By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have come together to work together to clarify the fate of missing persons in Nigeria.
Both organisations on Thursday in Abuja signed an agreement to put in place a temporary mechanism to clarify the fate of missing persons in the country and to prevent future disappearances.
A statement by ICRC read: “In commemoration of the international day of the disappeared, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Human rights Commission (NHRC), today (Thursday) witnessed the signing of documents for the actualization of a National Committee on Missing persons (NCMP).
“The NCMP is a temporary mechanism with the overarching mandate of clarifying the fate of missing persons in Nigeria and preventing future disappearances.”
The statement quoted Eloi Fillion, ICRC Head of Delegation in Nigeria, to have said: “The fate of loved ones during times of armed conflict and violence has continued to cause untold suffering and anguish for many”, adding that: “The right of families to know the fate of one who goes missing is enshrined in International humanitarian and human rights law and should be respected by governments through the creation and enforcement of laws that prevent such disappearances; creating a viable system where cases of those missing are documented and followed up can bring a sense of peace and closure to suffering families and this mechanism is a step towards making this a reality.”
The statement recalled that: “In 2016, the National Technical Committee (NTC) on the Establishment and Management for a Database of Missing Persons in Nigeria was inaugurated and charged with the task of reviewing the mandate and standard operating procedures for the establishment of the NCMP. The ICRC has worked closely with the technical committee in a technical advisory role considering its experience in handling cases of missing persons that spans over 150 years.”
The Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, was also quoted in the statement to have said at the agreement signing, that: “This year’s observance of International Day of the disappeared was significant as it featured a national dialogue on the missing,” noting that: “The national dialogue triggered discussions that hopefully improved people’s understanding of the issues around the disappeared and proffered recommendations that will promote the work of National Technical Committee on the Establishment and Management of the Database on Missing Persons in Nigeria (NTC).
Also featured during the event were artworks from the winners of an art competition put together by the NHRC for primary and secondary school students across Nigeria with the theme, “Missing…not forgotten.”
The ICRC is currently working in over 60 countries to address issues related to missing persons, including to help restore links between family members that have been separated by conflict and violence. In Nigeria, close to 2,000 tracing requests have been documented by the Red Cross since the start of the year alone while almost 300 Red Cross messages have been exchanged between separated family members in the North Eas