Protection Of Human Rights In Nigeria: A Clarion Call
By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
Protection of human rights in Nigeria: a clarion call for the constitutional guarantee of the independence of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria
According to the information on the website of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria – herein after referred to as the Commission, the Commission was established by the National Human Rights Commission Rights 1995 (as amended) in line with Resolution 48/134 of the United Nations General Assembly which enjoins all member states to establish independent National Institutions for the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights.
The Commission serves as an extra-judicial mechanism for the respect and enjoyment of human rights. It also provides avenues for public enlightenment, research, and dialogue in order to raise awareness on Human Rights issues.
There are 13 Departments in the administrative structure of the Commission namely:• Human Rights Institute, • Human Rights Education & Promotion,• Finance and Account • Civil & Political Rights, • Economic Social & Cultural Rights, • Women, Children & Vulnerable Groups, • Legal Services & Enforcement, • Human Resource Management, • Corporate Affairs & External Linkages Directorate, • Reform Co-ordination & Service Improvement, • Planning, Statistics & Documentation, • Directorate of Procurement, • Monitoring Department.
There are 4 functional units in the Commission, they include: • Council Secretariat, • Internal Audit, • Complaints Registry, • Information and Communication Technology.
The Commission presently has State offices in all 36 states of the country and the FCT.
The thematic focus of the Commission are as follows:
Women and Gender Matters
Corruption & Good Governance
Police, Prison & Other Detention Centres
Environment & Niger Delta
Freedom of Religion & Belief
Torture, Extra-Judicial, Summary & Arbitrary Executions
Law Reform and Law Review
Independence of the Judiciary and Access to Justice.
From the foregoing, it is clear that in line with the Resolution 48/134 of the United Nations General Assembly which enjoins all member states to establish independent National Institutions for the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights (the word independent is underlined by me for emphasis). The consideration of this paper is to the effect that the Commission despite its establishment is not independent under the Constitution as the main Federal Government’s Agency or Commission established for the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights. This independence is very important to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Commission in combating any alleged or suspected violation of the human rights of Nigerians both nationally and internationally. Nigerians have remained to be suffering in the hands of international antagonists especially in South-Africa but the Commission’s voice has not been heard on this allegation (I am not aware of any of such voice, with due respect). Whereas, the Commission is or should be empowered to intervene in this alleged violation of rights of Nigerians who are residents in other countries. More so, in my humble view, the Commission is a great tool in the championing of human rights of Nigerians across the globe. The Commission too in my humble view has its own role and reportage to make on any alleged violation of human rights of Nigerians across the globe.
Furthermore, going by the United Nation’s mandatory requirement for an independent National Human Rights Commission, the Nigerian Government has failed and or refused or rejected or neglected to make the Commission an independent Commission under the Constitution just as the Independent National Electoral Commission, the National Judicial Council of Nigeria, etc., that have been conferred independence under the Constitution. Unfortunately, there is a clear fact that human rights of Nigerians are neglected by the Nigerian Government due to its subjecting the Commission to control or likely control of government or other external forces which are enough to influence and inhibit the productive efforts of the Commission. More so, a close scrutiny of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution-, shows that the Commission is not listed among those Federal Commissions listed in section 153 (1) of the Constitution which provides thus ‘153.—(1) There shall be established for the Federation the following
bodies, namely :
(a) Code of Conduct Bureau ;
(b) Council of State ;
(c) Federal Character Commission ;
(d) Federal Civil Service Commission ;
(e) Federal Judicial Service Commission ;
(f) Independent National Electoral Commission ;
(g) National Defence Council ;
(h) National Economic Council ;
(i) National Judicial Council ;
(j) National Population Commission ;
(k) National Security Council ;
(l) Nigeria Police Council ;
(m) Police Service Commission ;
(n) Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission ;
(2) The composition and powers of each body established by subsection
(1) of this section are as contained in Part I of the Third Schedule to this
Also, section 158(1) of the Constitution is clear on the independence of some certain bodies which do not include the Commission (i.e. the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria has been excluded) as follows ‘158.—(1) In exercising its power to make appointments or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, the Code of Conduct Bureau, the National Judicial Council, the Federal Civil Service Commission, the Federal Character Commission, and the Independent National Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.’.
Therefore, it is my considered view, with due respect, that the Commission will better be guaranteed independence if its independence can be established in the Constitution just as other Commissions have been guaranteed their independence in Section 153(1) and especially, section 158(1) of the Constitution
Finally, I therefore recommend the inclusion of the Commission in the listed Federal Commissions in Section 153 (1) and 158(1) of the Constitution and for the Commission to be accorded its independence in line with the United Nation’s requirement. This is for the Commission to be able to carry out its functions and duties without fears and or favour. Also, in my humble view, the independence of the Commission is better guaranteed in the Constitution rather than being guaranteed under its establishment statute.