Diagnosing citizens’ rights in Nigeria

On May 29, a journalist, Joseph Hir, was beaten, allegedly by supporters of the Nasarawa state governor for writing a “negative” report about the governor. A month later, Yomi Olomofe, executive director of Prime magazine, and McDominic Nkpemenyie, a correspondent with Tide newspaper, were severely beaten and injured by a group of people at Seme Customs border post in Lagos. The group was allegedly upset by previous unfavourable reports of their activities by the journalists. Recently, it was reported in a Human Rights Watch publication that camp officials, police and soldiers in IDP camps, raped and sexually exploited about 43 women and girls living in seven Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps in Maiduguri, Borno State.

Records of Human Rights violations in Nigeria are still worrisome with increasing spate of extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests, unnecessary detention and torture, rape and assault of innocent citizens. Security operatives, other relevant authorities burdened with the responsibility to protect citizens’ rights, are culpable in violating the rights of many. There are countless cases of unreported Human Rights abuses, because victims are losing faith in the lack of determination by responsible government agencies, traditional and religious institutions, and individuals, who fail to protect victims. Women and children are mostly affected and vulnerable to constant abuses even within their families.
We stress the need for government to reaffirm its position of defending the rights of IDPs, persons with disabilities, women and children, indigenous peoples, minority group, press freedom and others at risk of discrimination or violence. Corruption and weak governance undermines the tenets of basic Human Rights for many Nigerians who live in abject poverty.

Nigeria must be seen by key international actors as a country that is willing to address Human Rights abuses, as well as putting adequate and stringent measures in place to ensure that citizens’ rights are well protected.
The decision by the Nigerian Army/government to establish human rights desk, including receiving documents, investigate complaints from individuals, organisations and institution on rights violation involving military personnel and the forwarding of report findings to the office of the Chief of Army Staff on human rights complaints in the country, is a welcome development. But more needs to be done to ensure that issues of human rights abuses in Nigeria are effectively and timely addressed to reduce the plights of citizens whose rights are being abused, ensure that common people have access to justice and their rights respected.

Charles Iyare,
Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, (ANEEJ), Benin City

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