In this piece towards the third annual International Day to End Impunity campaign launched by IFEX Global Network, ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI writes on Nigeria Human Rights Lawyer Rommy Mom one of the persons profiled and circumstances of the campaign.
Undoubtedly the greatest challenges facing the attainment of a civil, democratic and well-governed state is the ugly face of impunity; this is especially so in mother Africa where human rights are breached and violated with panache knowing that the Law only barks but hardly bites. Predictably, this culture of impunity has turned many States into a wild, wild wasteland where Rights lay prostrate before Might (read power) and mouths sewn with communistic dispatch.
But in the very face of this dark, foreboding silence, certain Voices, call it a loud lone voices, scream to the high heavens, decrying Inequity, Inequality, Discrimination, and Privation- anything that lessens the value and dignity of humanity, while upholding the banner of the Rule of Law, Good Governance, Respect for Human Rights and Accountability. One of these Voices is that of Mr. Rommy Mom.
The light and plight of Rommy Mom’s activism is echoed this season by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) anti-impunity campaign in its 3rd annual “International Day to End Impunity” (IDEI), holding from 1st-23rd November 2013, wherein it will profile the case of Rommy Mom amongst others in different parts of the globe, in his fight for the rights of the downtrodden and voiceless masses in Nigeria.
Mom and Mike Utsaha at the occupy Nigeria protest march
In 2012, flood ravished Benue State, Nigeria, destroying farmlands, settlements, homes and lives. Owing to this emergency, the Federal Government, alongside other well-meaning individuals made available donations, of over one billion Naira– for the victims in the State. The money was given to the State government under the leadership of Governor Gabriel Suswam.
More than a year after the State collected these monies, the victims were not given the money without a word about the fund, unlike what obtained in Imo and Sokoto States where victims were assisted and efforts made to restore them to their status before the flood.
It was in this state of affairs that the voice of Rommy Mom pierced the silence using the Freedom of Information Law. He wrote to the Benue State Emergency Agency ( BSEMA), a government agency in charge of emergency relief, demanding information about the flood-relief fund. Predictably there was a tall menacing brick wall of silence. He applied to the Court through the instrumentality of the Freedom of Information Law to compel the Benue State Emergency Agency (BSEMA) to give account of the fund: the Agency in defense averred that the Suswam-led Government did not release a dime to for any victim. The Court dismissed the application on technical grounds holding that the funds was a rumour.
It was in the middle of this that Rommy Mom’s live was threatened. The State Governor, Gabriel Suswam went on air to vent expletives on the person of Rommy Mom for daring to question this show of impunity. This was a signal to attack dogs of the government, and after a tip-off and continued media attack by the Governor, Mom fled Benue.
It is instructive to note here that, Rommy Mom walked into dangerous grounds for standing up and demanding accountability of state funds from persons who should ordinarily are obliged to provide answers. This is impunity, abuse of power and denial of freedom of expression. He fled his state and became a fugitive-activist in his own fatherland! Sadly, even as the time of writing this piece, the flood victims in Benue State are still counting the linings on their ceilings- empty, disillusioned and forsaken. Not a dime has reached any of them. They are abandoned like diseased and bewitched orphans in a land that professes “Social Justice and Welfare of her Citizenry” as the pillars of its existence and establishment.
Let’s get a little biographical and personal with Rommy Mom. Let’s trace the roots of Rommy Mom’s activism and face-off with ‘Authorities’ when they attempt to emasculate the voiceless dregs of the Earth. Let’s look at his stature in human rights Dadaism. Rommy Mom is a lawyer and international development expert of field experience in areas of Good Governance, Civil Society Strengthening and Socio-Economic Rights. He has worked with Civil Organizations throughout Nigeria—to build capacity, groom advocacy abilities and provide civic-political education and enlightenment. He’s the current President of Lawyers Alert in Nigeria a Human Rights Promoting NGO which works towards “Right-based governance through accountability and responsive governance that focuses on electoral reforms, Anti-Corruption and Constitutional reforms”
Before joining Lawyers Alert, he had served as Nigeria Country Director Nigeria for Global Rights –an organization that works with Local Communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to promote and protect the rights of unheard and marginalized populace.
Mr. Mom once chaired the Benue Bar, and BENGONET (A NETWORK OF NGO’s in Benue State). He is a member of National Human Rights Committee-representing Nigeria Civil Society. He was also Secretary of the Rule of Committee of the Nigeria Bar Association.
Rommy Mom is not all arm-chair, bottle water and conference; he is also a fighter: robed in gown, wig and Law-gloves. He has been in and out of court on hundreds of occasions for the commoner, walked the streets in protests especially during the occupy Nigeria period, monitored elections in various countries in Africa and successfully prosecuted and continues to be involved in public interest litigation.
Rommy Mom is a fist in the face of impunity and deserves expressive freedom to keep confronting the forces of inhumanity enslaving, degrading and dehumanizing mankind. Let’s all stand with Rommy Mom and the other persons profiled by IFEX to say NO to impunity.