By Kingsley Okoye / Naomi Sharang
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has called for enabling legislation to grant compensation to victims of human rights violations in the country.
He also sought the power to enforce the surmmon on an alleged violator for compliance on human rights violations.
NHRC Executive Secretary Anthony Ojukwu made the appeal during a public hearing on the repeal and reenactment of the National Human Rights Commission Act.
The public hearing was organized by the Joint Commission of the National Assembly in charge of judicial questions, human rights and legal questions.
Ojukwu said article 36 of the Nigerian constitution does not provide that only the court should examine human rights violations.
According to him, there are other bodies that could investigate human rights violations, arguing that it was not the court’s monopoly to hear issues of human rights violations.
“The commission will be rendered ineffective if it cannot assist victims of human rights violations, if it cannot decide whether a person whose rights have been violated is entitled to compensation under the Constitution.
“It is important that the commission is able to help victims of human rights violations in appropriate cases by giving them compensation.”
Regarding the summoning power, Ojukwu said:
“It may be necessary to invite a compliant or alleged offender to come and explain certain things.
“We take care of mediation, conciliation, genuine dispute resolution, you have to call people in and give them a fair hearing, it’s such a fundamental tool of our work under the Constitution.
“If you call when a compliance is made and there is no response, the commission will simply be powerless.
“That is why this power to invite people to come and respond to complainants of human rights violations should reside in the day-to-day operations of the commission.”
Ojukwu also stressed the need to provide a human rights fund for the effective functioning of the commission.
“If the government of Nigeria really wants us to be effective, the issue of this human rights fund shouldn’t even be a matter of negotiations with us.
“If the commission is not supported in terms of such a fund by all beneficiaries and works alone, it will not be easy for the government alone to finance the maintenance of peace and order.
“That is why it is necessary that all benefactors who take advantage of the peaceful climate to do business make a contribution to the human rights fund.”
He also said the commission also proposed that its decisions could be registered as a court decision and made enforceable by the court.
This, he said, would make the decisions of the commission more effective and useful to Nigerians.
In his presentation, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Atttahiru, criticized the exclusion of the army, navy, air force, police and the NHRC Board of Directors DSS.
Atttahiru, represented by the Director of Army Legal Services, Brigadier General MU Wambai said:
“Any mention of human rights stakeholders in Nigeria would be incomplete without the armed forces and police, as they often face litigation in courts for alleged human rights violations.”
He said, however, that the bill was timely given the myriad of allegations of human rights violations in the country.
He said there was an urgent need to contain the problems of human rights violations in the interest of fairness, natural justice and good conscience.
Federation Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami criticized section 5 of the NHRC Powers Act as that of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission.
Malami, represented by a ministry official, Mr. Anthony Abba, also criticized the efforts to obtain the issuance of an arrest warrant for the commission.
This, he said, falls within the constitutional jurisdiction of the court.
Committee chair Senator Michael Bamidele (APC-Ekiti) said there was a need to increase the scope of NHRC funding for impartial and independent operations.
He said, however, that stakeholder views on the provisions of the bill would be taken into account in the committee’s final report. (NOPE)
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