OAL is one of Nigeria’s leading public interest litigation law firms. A country study of the legal protection of human rights in Nigeria by Olisa Agbakoba for the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights [INTERIGHTS] and the Inter-African Network for Human Rights and Development [AFRONET] identified a critical need for specialist public interest law service providers.
The OAL public interest Litigation programme was thus established to advance human rights through organized and consistent public interest litigation. Today, OAL PIL programme has extended to issues of public policy, governance and constitutionalism.
OAL has worked on the following carefully selected thematic areas:
- Expansion of access to courts
- Justiciability and enforceability of social and economic rights
- Environmental rights enforcement
- Housing rights; protecting slum dwellers
- Administrative detention; scope of powers to detain and amenability to judicial review
- Freedom of information; access to official records
- Domestic application of international and comparative human rights norms particularly provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
- Enforcement of treaty obligations of the state in respect of non-incorporated international instruments.
- Holding charge; constitutionality of process by which prisoner under pre-trial custody are remanded indefinitely.
- Jail Delivery Project: reducing national prison population by 25%
- Constitutionality of the death penalty; on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment
- Death row conditions; constitutionality of prolonged death row detention and mode of the execution process i.e. by hanging etc
- Financial Independence of the Judiciary
- Local Government Autonomy
- Discrimination on account of state or origin
- LGBT – Constitutionality of limitations on freedom of expression and association of individuals and organisations that provide support to LGBT in Nigeria
Some of OAL’s major PIL cases include:
Olisa Agbakoba V. Director State Security Services (1994) 6 NWLR (Pt.351) at 475
The Court of Appeal held that the state could not withdraw a citizens passport as that would amount to denying the citizen the means of exercising his right of exit and entry into Nigeria as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Peter Nemi V. Attorney General of Lagos state (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt.452) 42
The Court of Appeal held that prisoners have enforceable rights as citizens and suggested that prolonged incarceration of convicted prisoners could constitute breach of their right to dignified and humane treatment.
Bayo Johnson V. Attorney General of Lagos State (2007) 8 NWLR (PT 1037) 535
The Court of Appeal declared unconstitutional the holding charge system whereby police arraign suspects on token charges to secure their detention in prison for lengthy, unspecified periods of time. This decision becomes pertinent when considering the usual refrain from the police that investigations are continuing while the suspect is locked away in indefinite detention. Though overturned at the Supreme Court, Bayo Johnson’s case has influenced criminal justice reforms (especially in Lagos state).
Onuoha Kalu V. The State (1998) 12 S.C.N.J. 1
OAL litigated the constitutionality of the death penalty to abolish the death penalty in Nigeria. The Supreme Court accepted most of OAL submissions but held that the death penalty is constitutional since the Constitution of Nigeria explicitly permits it. The Court, however, stated that the National Assembly may take steps to amend the constitution to abolish the death penalty in Nigeria. Additionally, the Court left open the question of whether remaining on death row for a significant amount of time is a procedural rights violation, but hinted that such prolonged detention is improper.
Olisa Agbakoba vs. AG Federations & Others FHC/L/CS/941/2010
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos held that amendments to the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly cannot become operational without the assent of President.
Olisa Agbakoba v AG Federation & Others FHC/ABJ/CS/570/2010 & Olisa Agbakoba v AG Ekiti State & Others HD/56/2013
The Federal High Court Abuja and State High Court, Ekiti State declared unconstitutional Federal and State Executive interference with judicial funding. The Court held that the continued dependence of the judiciary on the Executive Arm for its Budgeting and funds release violates Section 81 (2) and Section 84(1), (2), (3), (4) and (7) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Olisa Agbakoba v. AG Federation & Minister of Education FHC/L/CS/1358/2013
The Federal High Court, Lagos voided the education policy of the Federal Government on the discriminatory admission of students in the 36 states of Nigeria into Federal Government Colleges otherwise known as Unity Schools. The Court granted an order mandating the Federal Government to apply a uniform standard for candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges irrespective of their states of origin.
These cases are the result of sustained public interest litigation.