Huriwa Drags Nigeria To Un Human Rights Council Over Stifling Of Rights Commission's Independence:


The nation's prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has made good it's threat to petition the United Nations Human Rights Council over the prolonged refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to reconstitute the governing board of the National Human Rights commission thereby downgrading the independence and vibrancy of the Rights agency.

Titled:- Petition against Nigeria’s refusal to respect the independence of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) since 2015, HURIWA urges the UN to downgrade the status of the Nigerian National Human Rights Institution since Nigeria has breached the Paris principle obliging member states to recognize the operational and funding independence of their national human rights institutions.

HURIWA in a letter dated August 25th August 2020 stated thus: "We write you this letter believing that your urgent intervention can change the tragic dynamics playing out at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria which relates to the total refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to respect the enabling law setting up the commission.

This official degrading of the independence and the operational autonomy of the commission is replicated in the outright refusal of the president of Nigeria to reconstitute the governing board of the Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission Since 2015 as you will read as you proceed with your perusal of this communication.

kindly note that the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission as is currently administered, does not meet the threshold of an independent National Human Rights Institutions if a comprehensive reading of the import of the independence of the National Human Rights institution is appreciated such as the points enumerated as follows:

National human rights institution
A national human rights institution (NHRI) is an independent institution bestowed with the responsibility to broadly protect, monitorand promote human rights in a given country. The growth of such bodies has been encouraged by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which has provided advisory and support services, and facilitated access for NHRIs to the UN treaty bodies and other committee. There are over one hundred such institutions, about two-thirds assessed by peer review as compliant with the United Nations standards set out in the Paris Principles. Compliance with the Principles is the basis for accreditation at the UN, which, uniquely for NHRIs, is not conducted directly by a UN body but by a sub-committee of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human RightsInstitutions (ICC). The secretariat to the review process (for initial accreditation, and reaccreditation every five years) is provided by the National Institutions and Regional Mechanisms Section of the OHCHR.

NHRIs can be grouped together in two broad categories: human rights commissions and ombudsmen. While most ombudsman agencies have their powers vested in a single person, human rights commissions are multi-member committees, often representative of various social groups and political tendencies. They are sometimes set up to deal with specific issues such as discrimination, although some are bodies with very broad responsibilities. Specialised national institutions exist in many countries to protect the rights of a particular vulnerable group suchas ethnic and linguistic minorities, indigenous peoples, children, refugees persons with disabilities or women.

However, in general terms national human rights institution have an explicit and specific human rights mandate and a broader mandate, which could include research, documentation and training and education in human rightsissues, than the classical ombudsman model which tends to work on handling complaints about administrative deficiencies. While all human rights violations are maladministration, only a small proportion of the workload of an ombudsman deals with violations of human rights standards.

In most countries, a constitution, a human rights act or institution-specific legislation will provide for the establishment of a national human rights institution. The degree of independence of these institutions depends upon national law, and best practice requires a constitutional or statutory basis rather than (for example) a presidential decree.

Nations human rights institutions are also referred to by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

A Statement By The Pro-Democracy and Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) Asking President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately constitute the governing board of the Nigerian Human Rights commission which has remained without a board for over 4 years against the United Nations Paris principle.

Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate of The Realm, we humbly welcome you all to this media conference, which is completely our independent initiative in our capacity as the prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group with no political affiliations but passionate about achieving just and equitable development in our dear country. Our track record within the organized civil society community in Nigeria spans nearly two decades of an unblemished record of patriotism, especially in the area of Human Rights.

As you may be aware, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nigeria, which was established by the National Human Rights Act of 1995 for the promotion and protection of all human rights in Nigeria as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other plethora of international treaties to which Nigeria is a party, was amended in 2010 to widen the scope of the Commission’s mandate to include vetting of legislations at all levels to ensure their compliance with human rights norms.

