NHRC Condemns Harassment Of Judicial Officers

NHRC, NASSARAWA, STATE WORKERS

 

The National Human Rights Commission has expressed concern on recent ‘unwarranted attacks and harassment’ of judicial officers in the legitimate and constitutional exercise of their functions.

In a communique by its Director of Corporate Affairs and External Linkages, Lambert Oparah, the NHRC noted that the situation is further accentuated by the increasing lack of safety for Nigerians while pursuing their legitimate duties or businesses due to acts of hoodlums, criminal-minded elements, banditry, kidnapping,  insurgency and others thereby undermining human security to abysmal levels.

Mr Lambert Oparah quoted the Executive Secretary of the Commission Tony Ojukwu Esq as stating that “Judicial independence is greatly undermined when judges are no longer able to exercise their functions without fear of reprisals, kidnappings, reprimand or attack on their persons, immediate family and property”.

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He (Ojukwu) further stated that the recent attacks on the person and private property of Honourable Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court, the kidnapping of Justice Ijeoma Iheme of the Court of Appeal Benin Division and other judicial officers are but a few cases amongst a host of others.

“It is worse where such attacks on judicial officials result from the performance of official duties following the delivery of judgements in election-related cases.

Such are highly condemnable and portend great danger for Nigeria’s democracy and the enjoyment of the human rights especially the rights to life,  freedom from fear of personal security, dignity of human persons, privacy and ownership of property as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary” he said.

The rule of law and the realization of human rights he posited can only be attained when judges and our courts are able to dispense justice without any inclination to fear, bias and intimidation.

According to him, it may seem fashionable today to criticize judgements and judges when cases go for or against us but such exercise of rights must be within the law by respecting the rights of the judicial officers and the judiciary as a key institution of government, the destruction of which will uproot the very foundations of our democracy and do no one any good.

“We acknowledge the right of every Nigerian to fair comment on judgements of courts, freedom of expression and to hold and impart opinions as guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the enjoyment of these  rights does not extend to, or encourage violent acts, invasion of privacy and destruction of private properties which also violate the human rights of others and are crimes against the state.”

Consequently, the National Human Rights Commission said it wishes to appeal to all political actors and their supporters to:

a. Respect the human rights of citizens to express fair comments on the judgements of courts without personalizing any issues arising therefrom or infringing on the rights of others.

b. Observe and respect the human rights of judicial officers in the exercise of their lawful duties. This extends to their personal and official properties and privacy.

c. Respect the right of other Nigerians who hold divergent political or legal opinions as the basis for a free, just and democratic society.

The Commission further calls on security agencies to ensure the rights and security of Nigerians and especially judicial officers performing their official duties are protected and should bring those responsible for the attack on Justice Mary Odili’s home as well as other judicial officers who have suffered similar attacks are brought to book in accordance with the law.

Court Invasion: NHRC Calls For Arrest, Trial Of Security Operatives Involved

DSS officials at the Federal High Court in Abuja on December 6, 2019.

 

 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called for the arrest and subsequent trial of operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security officials involved in the invasion of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, made the call in a statement on Saturday barely a day after some DSS operatives stormed the court.

“The Commission directs all the relevant agencies of government to arrest and try all law enforcement officers involved in the desecration of the hallowed chambers of the Federal High Court Abuja on Friday 6th Dec 2019 for contempt in the face of the court.

“They should be tried, and this should serve as a reminder to all law enforcement agents that they must obey the law in carrying out their law enforcement duties,” he said.

 

Ojukwu added, “They must enforce the law within the law.

“Impunity by law enforcement officials cannot be indulged in our democracy because impunity uproots the very foundation of our constitution and our democracy.”

READ ALSO: Sowore’s Re-Arrest: Soyinka Condemns DSS’ Action, Sends Message To Buhari

The NHRC boss said the commission watched with dismay the conduct of law enforcement officers in the court and condemned it in its entirety.

He reiterated the need for law enforcement officials to understand that to qualify as law enforcement agents, they must first of all be law-abiding and not be above the law.

 

According to the NHRC boss, as officials paid with taxpayers’ money, there must be no room for impunity and utter disregard for the constitution.

“Our democracy is founded on the principle of separation of powers and all citizens including law enforcement officials must understand the implications of that and are enjoined to respect the law and the constitution in the enforcement of the law,” he stressed.

 

The statement came a day after DSS operatives in at least three pickup trucks stormed the court on Friday to re-arrest Mr Omoyele Sowore who had just been released two days ago.

However, the attempt to make the arrested inside the court was resisted by Sowore and his supporters while a scuffle ensued between both sides.

