Health Action Program

The Health Action Program (HAP) of SERI articulates health as a basic human right and seeks its realization by every one through collaboration with the public, private and civil society sectors. The Project advocates for policy and legislative reforms and undertakes health sector budget monitoring and evaluation in order to enhance access to effective and quality health services.

Protecting the rights of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA):
A major aspect of our Health and Human Rights program is the realization that PLWHA are facing challenges that are more serious than AIDS itself. They are subjected to all manner of discriminatory practices and stigmatization. The indignity of being rejected and abandoned by family, friends, co-workers and society prevent many of them from disclosing their HIV status and coming out to avail themselves of the available support, treatment and care. As a result, many PLWHA die needless deaths. It is our position that in order to create a supportive legal framework, it is important that governments identify and effectively address existing gaps or other problematic aspects of their legislation and regulatory systems in its public health regime. For this reason we have been engaged in advocacy, training, consultancy and publications on:

  1. Public health policies and practices as they affect PLWA;
  2. HIV/AIDS Litigation;
  3. Reduction of stigma, discrimination, human rights violations and other prejudices associated with HIV and AIDS epidemic at workplaces, including testing at recruitment and mandatory testing during employment, denial of employment, differential treatment, disclosure and confidentiality;
  4. Disclosure and exposure-duty to disclose HIV status to partner and negligent or willful exposure or transmission;
  5. Injecting drug use-Access to clean needles and drug paraphernalia laws, drug substitution programs and International Drug Conventions: Punitive V. Public Health Approach;
  6. Sex work-Criminal Statutes on Sex Work, vague criminal statutes and police harassment, regulatory regimes (labour, health, occupational safety), 100% condom use programs, trafficking of women for sex work;
  7. Men having sex with men-Gender orientation in general anti-discrimination statutes, sexual offenses, vague or over-broad criminal statutes and police harassment and rights of association and expression;
  8. Women-access to medical treatment, property ownership and inheritance, marital rape, reproductive rights, sexual harassment and violence and traditional practices;
  9. Children-Orphans and vulnerable children, inheritance, birth registration, caregivers, discrimination in education, sexual abuse, legal age, child marriage, sexual and economic exploitation;
  10. Clinical Research-Nondiscrimination in selection of research subjects, informed consent, confidentiality, equitable access to information and benefits and Ethics Boards;
  11. Information-Information and educational materials, and censorship; and
  12. Access to Medicines-Patented and generic drugs, WTO members: Special Consideration under the TRIPS Agreement, Parallel Importing, Exhaustion of Patent Rights, Differential Pricing and Free Trade Agreements: Special Considerations.

SERI has, in collaboration with several PLWHA care and support organizations, picked up the mantle to fight discrimination against PLWHA in the workplace, in hospitals, in schools and, indeed in the society at large. Enforcing the rights of PLWHA through litigation is an additional dimension of SERI’s human rights mandate.

Environmental Health Education

In the course of our environmental health education in the slum settlements of Lagos State, a Needs Assessment Survey was carried out as a basis for further interventions. The major findings of the survey included:-

  • Unacceptably low access to potable water supply
  • Sanitation services were virtually non-existent
  • Unhygienic disposal of human waste
  • High degree of over-crowding
  • Heavy disease burdens of enteric infections
  • Unacceptably high infant morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Following these findings SERI in conjunction with the Community Development Associations (CDAs) in Ajeromi Ifelodun LGA designed programs to address some of the deficiencies revealed by the survey. The programs were:-

Immunization Education in 12 out of the 20 LGAs of Lagos State. The Immunization Education was targeted at nursing mothers, pregnant women, and all women of child-bearing age. The objective was to reduce vaccine-preventable morbidity and mortality. The immunization education sessions (24 in all) attracted on the average 150 women per session. It was carried out over a period of 6 months. To further sustain the benefits of the immunization education, SERI developed, published and distributed an immunization handbook – Immunization Guide to the family.

Lagos Slum Neighbourhood Incremental Improvement Program (LASNIP) To address the issues of shortage of potable water supply and lack of sanitation services this slum neighbourhood improvement was designed. Implemented over a 3-year period the program was specifically community-based. It had several components some of them preparatory and geared to empower the community residents to take charge of issues that affect their lives. The components include:-

  • Community Empowerment And Capacity Building through
  • Community mobilization workshops
  • Consultation meetings to entrench participatory processes
  • Health and Environmental Hygiene Awareness Campaigns
  • Campaign for legal security of tenure
  • Rights awareness clinics

Community-Based Water Supply And Sanitation facilities

  • Building of two mini-waterworks, one in Ajegunle and the other at Amukoko in the Ajeromi Ifelodun LGA
  • Informal Waste Collectors – SERI organized and equipped about 100 push cart operators to be collecting refuse from the narrow pathways, where large municipal refuse trucks cannot penetrate.

A beneficiary Assessment Survey in the 12 Local Government Areas, where the immunization education program took place revealed that immunization coverage shot up dramatically as a result of increased awareness of the necessity for immunization.

There is a ready immunization handbook for easy reference by those who may need the information.

The series of seminars, workshops, rights awareness clinics, women empowerment sessions and CDA Capacity Building had the aggregate effect of mobilizing the community residents against being passive receivers of charity, but dutiful responders to external initiatives.

There is indisputable evidence that the water and sanitation facilities have resulted in increased access to potable water supply and sanitation services. The necessary corollary is that infant morbidity and mortality should decline, though this has not been studied specifically.