Perhaps, most importantly, the NHRC (Amendment) Act, 2010 conferred on the Commission additional independence and strengthened the Commission's power with respect to promotion and protection of human rights, investigation of alleged violation of human rights and enforcement of decisions.

The Issue:
Following the 2010 enhanced Statute, the Commission was repositioned to be totally independent with necessary powers to deliver on its mandate by having quasi - judicial powers to summon persons, acquire evidence, award compensation and enforce its decisions. Independent in its operations and not subject to the directives of any authority or person, secured tenure of members who cannot be removed before the end of their tenure without an act of misconduct which removal shall be concurred by the Senate.

The Commission engages in human rights education in accordance with its statutory mandate and regional obligation under Article 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Commission has Affiliate Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and it is accredited with “A” Status at the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the National Human Rights Institutions; that is, being in full compliance with the Paris Principles, a UN General Assembly Resolution (1993).

Regrettably, this vibrant and independent Commission is comatose. Since the coming to office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to reconstitute the governing board with the expiration of the last governing board headed by Professor Chidi Odinkalu whose tenure elapsed soon after the President was sworn into office in 2015.

Recall that Dr. Chidi Odinkalu-led commission was the first governing council to inherit the reformed NHRC statute of 2010 (tenure 2011-2015). Nonetheless, since over four years, the Commission has remained in limbo, operating just like any other agency of Government and therefore not in the position again to comprehensively implement the mandates for which the Commission was set up in the first place.

With the absence of the Governing Council as required by the law to function, the Commission is unable to take decisions concerning the numerous cases of human rights abuses that are currently before the commission; hence, the origin of the down turn of things in the National Human Rights commission.

As a result, Nigeria's human rights rating has become appalling just as government officials have become very insensitive of their constitutional responsibility to the citizens of Nigeria in line with the Principle of the Rule of law as we now we see ministers using the police to arbitrarily clampdown on media houses and detain critics who write stories considered offensive to the personalities of those in political authorities.

Why Governing Board for the Nigerian NHRC Needs to be Urgently Reconstituted

Effective national systems, which protect and promote good governance, the rule of law, and the realization of human rights are important for sustainable human development. Among the components of such systems are governments which accept primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights and the functioning of independent National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) which conform with the Paris Principles

The United Nations Paris Principles provide the international minimum standards for effective, credible National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), which require that NHRIs have a broad mandate, pluralism in membership, broad functions, adequate powers, adequate resources, cooperative methods and engage with international bodies. Among the six main criteria that NHRIs require to meet as set out by the Paris Principles is Autonomy from Government

The essence of the National Human Rights Institutions in the member nations of the UN is that they are the best mechanism at the country level to ensure adherence to international human rights’ commitments states make, including to those from the UN Treaty Bodies, special procedure mandate holders, and the UN Human Rights Council. NHRIs have a crucial role to play in advocating for those responsibilities to be translated into law and practice.

Observably, prior to the expiration of the tenure of the last Governing Board, it was a well-known credible fact that amongst the comity of National human rights institutions, the statute of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission was adjudged to be the best.

Sadly, the lack of a governing board for the NHRC of Nigeria has crippled the Commission and is currently denying it of the global status as an independent, impartial and courageous overseer for the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights of all citizens as clearly spelt out in the universal declarations of human rights, African Charter on peoples and human rights and the Nigerian constitution.

Legally, the governing council of the commission is so important legally to an extent that the enabling Act states that there shall be for the commission a governing board that shall be responsible for the discharge of the functions of the Commission.

This explains why the NHRC is not living up to its mandate because the enabling law clearly states that the governing board shall be responsible for the discharge of the functions of the commission which is legally empowered to deal with all matters relating to the protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other International Treaties on human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Beyond the manifestation of very poor human rights record of the present administration in the last five years, the rubbishing of the Commission by not reconstituting the governing council could backfire in such a way that it may be downgraded in status internationally by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

This is because for any national human rights institution to enjoy top global rating, it must be independent in terms of management and operations, which the lack of a statutory governing board has denied the commission as it is currently.