Sowore’s lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, who was part of the group that confronted the security operatives informed them that such an operation cannot be carried out in court.

Thereafter, he asked the DSS operatives to go out of the court premises after which he drove Sowore in his vehicle to the DSS office where he was re-arrested and detained.

NHRC Rejects Social Media Bill, Takes Stand With Nigerians

 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has kicked against the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, also known as the Social Media Bill which has scaled second reading in the Senate.

According to it’s Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu said the commission stands with the opposition of Nigerians while urging those who exercise their rights to do so with caution.

“We stand with Nigerians and we believe that the media space should be free, people should be able to air their views, in doing so, and we urge those who exercise their rights to be mindful of the rights of others.”

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The NHRC boss urged social media users to show commitments to responsibility and ensure that the rights of others are not breached.

“In exercising our freedom to express ourselves, we believe that those freedoms should be expressed and utilized responsibly and we will not encourage irresponsible conduct on the part of Nigerians but we don’t support the gaging of Nigerians in any way possible.

“We urge social media users to show commitments to responsibility and if they exceed their bounds, the laws are there for anybody who feels aggrieved can use.”

Sowore: ‘Stop Desecrating The Courts’, NHRC Boss Tells Law Enforcement Agents

When A Country Is Rotten, You Cannot Fix It By Going To The Local Govt – Sowore
A file photo of Mr Omoyele Sowore.

 

The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq, has advised law enforcement agents to stop desecrating the judiciary.

Ojukwu made the appeal while reacting to the alleged refusal of officials of the Department of state services to release on bail the social campaigner Sowore after the order of his release by the trial court and his lawyers meeting the bail conditions.

“There is need for the three arms of government to work harmoniously with utmost respect for each other as envisaged under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.

According to Ojukwu, many cases have been reported to the commission about investigating police officers and state security officers deliberately refusing or delaying to verify bail conditions following court orders just to punish suspects unduly for reasons that are not constitutional.

He, however, holds the opinion that “the constitution guarantees the innocence of every citizen of Nigeria until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction”.

He further stated that a situation where the order of courts are continuously disobeyed by security agents makes such security agents judges onto themselves and such situation does not augur well for our democracy based on separation of powers and rule of law.

According to him, it makes the law uncertain at any point in time and leads to loss of confidence of the people in government and state institutions of which the judiciary is one.

He, therefore, called for a renewed commitment on the part of law enforcement agents to submit to constituted authority and oversight and release all detainees who have met their bail conditions as ordered by the courts of the land.

“You cannot approbate and reprobate” he said.

On the part of the Commission, “we shall continue to train and sensitize law enforcement agents on the need to respect the law and the constitution which they have sworn to protect so as to engender a culture of respect for human rights in the country”.

Ojukwu Calls For Closure Of Illegal Detention Centres Across Nigeria

 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed serious concern over the proliferation of illegal detention centres across the country saying that such centres must be closed to save their victims from further torture, inhuman and degrading treatments.

Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq who stated this in Abuja while reacting to the discovery of some illegal detention centres in some parts of the country , regretted that such centres by their atrocious activities have further expanded the frontiers of human violations in the country.

The country he said has in the last few weeks been inundated with reports of brazen abductions, particularly involving minors and youths who are unjustifiably subjected to various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment by their adductors .

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According to Ojukwu, acts of torture and all forms of inhuman and degrading treatment under whatever guise are clearly illegal, constitute human rights violations under the 1999 constitution of the FRN as amended as well as the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and other International treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory. Furthermore, the Anti Torture Act of 2017 signed into law by President Buhari clearly outlaws and abhors acts of torture ,inhuman and degrading treatment and makes them punishable with imprisonment.

Ojukwu who was deeply concerned about the spate of abduction particularly among children and youths stated that the reported 300 inmates uncovered by the Nigerian Police in Daura, Katsina state, the children abducted from Kano as well as the two Torture centers uncovered in Kaduna are incidents among other similar cases across the country. These constitute grave human rights violations which must be thoroughly investigated and the culprits brought to book.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary has directed the Commission’s State Coordinators in the North West to carry out in-depth investigations into the alleged illegal detention centres including the case of the abducted children in Kano in line with the Commission’s mandate. “This will enable the Commission ascertain the various aspects of human rights violations perpetrated by the operators of the so called educational and rehabilitation centers preparatory to ensuring their prosecution and punishment in line with the law”, Ojukwu added.

