Tackling Human Rights Violations In Nigeria

December 19, 2014

On 19 December 2014, Naomi Sharang wrote a long piece in the Nigerian Observer (News agency of Nigeria – NAN). After a short general introduction, the author zooms in on the Nigerian situation and the role of human rights defenders, interviewing a NGO representative as well as someone from the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Here follow the main excerpts:

…Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 said that human rights abuses by insurgents in Northern Nigeria dominated Nigeria’s human rights landscape in 2013.
“In 2013, more than 400 people died from violent inter-communal conflicts in Nigeria’s Middle-Belt states, and scores were rendered homeless from the clashes,” the report added.
For instance, Mr Sule Tajudeen, an Abuja-based civil servant, insists that security personnel often infringe on the people’s rights. “On many occasions, the police have harassed me when I never committed any crime,’’ he says, calling for the reorientation of country’s security personnel, as part of efforts to protect the citizens’ rights. Speaking on the forms of human rights violation, Mr Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), says that rights violation includes the abuse of a person’s right to life.
In Nigeria, the most disturbing human rights violation is the abuse of the right to life and the activities of terrorists, who wantonly waste the lives of innocent and law-abiding Nigerians,’’ he says. Onwubiko also considers the high rate of extra-judicial killing of suspects in police custody as a serious breach of the people’s fundamental human rights.
Besides, the total lack of welfare packages for the poor in Nigeria can be described as human rights abuses, on the part of government at all levels,” he adds. Onwubiko claims that HURIWA was set up basically to enlighten Nigerians on their fundamental human rights.
We organise lectures annually and carry out vigorous advocacy campaigns to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to cases of human rights abuse across the country,’’ he says. He also says that his association partners with relevant organisations in its crusade to sensitise Nigerians to their rights, privileges and duties as citizens. The national coordinator, however, calls on all human rights groups to redouble their efforts in the fight against “gruesome human rights violations such as sexual violations and molestation of young girls’’.
Nevertheless, Onwubiko underscores the need to retrain and reform the police, while equipping them with the wherewithal to establish functional anti-rape squads in all police formations and divisions across the country.
Above all, the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) must be up and doing in efforts to protect and promote the human rights of Nigerians.  The Freedom of Information Act and the amendments of the enabling Act setting up the NHRC should be used as tools in efforts to facilitate a holistic change in the human rights profile of Nigeria, which is currently low,” he said.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Aver Gavar, Deputy Director (Legal) and Head of Focal Areas Unit, NHRC, ..Gavar stresses that human rights violations include extra-judicial killings, displacement of people from their communities and places of abode, and loss of people’s right to education, shelter and health. “As a commission, we have observed the huge burden of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who have complained of being despondent. This situation could be viewed as a gap in governance, even as Nigeria is a party to the Kampala Convention, which places the primary responsibility of the care of IDPs on the government,’’ she says.
The NHRC official says that in instances of human rights abuse, the commission often intervenes by seeking redress. She says that the redress could be in the form of compensation or by way of restitution. She expatiates that the restitution ensures the reinstatement of the original status quo of people whose rights have been violated or trampled upon. Gavar, however, notes that the amendment of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission Act in 2012 has increased the citizens’ confidence in the commission’s ability to handle complaints about human rights abuses.
The number of complaints brought before the commission, particularly from 2012 to date, has doubled. We count this as an indicator of increased public confidence in the commision,” she says.
Gavar says that NHRC is collaborating with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs), adding that a lot of the commission’s success can be attributed to such collaborative efforts. “We have met with certain NGOs to set up an agenda for the new Inspector General of Police, Mr Suleiman Abba,’’ she adds. The deputy director reiterates that the main mandate of NHRC is to create an enabling environment for the preservation of the citizens’ human rights. “We are proactive, and not just reactive, in our approach to human rights issues.
“We create public awareness of human rights and we also embark on advocacy visits to decision-makers who are the people in government. Such visits are made on the implementation of some of the laws as well as the international and regional instruments which Nigeria has ratified,’’ she adds. Gava believes that sustained efforts should be made to encourage the government to protect the citizens’ human rights, as part of the strategies put in place to promote a better society.

Tackling Human Rights Violations In Nigeria | Nigerian Observer.

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