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    Corruption, weak institutions grossly undermining Nigeria’s protection of basic rights, says rights group


    Dec 12, 2022

    By Bassey Udo

    Corruption and weak institutions have grossly undermined Nigeria’s capacity to protect the basic rights of the people, the Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), has said.

    The pro-democracy and environmental rights advocacy group, which joined the global rights groups/communities in celebrating the International Human Rights Day recently said
    federal and state governments in Nigeria have hardly done much to protect the so-called basic rights of the people.

    This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, Nelson Nnanna Nwafor; Head, corporate Accountability and Human Rights Enforcement, Femisi Akande.

    Emphasizing the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day, “Dignity, Freedom and Justice,” to mark the day Universal Declaration of Human Rights article was adopted on, December 10, 1948, the group urged the government and the people to make human rights right.

    The Group recalled that since its adoption, the UDHR has become a veritable instrument translated into over 500 languages of the world,

    Regarded as the mother of all rights documents, FENRAD noted that UDHR has been the foundation for Acts of parliament, constitutional provisions, and international laws.

    Regardless, the rights index in Nigeria, especially in respect of certain rights, like freedom expression, freedom to hold political opinion, and rights of indigenous people have not been encouraging as they have always come under severe attacks in Nigeria by state and non-state actors.

    The Group referenced Country reports of Amnesty International, UN Groups or Country Team, which point to an alarming rights concern about rights abuses in Nigeria.

    “FENRAD believes rights count and must therefore be accorded priority by all states, especially in Nigeria – both at national and subnational levels,” the group said.

    “Rights are inalienable and universal. Today, incorporated in Nigeria’s constitution, precisely Chapter 4, are basic rights which as a matter of obligation Nigeria is bound to protect at all times. Sadly, even federal and state governments have hardly done much to make basic the so-called basic rights.

    “Education, shelter, clothing, job opportunities, all are basic rights which are not basic. Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children (over 10 million) and as well the highest population of homeless persons (24, 000, 000)”, FENRAD noted.

    A recent country visit of a UN expert, the group said, spotlighted how rights of aged persons, or senior citizens, were being violated through discriminatory and exclusionary practices, including withholding of pensions, perquisites and other pecuniary benefits due these persons.

    It cited the cases of Abia State, where, not long ago, senior citizens took to the streets protesting against 20-year gratuity arrears.

    In virtually all the states, the groups reported that government workers were owed backlog of salary even after state governors had received bailout funds from the federal government, including budget facilities to help them fund their budgets.

    “The result has been widespread and pronounced poverty both statewide and nationwide,” FENRAD said.

    Although 32 states have so
    far domesticated the Child Rights Act, with 34 others domesticating Violence Against Persons Act, the group said more still needed to be done by the various governments to reach the milestone.

    On the area of torture, brutality and extortion, FENRAD frowned at the activities of the8> law enforcement agencies, as worse things have happened under the guise of “fighting insurgency.”

    The rights bar, it said, has been lowered by soldiers and terrorists alike, with women and children being the worst victims.

    A recent report by Amnesty International, it said, showed that internally displaced persons (IDPs) have suffered forced population transfer, as many even died.

    “In 2021 alone, 3,494 persons died in inter-communal clashes and banditry related attacks alone. Over 5,290 others were kidnapped and ransom paid within the same period. In all, rights of minors are being assaulted daily as adopted teenage school girls had forcefully been converted to “wives” of terror lords. One out of three girls in Nigeria had suffered one form of abuse or the other,” the group quoted the Amnesty International.

    Urging state governments and parties to up their game on rights issue, by ensuring that all Nigerians were treated fairly and brought under one human family bound and bonded by rights, FENRAD said Nigeria’s place in Africa and the world at large leaves a bulky role towards rights protection on her shoulders.

    Nigeria, it said, had domestic, regional and global commitments when it comes to rights, adding that as a member of the Commission on Human and People’s Rights the African Union (AU), even at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) level, Nigeria has a commitment or more to keep.

    Pursuant to these regional and international commitments, FENRAD said the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established in the mid ’90s to help in the crusade for the protection of rights.

    Today, it said the UN Human Rights Council’s special procedures has a desk in Nigeria trying to assist in the area of rights advocacy, with periodic reports harvested.

    However, the group still believes Nigeria must work with all rights-focused groups to deliver the mandate of rights, thus making rights right.

    “It is only when there is freedom of the press; independent judiciary; pro-people National Assembly; respect for the rule of law as against rule of jungle; respect for minority rights including persons with disability (PWDs), political tolerance; supremacy of the constitution as the grundnorm; freedom of assembly (those still held in detention for participating in the youth-powered #EndSARS protests should be released unconditionally); social, political and economic inclusion for youth and women,” FENRAD said.

    “Only when we build strong institutions in our laws, establishments, hearts and minds can rights be right and defences of human rights erected and the message of “Dignity,” “Freedom,” and “Justice” will have been delivered, FENRAD added.

    As the UN and the world prepare for the 75th anniversary of UDHR next year, 2023, the group said Nigeria owed herself a duty to raise the bar and banner of rights to meet up with her expectations and commitments.

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