Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nigeria’s human rights commission idle away as abuses pile

Published:

Chidi Odinkalu

The Commission receives complaints of human rights abuses and ignores these complaints.

Thousands of Nigerians suffering from the arbitrariness of state power or the wanton recklessness of powerful individuals and groups in the country have no one to give them a listening ear because the body set up by law to address human rights violations is in coma—and no one appears to care.

At least 22,000 human rights abuse complaints are gathering dust at the offices of the National Human Rights Commission, the body charged by law to protect citizens against the arbitrariness of power, according to the findings by PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja.

The board members of the commission say they cannot work until they are inaugurated and for this reason, heaps of files containing complaints from victims of electoral violence, political violence, child and sex abuses, as well as adoption cases are gathering dust.

Mr. Chidi Odinkalu, a noted human rights attorney and professor of law, says he disagrees with the notion that without inauguration, the board cannot commence work, stressing, “the law – that sets up the commission – makes no mention of inauguration.”

Mr Odinkalu who agrees that human rights complaints are on the rise, and that “violations are taking place every day in Nigeria,” however, agrees that by insisting on inaugurating the board as a prerequisite for functionality of the commission could amount to “dereliction of duty.”

Since board members do not perform any official functions but continue to draw salaries and allowance from the government, Mr. Odinkalu believes this has implications for accountability of the board. He also want public and citizen oversight of the board, because, according to him, “If Nigerians come to the conclusion that the commissioners are not doing what they are supposed to do, let Nigerians denounce them.”

Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country, has deep human rights problems. Many of the violations are of civic and political hues but others are also of a social, economic, religious and cultural types.

Constantly, there are cases of violence, sectarian killings in Northern Nigeria, abuses by government security forces in both Southern and Northern Nigeria and various criminal activities continues to claim scores of lives daily in Nigeria.

Post-presidential election riots left hundreds dead and survivors have become distraught in the clamour for justice and the mismanagement and embezzlement of the country’s vast oil wealth continue unabated.

According to the 2012 Human Rights Watch report on the state of human rights in Nigeria, there is “endemic corruption, poverty, poor governance, and unchecked police abuses have created an environment where militant groups thrive and find ready recruits in the vast cadre of Nigeria’s unemployed youth”.

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