The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has joined the rest of Nigerians to commemorate the 2021 Democracy Day, with a call for the need for more respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission Tony Ojukwu, made the call on Saturday in the nation’s capital, Abuja as Nigeria marked another Democracy Day.
Ojukwu noted that despite the progress made in the nation’s democracy, the country continues to suffer human rights violations resulting from security challenges, youth unemployment, recurring mass atrocities and crimes, kidnappings, incessant extra-judicial killings and torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination, injustice and gross inequalities, rape, sexual and gender-based violence, and above all, impunity, weak institutions and lack of political will to hold perpetrators accountable for several types of human rights violations.
He, however, believes that these challenges can be curtailed “if we speak the universal language of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are the foundations of any democracy”.
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He added that democracy and respect for human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing “the principle of non-discrimination, justice and equality before the law are key in building an inclusive and egalitarian society which leaves no one behind”.
The NHRC boss further called on Nigerians to use the opportunity of the ongoing constitutional reforms to make meaningful contributions to the constitutional amendments so as to have a peaceful and egalitarian society free from discrimination, injustice, inequality and rancor where everyone will be happy and fulfilled as a citizen.
Speaking further, the human rights Chief said, “it is imperative to preserve rights to life and avoid wanton extrajudicial killings in our democracy, asserting that all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights”.
He, therefore, called on the government at all levels to redouble efforts to preserve the lives of citizens by among other things protecting our boders and eliminating the arms and weapons of destruction that are flocking into Nigeria and have littered our land.
Ojukwu lamented that reports have shown that the proliferations of small arms and lights weapons have only ended up making us a people not shocked by violence anymore as we bury our dead victims while the producers and their allies smile to the bank. “We must join hands to support the government in its efforts to stop this dastardly act” he added.
He also enjoined Nigerians not to lose hope but to be optimistic and support the government in building the nation of our dreams “where people will travel without the fear of being kidnapped or robbed, where our children will be in school and we will be at work in peace, where our youths are gainfully employed and shun crime and violence, and businesses will flourish in an enabling environment”.
On killing, maiming and destruction of government properties at this critical time of nationhood, Ojukwu called for the stoppage of such violent and criminal conduct and advised on dialogue and other democratic ways of settling contentious issues in nation-building. “There are better and more civilized ways of expressing grivances” he said.
He commiserated with families of law enforcement personnel who lost their lives in these barbaric attacks and condoled with the families of innocent citizens who may have lost their lives in the cross fire following response to these attacks on police and INEC infrastructure across the country.
The Executive Secretary used the opportunity to commend the Federal Government for recognizing June 12, as the democracy day in Nigeria.
He opined that while it is important to recognize the political actors during the June 12 elections, the people who conducted the election should also be remembered, because that election of unequaled credibility in Nigeria was conducted by Prof Humphrey Nwosu and his National Commissioners, Resident Electoral Commissioners, Directors and other staff. It will be justice if these citizens who made June 12 democracy day possible by conducting the freest and fairest elections in Nigeria’s history, who at the risk of their lives challenged the military government in court for the annulment of June 12 election, are equally honoured, this is not beyond the government. This can become a model for National rebirth and call for patriotism and nationalism amongst Nigerians.
Finally, he pledged the commitment of the NHRC to continue to educate Nigerians about their rights and responsibilities in order to inculcate the culture of respect for human rights in them emphasizing that law enforcement and human rights are mutually reinforcing rather than being anti each other as perceived by most law enforcement personnel.
He, therefore, called for more cooperation and understanding between law enforcement agencies and the Commission as we celebrate our democracy because the primary purpose of law enforcement by the government in a democracy like ours is the security of life and property (protection of human rights) of the people.