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HURIWA writes Buhari on the urgency of constituting governing board of NHRC

threaten to petition UN Human Right Council next week if:

 

 

A Statement By The Pro-Democracy and Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) Asking President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute the governing board of the Nigerian Human Rights commission (NHRC) which has remained without a board for over 4 years against the United Nations Paris principle.

Introduction:

Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate of The Realm, we humbly welcome you all to this media conference, which is completely our independent initiative in our capacity as the prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group with no political affiliations but passionate about achieving just and equitable development in our dear country. Our track record within the organized civil society community in Nigeria spans nearly two decades of an unblemished record of patriotism, especially in the area of Human Rights.

As you may be aware, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nigeria, which was established by the National Human Rights Act of 1995 for the promotion and protection of all human rights in Nigeria as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other plethora of international treaties to which Nigeria is a party, was amended in 2010 to widen the scope of the Commission’s mandate to include vetting of legislations at all levels to ensure their compliance with human rights norms.

Perhaps, most importantly, the NHRC (Amendment) Act, 2010 conferred on the Commission additional independence and strengthened the Commission’s power with respect to promotion and protection of human rights, investigation of alleged violation of human rights and enforcement of decisions.

The Issue:

Following the 2010 enhanced Statute, the Commission was repositioned to be totally independent with necessary powers to deliver on its mandate by having quasi – judicial powers to summon persons, acquire evidence, award compensation and enforce its decisions. Independent in its operations and not subject to the directives of any authority or person, secured tenure of members who cannot be removed before the end of their tenure without an act of misconduct which removal shall be concurred by the Senate.

The Commission engages in human rights education in accordance with its statutory mandate and regional obligation under Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Commission has Affiliate Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and it is accredited with “A” Status at the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the National Human Rights Institutions; that is, being in full compliance with the Paris Principles, a UN General Assembly Resolution (1993).

Regrettably, this vibrant and independent Commission is comatose. Since the coming to office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to reconstitute the governing board with the expiration of the last governing board headed by Professor Chidi Odinkalu whose tenure elapsed soon after the President was sworn into office in 2015.

Recall that Dr. Chidi Odinkalu-led commission was the first governing council to inherit the reformed NHRC statute of 2010 (tenure 2011-2015). Nonetheless, since over four years, the Commission has remained in limbo, operating just like any other agency of Government and therefore not in the position again to comprehensively implement the mandates for which the Commission was set up in the first place.

With the absence of the Governing Council as required by the law to function, the Commission is unable to take decisions concerning the numerous cases of human rights abuses that are currently before the commission; hence, the origin of the down turn of things in the National Human Rights commission.

As a result, Nigeria’s human rights rating has become appalling just as government officials have become very insensitive of their constitutional responsibility to the citizens of Nigeria in line with the Principle of the Rule of law as we now we see ministers using the police to arbitrarily clampdown on media houses and detain critics who write stories considered offensive to the personalities of those in political authorities.

Why Governing Board for the Nigerian NHRC Needs to be Urgently Reconstituted.

Effective national systems, which protect and promote good governance, the rule of law, and the realization of human rights are important for sustainable human development. Among the components of such systems are governments which accept primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights and the functioning of independent National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) which conform with the Paris Principles

The United Nations *Paris Principles* provide the international minimum standards for effective, credible National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), which require that NHRIs have a broad mandate, pluralism in membership, broad functions, adequate powers, adequate resources, cooperative methods and engage with international bodies. Among the six main criteria that NHRIs require to meet as set out by the Paris Principles is Autonomy from Government

The essence of the *National Human Rights Institutions* in the member nations of the UN is that they are the best mechanism at the country level to ensure adherence to international human rights’ commitments states make, including to those from the UN Treaty Bodies, special procedure mandate holders, and the UN Human Rights Council. NHRIs have a crucial role to play in advocating for those responsibilities to be translated into law and practice.

Observably, prior to the expiration of the tenure of the last Governing Board, it was a well-known credible fact that amongst the comity of National human rights institutions, the statute of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission was adjudged to be the best.

Sadly, the lack of a governing board for the NHRC of Nigeria has crippled the Commission and is currently denying it of the global status as an independent, impartial and courageous overseer for the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights of all citizens as clearly spelt out in the universal declarations of human rights, African Charter on peoples and human rights and the Nigerian constitution.

Legally, the governing council of the commission is so important legally to an extent that the enabling *Act* states that there shall be for the commission a governing board that shall be responsible for the discharge of the functions of the Commission.

This explains why the NHRC is not living up to its mandate because the enabling law clearly states that the governing board shall be responsible for the discharge of the functions of the commission which is legally empowered to deal with all matters relating to the protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other International Treaties on human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Beyond the manifestation of very poor human rights record of the present administration in the last five years, the rubbishing of the Commission by not reconstituting the governing council could backfire in such a way that it may be downgraded in status internationally by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

This is because for any national human rights institution to enjoy top global rating, it must be independent in terms of management and operations, which the lack of a statutory governing board has denied the commission as it is currently.

Our Position and Demands:

The refusal, for over four years, to reconstitute the governing board of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by President Muhammadu Buhari clearly shows an administration that has no regard for the human rights of the citizenry.

We reiterate that with the deliberate weakening of the NHRC by President Buhari, the cases of genocides, mass killings and extralegal executions by security forces have become rampant and the rights commission is just a passive observer because there is no Governing Council to lead the process of investigations and recommendations of binding sanctions for such violators of human rights.

Therefore, gentlemen of the Media, we are by this statement demanding that within the next 78 hours, the Nigerian Government led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) should arrest and reverse this anomaly by setting up a governing board or we will be compelled to send our already prepared petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council to downgrade the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), because operating without a Council denies it of the element of independence and vibrancy and in violation of its laws.

Again, we demand that the Nigerian Government must never fill up the Human Rights Commission with politicians but should nominate Nigerians best suited to defend the human rights of Nigerians and it is better to select absolutely Non Partisan citizens and patriots to the board so as to create a great legacy for the current government after it has gone.

The need to ensure that the Rights commission maintains her independence as provided for in the amendments to the enabling law setting up the commission cannot be overemphasized. So the governing board being in place as at when due, the NHRC should inevitably be in the correct position to play her pivotal role as the national ombudsman for the promotion and protection of the human rights of citizens enshrined in chapter four of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and a plethora of other global-wide human rights laws, conventions and treaties that Nigeria is a party to as a member of the United Nations.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko:
National Coordinator.

Miss. Zainab Yusuf:
Director, National Media Affairs.

HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).

18TH AUGUST 2020.

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