The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, has recounted major achievements made by the Commission just as he said it has launched and commenced the implementation of the 2019 -2022 Strategic Work Plan of the Commission.
He cited as a major feat the facilitation of payment of N135 Million as compensation to victims injured and families of
persons unlawfully killed by the Army and police as a result of a counter-insurgency operation at Apo, Abuja on 20th September, 2013.
Speaking at the National Human Rights Summit and awards dinner at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja on Sunday, Ojukwu said that the achievements were made possible through the support of President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
Those presented with the 2019 Human Rights Awards include the following: Prof. Joy Ezeilo, CLEEN Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, United Nations Children Emergency Fund; and Ebonyi state, Lagos stat and Kano state governments.
The full text of the speech by Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission reads:
WELCOME REMARKS Of TONY OJUKWU, ESQ. THE EXECUT’VE SECRETARY, NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AT THE 2019 NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS SUMMIT AND AWARDS HELD ON 8TH .10TH OF DECEMBER, 2019 AT SHERATON HOTELS AND TOWERS
PROTOCOLS: lt gives me immense pleasure to welcome you all to the 2019 Human Rights
Summit which is being organized by the National Human Rights Commission.
2. As a national human rights institution in Nigeria, the Commission is saddled with the responsibilities of advising the Government of Nigeria at all levels on human rights issues and to ensure that the laws, policies and programmes of Government are in line with Nigeria’s national, international and regional human rights obligations.
3. Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is in recognition of this strategic role of the Commission that this Summit was organized. The Summit is also a response to the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council during the 2009 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of Nigeria and subsequent periodic reviews of Nigeria.
4. The Human Rights Council had recommended the institutionalization of an Annual National Consultative Forum on Human Rights in Nigeria and since the Commission is saddled with the statutory mandate of promoting and protecting human rights in Nigeria, it deemed it to facilitate the Human Rights Summit as an event that would be held on an annual basis in fulfillment of the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the UN Human Rights Council.
5. Although the Commission had in the past brought stakeholders together to deliberate on various thematic human rights issues and challenges in the country, the 2019 Human Rights Summit and subsequent ones to be held on an annual basis will be different as it seeks to respond specifically to the UPR recommendations to Nigeria and other emerging human rights issues
6. Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, this Human Rights Summit essentially seek to achieve the following:
a. To provide a platform for an annual appraisal of human rights situation in the country by all stakeholders including relevant Federal and State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as for MDAs to present their score cards regarding the promotion and protection of human rights including key challenges and way forward;
b. To provide a forum for consultations, dialogue, policy direction and agenda setting amongst stakeholders on the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria and to develop strategies for monitoring and evaluating government policies and programmes on human rights;
c. To identify positive human rights developments, gaps and challen including emerging trends and priority areas of focus for the following year as well as to assess federal and state development agenda and policies With respect to their contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria; , To stimulate debates, identify new approaches and scaling up of demonstrated Federal and State governments successful interventions as well as contribute to the strengthening of partnerships and synergies for improved enjoyment of human rights in Nigeria;
To set the human rights agenda for the year following the summit by identifying appropriate actions and follow up strategies to ensure the integration of rights based approach into Nigeria’s development agenda. 7. I am happy to say that since the establishment of the Commission, it has received tremendous support from the Government, international partners, individuals and the civil society in the performance of its statutory mandate. As you may be aware, the Federal Government in 2020 Budget Proposal increased the Commission’s budget appreciably. I am using this opportunity to express our deep and profound appreciation to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Executive Council as well as the Budget Office of the Federation and all those instrumental to this gesture.
8. This is a demonstration of the commitment of the Federal Government to improve the human rights situation in Nigeria and great support for the actualization of the mandate of the Commission. On our part, we are encouraged by the support of the government and our partners; and we commit ourselves to continue to deliver on our mandate and to ensure that the rights of all Nigerians are respected and protected without let or hindrance.
