By: Craig Oluwasegun
The initially conceived ‘International Bill of Rights’ which was later transmogrified into Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session on December 10th, 1948 as Resolutions 217 in Paris, France, witnessed overwhelming support of member states.
It came into existence as a result of the trauma of World War, whereby many people lost their lives and gross abuses of human rights. This reason prompted the development of human rights instruments, and as well to prevent further occurrences, member states agreed on a comprehensive statement of inalienable human rights, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Inabinitio, the first Chairperson of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), Eleanor Roosevelt who remarked about the Rights said “It may well become the International Magna Carta of all men everywhere” which provides an encompassing rights of freedom where all human irrespective of age and colour has equal rights. it could be established that with its introduction and further absorbing into the common laws of members states, Human Rights mark the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world and as well the dignity of human race as a ‘family’.
Explicitly, the Human Rights Declaration of 1948 include among other, the right to life, liberty and security of person, Abolition of slavery, torture and inhuman treatment or punishment, equality of everyone before the law, negation to arbitrary arrest and detention, right to fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal amongst other.
Just as beautiful these rights tend to be, many democrats would have thought that its application in the constitution of members’ states, would witnesses peace, tranquility, justice and equality of human race but rather it has not due to what many international observers termed selfish interest on the part of the leaders.
Unarguably, the world is marred with series of atrocities and human rights violations ranging from developed and developing countries. Each year, various International and Local organizations release reports concerning the abuses. Foremost of it all, is the US- based rights group, Human Rights Watch, which stated that many governments regularly impose new restrictions on opponents, journalists and human rights activists often to suit their electoral goals. It further said the worst situations of this nature were in Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda, where freedom of speech is silenced.
No doubt, abuses of human rights often lead to conflict, and conflict typically results in human rights violations. For example, massacres or torture may inflame hatred and strengthen an adversary’s determination to continue fighting. It is not surprising that violations of political and economic rights are the root causes of many crises. A situation whereby there is inadequacy of food, housing, employment and cultural life are denied and large groups of people are excluded from the society’s decision-making processes, human beings are prone to seek every alternative means of ensuring survival and this generally lead to engagement with security forces.
Furthermore, this often leads to the breakdown of infrastructure and civic institutions which in turn undermines a broad range of rights. When hospitals and schools are closed, rights to adequate health and education are threatened. The collapse of economic infrastructure often results in pollution, food shortages and overall poverty. These various forms of economic breakdown and oppression violate rights to self-determination and often contribute to further human tragedy in the form of sickness, starvation, and lack of basic shelter. The breakdown of government institution results in denials of civil rights, including rights to privacy, fair trial, and freedom of movement. In many cases, the government is increasingly militarized, and police and judicial systems are corrupted. Abductions, arbitrary arrests, detentions without trials, political executions, assassinations and torture often follow.
Nigeria, a member of the United Nations (UN) guarantees fundamental human rights in its constitution, though the high level of corruption especially in the government circle makes it impossible to respect and protect human rights. It is obvious that a corrupt system of leadership could not guarantee the protection of human right because corruption, itself, is an abuse of the rights of the people. Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution Sec 35 (3) stated that any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed in writing within twenty-four hours (and in a language that he understands) of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention. 39. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
In spite of this, we have overtime witnessed constant violation of human rights by those who ought to be responsible in ensuring law and order. Especially when it comes to human right abuses as shown in the constitutional sections above. The security agencies and the police especially, seem to lack the capacity to tackle human right abuses or are overwhelmed by the multiplicity of the county’s security challenges to the point that they no longer follow the laid down procedures for investigation and prosecution of those accused of criminal offences. The use of torture and other forms of brutality as means of extracting confessions from suspects is prevalent. So also, are extrajudicial killings that are carried out by security agents on the excuse that the Police Force Order 237 permits them to waste the lives of those who resist arrest, this mentality is crude and fall short of police operations in the digital age.
According to the US Department of State in its Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 blamed the reluctance of the President Muhummadu Buhari administration to properly investigate allegations of abuses, especially by members of the armed forces and top officials and prosecute those indicted as the main impediment to fighting rights violations. The Amnesty International (AI) claimed that the government of Nigeria had not adequately investigated the police and the military personnel accountable for extrajudicial killings of at least 150 IPOB supporters. While the unwarranted killing of Shiite sect, Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and other civilians by the Nigeria Security forces and the unlawful detention of former National Security Adviser, Col. Samdo Dasuki (rtd) is a pointer to the nature of human right abuses.
Boko Haram insurgents did not only violate human rights, but also displaced about 1.8 million persons. The insurgents conducted numerous attacks on government and civilian targets that resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, widespread destruction, the internal displacement of approximately 1.8 million persons, and external displacement of an estimated 205,000 Nigerian refugees to neighboring countries. The group, which recruited and forcefully conscripted child soldiers, carried out scores of suicide bombings many by young women and girls forced into doing so and other attacks.
Meanwhile, The National Human Rights Commission, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Human Right Education and other Institutions expected to protect human rights abuses are not doing much because of various problems which include lack of practical punishment for proven cases of human right abuses, corruption, inadequate financing, nepotism, limited independence, and lack of skilled personnel and effective means of carrying out investigations of reported cases of abuses.
In order to take a drastic step at ensuring a nation free of Human right abuses government should follow the rule of law. It has to ensure for instance that corruption in the judiciary is stopped and checked by another agency (checks and balances) and not to rather use it as a tool to weaken the efforts of those who seek justice or as a political weapon against opposition. This will make it easier for the citizens to trust the judiciary and seek redress in court whenever their rights are abused. At least it can create confidence, justice and a sense of belonging to the citizenry. Especially for those seeking justice on human right abuse cases, vis-à-vis poor or less privileged in the society like children and women, making it easier for all Nigerians to seek justice no matter their status in society. It can help to solve problems like child abuse (especially sexual molestation), forced marriages among others.
It is a demand that government should provide human right education to the citizens through media, workshop, and as part of academic curriculum, in the absence of none. This will help to educate the citizens on their rights and how to seek redress when their rights are abused.