STATEMENT ON THE 62ND ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLE’S RIGHTS HOLDING IN NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA FROM APRIL 25 – MAY 9 2018.
The human rights situation in Nigeria from the 33 year military rule to the 19 year civilian administration makes an interesting subject for review in view of the dire situation in Nigeria viz-a-viz counter insurgency war, ethnic mass killings, and violent extremism prevalent in the country.
This statement urges the Commission to review Nigeria’s compliance with its human rights obligations under the Banjul Charter which the Country has adopted and domesticated; and other international human rights instruments in line with the under listed areas of concerns and also, adopt the recommendations stated therein.
The statement examines Nigeria’s compliance with human rights standards and principles as it relates to Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis; Violent extremism and the Right to Life; and Gender Inequality.
Torture, Extra-judicial Killings, and Responses to Terrorism and Crisis.
The 9 year insurgency in the country has greatly exacerbated rights abuses in Nigeria. Online and offline reports reveal that counter-insurgency operations have led to rights violations and abuses by both state and non-state actors. These rights violations range from torture to enforced disappearances, arbitrarily long detentions, summary executions and extra-judicial killings, detention incommunicado and also sexual and gender based violence.
Creditably, Nigeria has adopted and domesticated the Banjul Charter as its national law, there is still an obvious poor level of implementation of this law as the unrestricted rights of Nigerians recognized under the Charter and guaranteed by the Constitution of the FRN are still not adequately protected.
There still exist, recorded incidences of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and detention incommunicado, perpetuated by state actors in response to terrorism and adequate redress mechanisms do not exist for victims because impunity thrives when there is no political will to punish offenders irrespective of their status or affiliation.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project, between 2015 – 2017 through its identification mechanism has been able to identify and file 142 fundamental human rights cases in Northeast Nigeria bordering on unlawful arrest and prolonged detention, torture and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.
To further buttress these points, LEDAP in rendering support to a loosely organized movement of over 300 people seeking the release and re-union with their family members who were abducted by men of the Nigerian army since 2015 has adopted various strategies to seek redress for these victims including writing to the National Assembly and Presidential Panel demanding for public hearing on behalf of the 276 persons detained by the military since 2015. So far, nothing has been done.
There is a more urgent need for the government to make conscious and concerted efforts to better protect and promote the rights of citizens.
- The Nigerian security operatives need to review their rules of engagement to mainstream human rights standards and principles during counter-insurgency operations.
- With the enactment of the Anti-Torture Act 2017, government needs to collaborate with NGOs to facilitate implementation and adoption at the states level.
- There is also a need to adopt rules and regulations that will strengthen the legal framework on torture in Nigeria and also support the training and re-training of security operatives in the country to maintain human rights standards.
- We urge the government to officially gazette prisons and detention facilities available in the country to enhance accountability on incidences of torture, enforced disappearances, and detention incommunicado.
Violent Extremism and the Right to Life
The right to life is the most basic right provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and under the Banjul Charter.
Acknowledging the efforts that have been made by the government to fight insurgency in the country, the upsurge in violent extremism and land grabbing attacks by herdsmen is an uprising which if left unchecked, will lead to a total annihilation of Nigerians and will undoubtedly affect the West Africa Region and African Continent. Almost everyday, Nigerians are killed in their numbers in flagrant disregard for the right to life. News of horrendous and gruesome killings especially in the North Central and North West regions of Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi, Zamfara, Southern Kaduna, etc have inundated the media space. The government needs to take a decisive stance and action to end mass killings and crimes that have infiltrated the country.
On this note, we urge the Commission to review Nigeria’s obligation to protect lives and properties in line with efforts that have been made to strengthen its security apparatuses in order to meet its foremost responsibility.
On death penalty, it’s a truism that it doesn’t act as a deterrence in the criminal justice sector and it targets mostly indigent people.
It has become imperative for a nation wide moratorium to be called on the death penalty and positive de-jure measures taken to abolish same.
- Strong positive measures need to be taken to address insecurity in the country including adopting MECHANISMS that prioritize conflict resolution and peacebuilding while making efforts to bring perpetrators of these international crimes to justice. Right to life is sacrosanct and the government needs to respect and value human lives as much as much as they value and promote their political agenda and gains.
- In doing so, we urge the Nigerian government to protect indigenous people’s and minority group rights as this will go a long way to address the mass killings arising from land grabbing and farmers/herders clashes.
- We also urge the Nigerian government to abolish the use of death penalty in criminal justice administration and facilitate reforms made in the criminal justice sector for effective administration of justice.
Irrespective of Nigeria signing and ratifying the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, otherwise known as the Maputo Protocol, not much affirmative actions have been made to address issues fostering discrimination against women in the African region.
Women and girls still face a lot of rights violations including but not limited to various forms of SGBV, child marriages, SRHR violations such as high maternal and morbidity rate, lack of access to adequate health care facilities, inadequate representation in the political and governance structure of the country, etc.
- We urge the government to domesticate the Maputo Protocol adopted in 2003 so that Nigerian women can partake in the political, social, and economic processes, protect their reproductive health rights and eliminate all forms of discrimination against them.
- In addition, we implore the legislature to expedite actions to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill into Law in order to promote the 35% affirmative action clause for women.
- Local instruments and framework established to protect the rights of women in Nigeria should be strengthened so that Nigerian women would be empowered to take their place of pride in the region.