Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a frontline Civil Rights Advocacy group has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute the board of the National Human Rights Commission.
The association also said it will galvanize and mobilise the organised Nigerian Civil Rights community to approach the United Nations Human Rights Council to downgrade the Nigerian Human Rights commission if within 78 working hours the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari fails to reconstitute the governing board of the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria which last had a Council in 2015.
“HURIWA wishes to refresh the memory of Mr. President that gallant efforts and giantstrides were made by human rights groups and individuals before the previous session of the National Assembly granted the necessary reforms that have guaranteed the internationally required operational and funding autonomy of the Rights Commission which happened in 2010.
“We recalled and worth restating that stakeholders with the collaboration of the National Assembly and civil society successfully advocated the passage of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Amendment Act 2010 which amongst other things empowered the commission to compel to investigate human rights violations, register her decisions with the high court as equivalent to decisions of the high court and enforceable as such, get her finances as a first line charge on government finances, 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.”
HURIWA regrettably stated that since coming to office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari refused to reconstitute the governing board with the expiration of the last governing board headed by Professor Chidi Odinkalu whose tenure lapsed soon after President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office in 2015.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator of HURIWA, in a statement issued in Abuja stated that the Commission should 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 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of of 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.
“HURIWA aggrees with the rational view that for the commission to move forward and perform optimally in compliance with the relevant amendments made to its enabling Act which now upgraded it from the erstwhile role of an umpire who can bark but can’t bite but now with the improvements made to its enabling law equating her decisions to that of a High Court of Justice if registered in the Court of law, it is disheartening that the current government has not deemed it appropriate to set up a governing body since 2015 even when governing boards of other agencies of government have since been reconstituted.
“This absence of a board is the genesis of the down turn of things in the National Human Rights commission which must be arrested and reversed by setting up a governing board or we will be compelled to communicate to the United Nations Human Rights Council to downgrade the Nigerian Human Rights commission since it is in violation of its own law.”
The statement further reads: URIWA citing expert opinions from international bodies such as Brookings reminds President Muhammadu Buhari that it was not until the advent of Responsibility to Protect(R2P) that the international community accepted for the first time the collective responsibility to act should states fail to protect citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
“We note that between the adoption of international human rights standards by the UN after the Second World War and the acceptance of a collective responsibility to protect in 2005 there is a long road. Concepts of human security, humanitarian intervention, sovereignty as responsibility are milestones on that road.
“But one contribution that is often downplayed is the role of the international human rights movement. Human rights advocates did not just affirm that states should observe human rights standards. They championed the view that the international community should collectively take actions to hold governments to account when they fail to meet their obligations. Beginning in the 1970s, non-governmental human rights organizations and UN human rights bodies became assertive in insisting on international accountability. There were reports, fact-finding missions, intercessions with governments and sanctions.
“Indeed, the human rights movement contributed to an evolution in thinking from a strictly state-centered system in which sovereignty was absolute to one in which the behavior of states toward their own citizens became a matter of international concern and scrutiny.Another unexplored contribution to R2P is that made by the Administration of Jimmy Carter. It was President Carter who told the United Nations General Assembly in 1977 that, No member of the United Nations can claim that mistreatment of its citizens is solely its own business. Nigeria therefore must either play this role or be reported to the United Nations, ” HURIWA strongly affirmed.