9. Some of our achievements since I have been at the helm of affairs of the Commission include the facilitation of payment of the sum of N135,000,000.00 (One Hundred and Thirty Five Million Naira) as compensation to victims who were injured and members of the family of
persons unlawfully killed by the Army and 088 as a result of a counterinsurgency operation at Apo, Abuja on 20th September, 2013. This feat was achieved with the support of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN and approval of Mr. President.
10. We have also launched and commenced the implementation of the 2019 -2022 Strategic Work Plan of the Commission. Through this plan, the Commission has been able to strengthen and improve its compensation treatment mechanism; increase its accessibility by the establishment of 13 more offices across the Federation; embaiked on a strategc and coordinated approach to human rights education; monitor government compliance with both local and international human rights standards; conduct strategic recruitment and placement of a highly skilled and motivated workforce; embark on organizational reforms and institutional development, upgrade its ICT facilities; and strengthen its strategic partnerships with the media, CSOs and international partners.
11. The Commission under my watch chaired the Presidential Panel on Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the Nigeria Police Force (2018). The Presidential Panel successfully conducted investigations into allegations of gross human rights violations against (SARS) and other personnel of the Nigeria Police. The Panel submitted its report to the President on 3rd June 2019.
12. Consequently, the President directed the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, the Inspector General of Police and Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission to advise the Federal Government on the modalities for implementing the recommendations of the Panel. The three-man panel has since submitted its report to the Government and necessary steps to implement the report are being taken.
13. In October 2019, the Commission set up the Special Investigation Panel on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) comprising distinguished human rights practitioners as a response to persistent reports and complaints on allegations of gross sexual and gender based violence against security forces and other alleged perpetrators. The sittings of the Panel is ongoing and the expected outcome is to hold perpetrators accountable, raise awareness among the public in order to put an end to impunity in this respect and eliminate culture of silence by survivors and victims. The Panel will also recommend and develop necessary guidelines to assist government in tackling the menace of SGBV and effective implementation of appropriate legislation.
14. The Commission in collaboration with Centre for Civilian in Conflict (CIVIC) championed a policy on Protection of Civilians and Civilian Harm Mitigation in Conflict. So far, the draft policy document is awaiting approval of the Federal Executive Council. This policy is aimed at safeguarding the security and welfare of Nigerian citizens in areas affected by conflict.
15. The Commission has also vigorously implemented its Humanitarian and Protection Monitoring Projects in the North-East which are carried out with support from UNHCR, UNDP and other local and international partners. The overarching aims of these projects include developing a monitoring, documentation, reporting, protection and feedback mechanism for human rights violation in conflict situations in the North-East especially against
women and children as well as assessing humanitarian needs for appropriate interventions.
16. Through its intervention in the North East, the Commission has been able to significantly reduce the violation of human rights by conducting trainings for military personnel and other law enforcement agencies on mainstreaming the principles of human rights and humanitarian law into conter-insurgency operations; strengthen protection and referral pathways for vulnerable communities through the establishment and coordination of Protection Sector Work Group in the North East; and establish Protection Action Groups responsible for building the capacities of vulnerable communities to identify protection needs and make referrals to relevant authorities for speedy intervention.
17. The Commission is also focusing on the herders/farmers conflict in the north central zone especially Benue State. In collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the commission has set up a human rights violations monitoring team in Benue State working with community based organization to document violations, timely deal with complaints, develop early warnings, resolve conflicts and promote peaceful co-existence and accountability working with security agencies in the communities and the state in general.
18. Your Excellences. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am optimistic that through this Summit which would be held on an annual basis, we would progressively create the much needed awareness amongst MDAs, individuals and corporate entities on emerging human rights issues in the country, create a forum for dialogue and consultation on policy direction and agenda setting amongst stakeholders on the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria and collectively agree on priority areas as well as the best way for implementing our developmental agenda while adopting human rights based approach to governance.
19. In the end, Nigeria will occupy its deserved place as a country where human rights are respected, the rule of law prevails and every one lives a dignified and happy life.
20. I thank you for gracing this occasion and wish you all a fulfilling and rewarding experience. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Tony Ojukwu, Esq.
National Human Rights Commission 8‘” December, 2019