‘Human Right Abuses by Nigerian Businesses Taking Huge Dimensions’

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Chineme Okafor in Abuja

Global Rights, which advocates for the rights of people across sectors of the national economy, has expressed concern over what it described as the growing breach of human rights across all sectors of the Nigerian economy by businesses.

It explained that such abuses were done even by mining companies in host communities as well as to passengers who are treated poorly at the airports by airlines.

According to the group, while attention are mostly focused on rights abuses by governments and their agencies, relative attention are however paid to the breaches perpetuated by businesses run by private investors.

Speaking at a recent stakeholder workshop in Abuja to review a draft National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights, the Executive Director of Global Rights, Abiodun Baiyewu, said when operational the document would outline specific terms on how issues of human right breaches by these businesses would be tackled.

Baiyewu, explained that NAP was founded on the United Nations’ guiding principles on business and human rights which has three pillars of ‘protect, respect and remedy’.

“Today, we are reviewing the draft national action plan on business and human rights which is based on the UN guiding principles on business and human rights. Nigeria is one of the few countries that had initiated the guiding principles and the need for a national action plan.

“But unfortunately many other countries have taken over and have already developed their own nation action plan on business and human rights but Nigeria is yet to submit this at the UN,” said Baiyewu.

She added: “So, the essence of this meeting is for us to be able to sit together as stakeholders to begin to think of how do we begin to work on development of human rights and the development of businesses and growth of the communities and the people of Nigeria in a plan that will work for Nigeria and not just a generic plan that is proposed or adopted anywhere else.”

Baiyewu, indicated that the initial draft had among other things recommended that the National Human Rights Commission with other agencies of government and the business sector should begin to work on the laws that exist in the country to bring them in line with the UN guiding principles.

“It is an action plan of re-alignment of the laws and the policies, and which institutions should be responsible, which is extremely important because impunity is why a lot of things go wrong in Nigeria not so much of corruption.

“Which institution should be responsible and how institutions should respond, how government should ensure that rights are protected and remedies are available and how the access to these remedies are made available. How businesses make sure that rights are protected as well,” she explained.

She further said that breach of human rights by businesses was a big problem in Nigeria, noting that often when issues of human rights come up, the thinking was more of government abuses and not about breaches by businesses.

Baiyewu, equally stated that when governments do not supervise businesses to ensure that human rights are protected, businesses will disrespect rights of people they even serve.

“One of the big issues today is what is going on at the airports where airlines will violate the rights of travelers and we do not do anything. Two days ago, it was reported of a case of a woman living with disability who was disallowed from boarding a flight just on the basis of her disability. That is outright discrimination and violation of her rights,” she added.

According to her, NAP on business and human rights document would go a long way in addressing such issues in the country and ensure that citizens’ rights are respected by businesses.