NHRC insists on rule of law
Alex Enumah in Abuja
Nigerians yesterday came hard on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the area of respect for fundamental rights of its citizenry, as the world commemorated the 2019 Human Rights Day.
A cross section of members of the society who scored the administration low, warned that if the situation persists it may easily lead to the end of Nigeria as a nation.
Lawyers, civil society groups and politicians stated that the current administration has not only performed woefully but has eroded every gains the country has made in the past.
They particularly berated the administration for the recent invasion of a Federal High Court Abuja, by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) as well as the executive disregard of court orders for Sowore and others.
Speaking at a summit organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Unity Bar, Abuja, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Jibrin Okutepa, said he would be magnanimous to score the Buhari administration 10 over 100 having failed on all fronts.
According to Okutepa, Nigerians are daily being deprived of right to life, and basic amenities such as right to food, good roads, hospital, shelter, among others.
“We have not looked at the fundamental right on freedom from fear”, he said, noting that people are being kidnapped in their houses, highways and anywhere in the country.
“If you don’t have food to eat, your life is in jeopardy, if you don’t have good hospital to attend then your right to life is in jeopardy; if you don’t have good house to stay then your right to human dignity is in jeopardy; so, there is a correlation between chapters 2 and chapter 4 of our Constitution.
Okutepa, who chaired the panel of discussants at the summit however stated that if Nigeria must survive this onslaught by the executive, judges and lawyers must live up to expectation.
“The way out is for the legal profession to examine itself and restore its dignity. Until the legal profession takes the lead and begin to take objection to every violation of human rights, including self-violation within the legal profession and begin to apply sanctions and discipline on its members and begin to lead by example, the government will continue to violate human rights with such impunity and audacity of arrogance that Nigerians would soon be no longer able to move”, he said.
Keynote speaker at the summit, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), who spoke to journalists at the occasion, while lamenting that the Buhari’s administration has brought back those dark days of the military rule, also aligned himself with Okutepa that Nigeria’s salvation rest squarely with the legal profession, particularly the judges.
“This administration does not deserve a single mark at all in respect of human rights.
“The administration has taken us back into military system when judges are no longer able to sit; the administration has taken us to a period whereby the rights of the people are trampled upon, DSS will invade the National Assembly, DSS will invade the court, and nothing is happening”, he said
The situation he added is worsened by some judges who are willing and ready to be tools in the hands of the executive or politicians. “It is the judges who are exhibiting self-timidity; judges who are promoting the interest of the executive beyond the executive; judges who now cry more than the oppressors, they are judges who hurting us”.
“I must call on our courts, judicial officers to assert the law without fear and favour without ill will, without any trepidation. They should be able to rescue Nigeria and protect our Constitution, they should say the law as it is and not be afraid because Nigerians are supporting them, the law is supporting them and the international community is supporting them.
Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Unity Bar, Ogechi Abu, said the bar is so disturbed with the deplorable state of human rights in the country, hence it chose as team, “2019 Human Rights Summit: The State of Human Rights in Nigeria”.
She said, “The State of Human rights in Nigeria is an abysmal failure, all of the progress we seemed to have made in years back have suddenly been rolled back and eroded.
“As it is now it appears we are at the lowest ebb in the country with regards to human rights issues”, she said.
Also, speaking to journalists in another forum, former Kaduna State Senator, Shehu Sani, while lamenting the decadence of this administration in respect to human rights observed that President Buhari is a major benefactor of human rights struggles in Nigeria.
He noted that the administration have been consistent in eroding democratic values, disobedience to court orders, and disrespect for rule of law.
He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is the greatest beneficiary of human rights struggle in Nigeria. So, I believe that it is in his own interest that he doesn’t leave behind a legacy of human rights violation and desecration of rule of law.
“What I will only say is that those who are encouraging the violation of human rights, those who are encouraging the persecution of others, those who are aiding and abetting the desecration of rule of law today, will not be there tomorrow to defend the legacy of this administration”, he said.
Speaking to journalists shortly after a sensitisation street work on Human Rights in Abuja, Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, however noted that Nigeria is not doing badly as the commission as well as civil society organisations now challenge abuse of rights of citizens.
He said outside the cases of Sowore, El-Zakyzaky, Sambo Dasuki and some few others which the commission has taken up with the government, Nigeria has remarkable improvement in the area of human rights.