The Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu has revealed that the commission yearly receive over a million petitions of human rights violation.
Speaking to journalists in Maiduguri on Thursday at a workshop for stakeholders in human rights activities in troubled Borno State, Ojukwu said “the issue of sexual violence has gone out of hand.”
He noted that the work in the area was so enormous. He said: “Do you start from the homes or workplaces. Almost every girl will tell you an experience, are you talking about the primary school, where we have experience of molestation, even in the churches we have cases of pastors molesting their members.”
He said: “It has gotten to an epidemic, that is why the commission said we cannot allow this to continue, we have to make our schools safe for all. We felt we have to make policies to guide in the workplace, even in the society and at homes, we have to put it in place policies so that there can be accountability.”
He lamented that many that have suffered from sex violation because of stigmatization and because they feel nothing was happening they were not coming out.
He said: “But we want to show them something will happen. So those who are affected can speak out and they do not need to be ashamed and the members of the society would not stigmatized them for coming out, so that is why we are setting up the panel.”
On the revelation by BBC of sex for marks at the University of Lagos, Ojukwu said the commission is following the case passionately and would ensure that those found culpable are made to face the wrath of the law.
He said: “Like the UNILAG issue, I am sure the case would come up in the panel, already UNILAG has set up a panel but you know the commission has a mandate to promote and protect human rights. If they come out with a report, it is now left for the commission to push for the prosecution of those found culpable.”
He said though annually the commission is bombarded with over a million petitions of violations of human rights, it is expected that the number of petitions received would jump up.
Ojukwu said: “We do not have less than a million complaints of cases of human rights violations in a year. We used to have four offices in Nigeria but now we have offices in all the 36 states, so at the end of this years I believe the figure will go up higher.”
He said it has been difficult to properly investigate all the petitions received.
He said: “We try to investigate them, but we have capacity issues, the vehicles to move around for investigations are not there. Most of our cases are investigated electronically, we write to the agencies, which are mostly government agencies, we equally use mediation as well.”
The Executive Director while commending the federal government for increasing the fund to the commission by N1 billion, said “that it is believed that in the future the funding will improve.”
On the success of the de-radicalization programme in the troubled North East, Ojukwu said: “De-radicalization without sensitizing the communities is incomplete. The communities have to be prepared to receive those that have been de-radicalized.”
He added that: “There is always an option, those that have been de-radicalized can relocate to new environment where they can live a normal life. The important thing is that they have decided to drop the arms and their minds have been reconstructed and they are ready to join up with the rest of Nigerians to contribute to the development of the country.
“What I will suggest in this case is that if the community is not ready to accept them, the people running the programme should be able to relocate them to another area where they can live a normal life so that we do not have reprisal attacks on them.
“Before you take them back there should be some form of understanding on the part of the community. It is equally important to know that even some de-radicalized Boko Haram do not want to go back to their former communities, they too are afraid for their lives, so they may need to be taken to another place where they could have peace.” He said.