By NBF News

Under the traditional African setting women are generally regarded as sub-man and as such are expected to remain perpetually under the control and domination of men. Nigeria's Commissioner at the African Commission of Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), Mrs Modupe Atoki, gave this view while appraising the state of observance of rights of women in the continent in an interview with Daily Sun in Lagos. Excerpts:

Duties of ACHPR
The African Commission of Human and Peoples' Rights is a creation of the African Union (AU). It derives its mandate from the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The commission is mandated to promote and protect human rights across Africa.

It is saddled with the responsibility to conduct research and other additional duties that the AU may direct. In a nutshell, that is the mandate of the commission. It involves several activities in promotional aspect. You cannot promote if you don't go to the people they need to know what the rights are contain in the charter. So we move to countries and carry out activities, working with government, organizations and meeting with heads of states and legislators and lawyers who need to spread the gospel as regard the contents of the charter so that the citizens themselves would know what their rights are.

Quasi-judicial function
As part of its mandate the commission also performs quasi-judicial function which means that we hear complaints from victims of rights violation against violators across Africa. I must confess that Nigeria's name has featured prominently on the list of violators. This was particularly rampant during the military. As a result of that we have it on record that Nigeria has contributed a lot to the jurisprudence of ACHPR.

Through the platform of the commission, individual who feels that a state has violated his rights has a right to approach the commission to seek redress by making a formal complain to the commission, giving detail of such violation. The commission in turn will listen to both parties (the state and the complainant). And then like a court the commission will review the evidence and all the documents and take a decision as to whether a violation has taken place or not. Whatever the outcome, we will make appropriate recommendation to the state concerned to either stop the violation if it is continuing or pay compensation as the need may arise.

Level of compliance
The level of compliance is however disturbing. This is because the charter that created the ACHPR did not give the commission the adjudicatory power. Therefore, what the commission does is to liase with the state concerned to put measures in line with our recommendations. We also send our reports to the AU summit because we believe that if the reports are discussed among heads of states, the state concerned will be more persuaded to comply with our recommendation.

However, the AU have found out that it has not really work as expected which informed the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights to complement the work of the commission. Therefore, cases that have been brought to the commission and recommendation already made but without compliance can be transferred to the court for adjudication. This quite encouraging since the decision of the court is bound on member states and would be closely supported and monitored by the council of minister.

Human rights violation abound everywhere
There is no country does not have one form of violation or the other. However, it must be stressed that the level of violation varies and the mechanisms for dealing with violation differ. In Africa, we rank at the lowest in terms of observance and compliance with human rights standard. And here in Nigeria, because of the population and others factors, violation of human rights is abound everywhere. And this is not to say that it is only in Nigeria. There are others African countries by virtue of their socio-economic problem also experience a lot of violations. Also, by virtue of governance that does not reflect rule of law and transparency, we will always continue to suffer violation of human rights.

Rights of women in the continent
To examine that subject, we have to look at it from the traditional concept of women across Africa because that affect the concept of the rights and the mindset of men in respecting the rights of women and from that perspective, traditionally, women are regarded as to the use word sub-man, that is should be under the directive of men at all times and so it is a difficult mindset to change. And therefore, violation resulting either from marital institution, from work and even the societal concept of what a woman's right should be becomes a challenge. And so globally in Africa and mostly in Nigeria, the issue of violation of women's abound.

The positive development in law
However, in spite of everything, the law continues to progress in the areas of protection of women's right and children. The child's Rights Act and for children. at the level of African commission, we provided for another protocol specially for women to ensure that the right of women are further promoted across Africa. The protocol has a special rapporteur dedicated to the protection of women's rights.