Fagbohunlu, Adegboruwa, Others Lament Worsening State of Human Rights

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Tobi Soniyi

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Mr. Tunde Fagbohunlu and Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa as well as leading human rights defenders yesterday called on activists to redouble their efforts to stop further violations of rights in the country.

They spoke via a webinar held in honour of foremost civil rights advocate and former Chairman of the Governing Board of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu to mark his birthday organised by a group of young lawyers led by Mr. Orji Ama Chinedu.

Other activists who spoke during the webinar are Gloria Ballason; Mr. Inibehe Effiong; a former Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Young Lawyers’ Forum, Mr. Issa Adedokun and Cynthia Mbamalu of the ‘Not too young to run’ fame.

Speaking on the ‘Future of Human Rights in Nigeria’, Fagbohunlu noted that even though violations of rights continued, he said there was a cause for celebration.

According to him, a significant milestone has been achieved in the fight against human rights violations, despite all the odds.

Adegboruwa was not so optimistic. He noted that the gains recorded by activists in the past had been eroded as the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari adopted a policy of hiding under national security to violate people’s rights.

He noted that people were being killed indiscriminately across the country in sheer disregard for constitutionally guaranteed right to life.

He said: “I am afraid. The future of human rights in Nigeria is very bleak. Government is hiding under the fight against corruption to trample on people’s rights.”

Adegboruwa said the Administrative of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) “is being used to detain people in violation of their rights. Under this government, rule of law has given way to national security.

“This government is trying to change the narrative. Judges are being intimidated. Some of them are afraid. Journalists are being hounded. People’s properties are being seized arbitrarily. We are losing the battle against human rights violations.”

A Kaduna based legal practitioner, Gloria Ballason found the disregard for human lives in the country appalling, saying there is an urgent need to have a conversation on the right to life.

According to her, people are beginning to accept extra judicial killings as normal.

She agreed with Adegboruwa on the need for activists “to wake up and redouble their efforts to save the country from gross violations of rights. We must gather more energy to push this fight further”, she added.

Another lawyer, Mr. Inibehe Effiong frowned at disunity among human rights activists and appealed to them to come together to save the country.

He called for the amendments of laws inhibiting enforcement of human rights including the ACJA, Sheriff and Civil Processes Act which makes the consent of the Attorney General of the Federation mandatory before one can enforce a judgment against the federal government.

He said: “We need to come together and make our voice louder. There is a lot to be done.”

Odinkalu is a Senior Team Manager at Open Society Foundations, a global charity that works with local communities to support justice and human rights and access to public health and education.

He received his PhD in law from the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. Prior to joining Open Society Foundations, Odinkalu was Senior Legal Officer responsible for Africa and Middle East at the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights in London; Human Rights Advisor to the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone, and Brandeis International Fellow at the Centre for Ethics, Justice and Public Life of the Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA.

Odinkalu has extensive networks across Africa built up over several years of working for human rights and social justice on the continent. He is associated with several non-governmental and academic institutions within and outside Africa.

He is frequently called upon to advise multilateral and bilateral institutions on Africa-related policy, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the World Economic Forum.

As well as acting as the Chair of IRRI’s Board, Odinkalu also serves on the Board of the Fund for Global Human Rights. In 2017 he was appointed Steering Committee Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Section of Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) by the NBA President, leading to the resuscitation of the comatose entity.