Our Position and Demands:
The refusal, for over four years, to reconstitute the governing board of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by President Muhammadu Buhari clearly shows an administration that has no regard for the human rights of the citizenry.

We reiterate that with the deliberate weakening of the NHRC by President Buhari, the cases of genocides, mass killings and extralegal executions by security forces have become rampant and the rights commission is just a passive observer because there is no Governing Council to lead the process of investigations and recommendations of binding sanctions for such violators of human rights.

Therefore, gentlemen of the Media, we are by this statement demanding that within the next 78 hours, the Nigerian Government led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) should arrest and reverse this anomaly by setting up a governing board or we will be compelled to send our already prepared petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council to downgrade the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), because operating without a Council denies it of the element of independence and vibrancy and in violation of its laws.

Again, we demand that the Nigerian Government must never fill up the Human Rights Commission with politicians but should nominate Nigerians best suited to defend the human rights of Nigerians and it is better to select absolutely Non Partisan citizens and patriots to the board so as to create a great legacy for the current government after it has gone.

The need to ensure that the Rights commission maintains her independence as provided for in the amendments to the enabling law setting up the commission cannot be overemphasized. So the governing board being in place as at when due, the NHRC should inevitably be in the correct position to play her pivotal role as the national ombudsman for the promotion and protection of the human rights of citizens enshrined in chapter four of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and a plethora of other global-wide human rights laws, conventions and treaties that Nigeria is a party to as a member of the United Nations

Ø To deploy the members creative talents as writers to promote, protect and project the human rights of all Nigerians and other law abiding citizens resident within Nigeria;

ØTo organise periodic seminar and training workshops locally for human capital development specifically on the tenets and ideals of Human Rights and the rule of Law;

ØTo attend international Workshops and Seminar targeted at the promotion of human rights;

ØTo conduct periodic studies on ways, means and strategies for promoting and protecting human rights of law abiding citizens;

ØTo highlight human rights challenges confronting the person in conflict with the law and seek for constructive modalities for redressing such violations; and

ØTo recognize excellence and good governance stranded in the polity through yearly award ceremonies for exceptionally good, tested and trusted leaders in both the corporate and public sectors. The process of selection would be by transparent strategies.

Already the UN has replied the petition thus: "We hereby acknowledge receipt of your communication submitted to the Complaint Procedure of the Human Rights Council.

Please read carefully the following important information:

The complaint procedure of the Human Rights Council addresses consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances. If your communication does not refer to a case that appears to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations, please consider submitting it to other human rights complaint mechanisms such as United Nations treaty bodies or special procedures.

The Chairperson of the Working Group on Communications, together with the secretariat, will undertake an initial screening of communications received, based on the admissibility criteria, as contained in paragraph 87 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007. Manifestly ill-founded or anonymous communications shall be screened out. All other communications, which have not been screened out, shall be transmitted to the State concerned, so as to obtain the views of the latter on the allegations of violations.

Please note that, owing to the large number of communications received, the consideration of a communication may take time. For the same reason, the Secretariat of the Complaint Procedure will only respond to you if your communication:

refers to a case that appears to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations;

gives a factual description of the alleged violations;

refers to a case where domestic remedies have been exhausted, unless it appears that such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged;

is submitted in one of the six official languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish;

has not already been dealt with by the complaint procedure;

is not being dealt with by a special procedure mandate holder, a treaty body or other United Nations or similar regional complaints procedure in the field of human rights.

If your communication lacks some essential information or the facts of the case or the alleged violations, as presented, are not sufficiently clear or detailed in order to enable the Chairperson of Working Group on Communications to consider your complaint, we will contact you with a request for further information.

If you have not yet done so, you are kindly invited to consider downloading the Complaint Procedure form and submitting it together with the copies of supporting documents, either by post (see below) or email at [email protected].

Complaint Procedure Unit – Human Rights Council Branch

OHCHR – Palais Wilson
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.