We are determined to end human rights violation –Bem Angwe
What measures is the commission taking to ensure that soldiers and policemen do not violate human rights while discharging their duties in troubled states such as the North East zones?
We have decided to adopt dialogue first. We are interacting with the soldiers and the police as well. I have received a letter from the Chief of Army Staff nominating senior army officers of the ranks of General and above to represent them in interacting with the National Human Rights Commission and we have also sent our own team to be interacting with them so that we will collaborate to ensure that the military no longer encroaches on the rights of Nigerians. What about the Police? At the same time, I wrote to the Inspector General of Police requesting him to also send a team of Police officers led by a DIG to be interacting with us so that we will have collaboration with them while working on the issue. Presently, we have a resident liaison officer from the police working with the Commission so that once we receive cases of rights violations by the police, we will use the inner workings of the police to fish out the culprits and that has been working efficiently. What we will do here in the Commission is that, for all such police officer that had before now refused to honour the invitation or any lawful directive of the police, we are going to prosecute them. We have their list and very soon we will share it to the media. This Commission remains the instrument that will ensure that true change has come into the country. The change will not come only to the leadership of the country but it must also reflect in the attitude of the people and the institutions that are responsible for the protection of the people’s right and also ensure good governance for the people. That is what we are determined to do. With God and the people of Nigeria on our side, we won’t disappoint Nigerians.
What is your advice to Nigerians on Human Rights?
I advise that every Nigerian should become concerned about the respect for his or her own rights and where their rights are disrespected they should come to the Commission.
Sir, could you kindly trace the history of the Human Right Commission?
First of all, I will tell you that Professor Bem Angwe, the Executive Secretary, National Human Right Commission (NHRC), in this interview traces the origin of Human Right. He speaks about his commission’s efforts in fulfilling its mandate. the history of the Human Rights Commission can be traced from the time of creation. At the time of creation, the world was created into two. We had the human part of the world and the physical part of the world. The human part of the world consists of all human beings while the physical part of the world relates to all the things that God created for the benefit of mankind. At the time of creation, there was no leader, no supernatural being was created to rule over any human being but with the creation of state, it made way to what is called state power. The use of state power now started the violation of the rights of human beings. So the states of the world said that they needed to give back to humanity the dignity of humanity.
So in 1993, all the nations of the world came together in Paris and resolved through the UN General Assembly resolution that every nation must establish a human rights commission to demonstrate that the states exist by reason of the willingness of the mandate of the people to establish government. So the government must now be responsible for the promotion of the protection of the enforcement of the rights of the people.
What about the history of the National Human Right Commission and how far has the Commission gone on the mandate?
In 1993, Nigeria was ruled by a military government so the military government did not establish the Human Rights Commission until 1995 following the international condemnation against the military leadership of General Sani Abacha because of the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa.
General Abacha established the National Human Rights Commission and the decree was signed on the 27th September 1995. But, the institution was not given all the powers that were enshrined in the UN General Assembly resolution of 1993. For instance the institution was not given the independence that was required and the chief executive’s tenure was not guaranteed, so the commission then had no power to take decisions that were binding until on the 25th day February, 2011 to be precise, when the former President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a Bill by the National Assembly amending the establishment act of the commission.
This Act today gives the commission the independence of operation and it specifically states that in carrying out the operations, the commission is not subject to the direction or control of anybody in authority. The commission can also investigate and take decisions that are binding like judgments of the court. The commission can also give directives with respect to reviewing existing policies to administrative measures of states and direct that such measures should be reviewed or reversed. In addition to that, the commission can give orders to prevent the occurrence of a human rights violation where there is a likelihood of the violations of the rights of Nigerians. It then means that any Nigerian who is afraid that his right may be violated can come to the commission and cry “I fear that my rights would be violated” and the commission will give interim order preventing the violations of such person’s rights. It is in the exercise of such powers that few weeks ago, when the attention of this commission was drawn to a planned marriage of a man of 40 years and a girl of 13years; we used the instrument establishing the commission to stop the consummation of the marriage. It didn’t take place. So by 27th of September, this commission will be 20 years old. It fell on a year when Nigerians have decided that Nigeria has come of age as a democratic institution and they have demonstrated that in very clear terms.