Housing Rights Program

The project is aimed at making government fulfill its responsibility regarding housing to Nigerians. This project articulates housing as a basic human right. It undertakes practical, promotional and protective measures for its realization, and provides legal assistance to victims of housing rights violations. In view of the poverty of remedial justice, it uses municipal and international legal systems to create pro-active solutions to housing rights violations and raise popular awareness on the relationship between the right to adequate housing and other human rights.

The main approaches for delivering this programme include: advocacy, development and distribution of IEC materials, litigation and urgent appeals, capacity building, development of a manual on housing rights protection and adjudication strategies as well as on Legal security of Tenure in Tenancies and Leases.

In a report by Hussainatu Abdulahi (May 2000) , SERI’s work and achievements in the areas of housing and health were noted and acknowledged. Of particular mention was SERI’s parallel report submitted to the UN Committee on ESC rights against Nigeria’s State reports. SERI has held workshops for residents of slum communities on the ways and means of improving their health and living environment in the cities of Lagos, Onitsha and Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

The Housing Rights Project successfully stopped Lagos State Government from “Redeveloping” Ajegunle (A euphemism for demolition), through litigation. Ajegunle is home to over three million inhabitants most of whom are poor.

The program has to date handled more than 450 housing rights violation matters. About 50 percent of them were resolved through mediation. The rest were resolved by the courts sitting in various states of Nigeria. Litigation in far flung places were prosecuted using Lawyers from the Socio-economic Rights Network. Recently, SERI was able to save about 28,000 Federal Civil Servants who were faced with the prospect of forced eviction from Federal High Rise buildings around Lagos. In addition, SERI’s campaign activities increased awareness of citizens housing rights.

One of the major cases being handled is the 1004 Housing Estate and other high-rise and single houses case where the federal government has evicted about 28,000 Federal Civil Servants from their Staff Quarters. Though we successfully obtained injunctions restraining the government from evicting the public servants, not only that the government subsequently evicted them, the Federal High Court has recently held that they have no special interest the court could protect. We have now appealed against the ruling of the high court.

Furthermore, SERI in collaboration with the EU mobilized over 2,000 traders in Olorunshogo market to resist their eviction by Lagos State Government.
SERI stayed the hand of government from evicting Ilaje community in Lagos till they could raise money to move to a new location in Ikorodu. The demolition of Ajegunle was stopped through SERI’s effort and upgrading of the area was rather done. As a result of this proposed demolition and SERI’s intervention, the World Bank withdrew its proposed loan facility to the Lagos State Government.
About 500 families resident in Harvey/Moore Road Federal Government Housing Estate, Yaba were given the option of 1st refusal to purchase their houses at very liberal terms of payment over 25 years instead of eviction. In addition, SERI was able to mobilize about ten thousand Satellite Town Phase II residents threatened with eviction to unite and fight for their rights. SERI worked with the residents and secured a court injunction which stopped the government from evicting them.
SERI was able to obtain =N=25 million compensation for victims of Kerosine explosions in Lagos state.

SERI has several publications documenting the cases and discussing the domestic and international legal standards on housing rights. The publications include; (1) Legal Security of Tenure in Tenancies And Leases; (2) Study on the Right to Adequate Housing in Nigeria; (3) Housing Rights in Nigeria; (4) Manual on Housing Rights Protection Strategies for Lower court Judges; and (5) Homeless Millions; Documentary Evidence of Forced Eviction in Port-Harcourt. The books were widely disseminated.

Governance Program

Major success stories for SERI are its involvement in economic reform issues and electoral matters. In this regard, SERI has demonstrated a willingness to collaborate with government. Thus:

  1. SERI has been involved in electoral issues from the inception of this experiment on democratic rule in 1999. Both her erstwhile executive director Eze Onyekpere and her current president, Ray Onyegu were founding members of the Transition Monitoring Group. Eze was a pioneer member of the National Coordinating Committee of TMG while Ray Onyegu was the pioneer Lagos State Coordinator. When Ray subsequently became a member of the National Coordinating Committee, Dr. Dom Okoro became the Lagos State Coordinator. Since then, SERI has been actively involved in civic education, voter education and monitoring of elections in Nigeria. <./li>
  2. A SERI Staff represented Nigerian Civil Society in the drafting Committee of NEEDS – I
  3. 2 SERI staff served in the Drafting Committee of NEEDS 2
  4. 3 Directors of SERI took part in the development of Medium-Term Sector Strategy (MTSS) for Federal Ministries 2007 – 2009.
  5. 3 Directors of SERI were engaged as Short-term Consultants to the National Planning Commission for the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) Benchmarking Exercise in 2006. There were posted to Plateau, Koggi and Kebbi States, respectively.
  6. SERI pioneered Budget Monitoring and Advocacy Work in Nigeria (It has two Budget manuals to show for it.)
  7. SERI led Civil Society efforts to make inputs into the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, The Procurement (Due Process) Bill and the Development of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
  8. SERI has maintained a Privatization Observatory since 2003
  9. Currently SERI is one of the consultants engaged by the Federal Government through the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) to undertake the Monitoring and Evaluation of Debt Relief Gains funded MDG projects and programs.

The Public Law Project

SERI’s Public Law Project addresses issues of human rights of the poor and under-served members of the society and engages in public impact litigation. The project conducts studies and investigations on prison conditions and offers free legal services, including legal advice, counseling and representation in deserving cases. It targets indigent prison inmates who have suffered long detention without trial and widows facing oppressive treatments as a result of unwholesome cultural practices.

Capacity Building Project

This is a mentoring project that affords both in-house and new organizations opportunities of building their capacities and improving their skills. The project undertakes regular training activities, seminars and workshops for upcoming organizations and assists such organizations to identify established local and international organizations that are willing to absorb them on professional internship. The project also makes direct contact with organizations that fund such professional internships for funding the identified activities.