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By NBF News
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TWO years after the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) adopted the Optional Protocol to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR), some civil society groups in the country have urged President Goodluck Jonathan to ratify the law.

A letter of appeal signed by over 10 organisations, including the Executive Director of Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC), Dr. Felix Morka, stated that by ratifying the OP-ICESCR, the Federal Government would demonstrate its willingness to respect the rights and freedoms that matter most to Nigerians.

According to them, these rights include, housing, healthcare, food and electricity, adding that by so doing, the country would assert to the international community that it was indeed committed to becoming a human rights leader in Africa.

They recalled the promises made by the Federal Government when it voluntarily ratified the ICESCR in 1993 that it would be committed in taking maximum steps to achieve progressively the full realisation of all the economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in the covenant.

The group said such steps meant doing all that was necessary, deliberate and concrete to protect its citizens from human rights abuse, and to see that effective remedies are available for victims.

'Ratification represents a bold step forward in the promotion and protection of human rights. It makes obvious, a country's preparedness and capacity to respect and take human rights seriously by providing redress to victims of human rights abuses in courts and tribunals charged with adjudicating them in domestic, regional and international forums,' it said.

Continuing, the group noted that: 'Promises of credible polls in 2011 remain mere promises and nothing more unless they are supported by clearly established processes and mechanisms that enable the aggrieved to challenge and secure effective remedies.

They added that it 'must be manifestly and undoubtedly seen that all citizens have access to essential national, regional and international recourse procedures through which they can both hold their leaders accountable and seek redress for infringements on their rights by state and non-state actors.'

It further stated that ratifying the OP-ICESCR was not only in line with Nigeria's obligation to protect human rights, but as well as goes to show its determination to become accountable to her citizens.

'The adoption of the protocol reinforces the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and inter-relatedness of all human rights and would contribute to the achievement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' promise to respect all human rights.

It is important for Nigeria to move swiftly to sign and ratify the protocol to give meaning to, and make effective the principle that human beings have rights to realise their basic needs,' said the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP).