By Bukar Bolori
The Federal Government has again pledged its commitment to advance the course of human rights so as to consolidate on the achievements made so far in the area of it’s promotion and protection in the country.
The promise was made by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, when the 5th Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) led by its Chairperson, Dr. Salamatu Sulaiman paid him a courtesy visit.
The Attorney General, who described the visit as a quest towards advancing the course of human rights in the country, said Nigeria has recorded tremendous successes with regard to human rights consideration, adding that the country has put in place both legislative and institutional frameworks to promote and protect human rights.
According to him, “the President Buhari administration has advanced the services, functions and responsibilities of the NHRC which has risen from the position barking to biting, the compensation paid to victims of Apo killing is a testimonial of governments commitment to human rights in this country”.
The Attorney General added that: “The government will support the approval of the National Action Plan (NAP) for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria, as well as the National policy for the protection of civilians from harm during conflict, this is a consolidation of what we have been doing in the area of promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria.”
He, however, implored the Commission to collaborate with relevant stakeholders with a bid to come up with memos on pertinent issues of human right concerns for the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Earlier in her remarks, the Chairperson of the NHRC Governing Council, said the objective of the visit is to among other things; seek collaboration of the Minister in the presentation for approval by FEC, the National Action Plan (NAP) for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Nigeria.
She said the NAP document is a roadmap and guiding policy which specifies how the promotion and protection of human rights in the country should be.
She disclosed that “a draft was earlier presented to Mr. President when we newly came on board and we got his keen support for the document.”
She urged the Minister to throw his weight behind the NAP document, preparatory to presentation to the President, the NHRC Chairperson said “being a promoter of human rights yourself ( AGF), we are optimistic of your support”.
She said the NHRC Council also seeks the support of the AGF to facilitate the presentation and approval, by FEC of the National Policy for the protection of civilians during conflict, pointing out that the NHRC and the MOJ have both worked on the document which seeks to protect the civilians during conflict situation.
Determined to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the demands of the Commission, Dr. Sulaiman said, the Council is also using the opportunity of the visit to urge the federal government to create direct access to the African court on Human and People’s Rights by individuals and NGOs’.
This, according to her, could be done by making a declaration pursuant to Article 34 (6) of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, explaining that the gesture will widen the scope of access to protection of Human Rights across the continent.
She disclosed that similarly, the Council is also urging the government to ratify the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa, as well as signing and ratifying the protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of persons with Disabilities in Africa.
The NHRC Chair emphasised the need for the support of the Ministry for the presidential assent of the NHRC Amendment Act, insisting that “the Act seeks to provide for the resourcing of the human rights funds through minimal contribution from stakeholders and companies to ease governments’ burden of solely funding human rights promotion and protection in the country”.
On her part, the Permanent Secretary and Solicitor General of the Federation, Ms Beatrice Jeddy Agba, a former member of the Council said the Justice Ministry will continue to engage with the Commission on issues relating to the promotion and protection of human rights.
She said to strengthen the National Committee against Torture, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu was made the alternate Chair of the Committee with the secretariat domiciled in the NHRC.