radio broadcast and social media awareness and engagement.
- People can be empowered with the legal knowledge required to keep them in touch with their enforceable rights and to stand against any infraction.
- Human rights can be simplified to the understanding of the uneducated to the level of their understanding in language they understand.
- Human rights activists can use social media advancement as a platform to promote and protect human rights in other jurisdictions.