Ojukwu frowned at the idea of abducting and dumping people, including children at unapproved centres in the name of rehabilitation saying that any form of training or education that is not approved and monitored by the relevant authorities’ must not be allowed to operate.

The Executive Secretary called on the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and other relevant law enforcement agencies operating at the federal and state government levels to be more vigilant and fish out the perpetrators of these heinous crimes and ensure that they are diligently prosecuted in accordance with the law.

He said that the Commission will scale up its advocacy campaigns to sensitize people on the dangers of sending their children, ward or relations to illegal detention centres for the purposes of ‘rehabilitation.’

The Commission urged the Ministries of Education, Social Services and all other agencies responsible for the approval of the centers in all the states to recall all the approvals for the running of these centers and re-certify them after thorough inspection and monitoring of their activities.

The Commission further noted that henceforth, all persons with mental problem are to be admitted and treated in psychiatric hospitals and not in rehabilitation homes as any violators will be held accountable for human rights violation of the victims.

#SexForGrades: NHRC Sets Up Panel To Investigate Cases Of Sexual Violence

FILE PHOTO: Women protest on the streets of Abuja following arrests of over 100 women at different in Abuja nightclubs for alleged prostitution.

 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is set to investigate cases of sexual and gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Executive secretary of the commission, Toby Ojukwu, while addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday said an investigative panel has been set up to look into the cases.

READ ALSO: #SexForGrades: We Are Not Doing Enough To Protect The Girl Child – Kiki Mordi

Ojukwu said the investigative panel is necessary following the arbitrary arrest of women in Abuja by the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) and the BBC documentary which exposed some lecturers demanding sexual relationships from female students in exchange for grades.

He also made reference to the case of 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje who died in 2018 due to complications from an alleged rape by a senior lecturer at the Benue State Polytechnic.

“The rising cases of gender-based violence have necessitated the need for a stronger policy and laws to protect the rights of Nigerians especially women and children,” he said.

NHRC Visits Channels TV Over Precious Owolabi’s Death

Precious Owolabi's Family Asks FG To Immortalise Their Son

 

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday paid a condolence visit to Channels Television’s office in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The visit comes three weeks after the 21-year-old journalist died from gunshot wound he sustained while covering the clash between the police and the Shiite protesters on July 22.

READ ALSO: Final Journey Of Late Precious Owolabi

While demanding for a transparent and conclusive investigation, Mr Anthony Ojukwu promised to work with the station as Nigerians await police probe into Owolabi’s tragic death.

Although the young corp member’s funeral was held at the Wusasa cemetery in Zaria, prominent Nigerians including President Muhammadu Buhari have commiserated with the management of Channels Television and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

NYSC members and staff of the station were on ground to ensure that Owolabi was given a befitting ceremony.

Notably present at the funeral service is the Director-General of NYSC who was represented by a Director in the corps.

FG Compensates Victims Of Apo Killings With N135m          

Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and a Federal delegation presents a cheque of N135million to victims of Apo Killings.

 

The Federal Government has ordered the payment of N135 million as compensation for the families of those who were killed and wounded at some squatters in the Apo Area of Abuja.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami on Thursday said the decision to compensate the victims was based on findings by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that they were not Boko Haram members as was alleged by security agencies.

Eight civilians died while 11 sustained injuries on September 20, 2013, after security operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) carried out the raid on an uncompleted building in Apo area.

READ ALSO: Detained Senator Peter Nwaoboshi Gets Bail

The victims were discovered to be innocent after an investigation by a three-man investigative panel of the NHRC, led by Professor Chidi Odinkalu.

The panel of inquiry had indicted the DSS of violating the rights of the victims and ordered the security agency to pay compensation.

Malami, while presenting the cheque on behalf of the Federal Government said his office had, after series of negotiations, persuaded the DSS to accept the verdict.

“This gesture in no small measure has emphasised the role of the National Human Rights Commission as an independent organisation, which statutory duties for the promotion and protection of human rights.

“It also serves as an extra-judicial mechanism for the enhancement of the enjoyment of human rights. The commission performs its statutory functions without interference from the Federal Government,” he said.

The commission, according to the Federal Panel had gone through a painstaking exercise to ensure that the right persons are paid. All payments in relation to the commission will be paid through the bank after verification of the accounts, the signatures and photographs of the victims.

Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and a Federal delegation addresses journalists before presenting the cheque of N135million to victims of Apo Killings.

Alleged Soldiers Attack: Victims Threaten To Drag Case Before NHRC

Victims of last week’s attack on Naka, the capital of Gwer West Government Area of Benue State, allegedly by soldiers, have threatened to drag the Nigerian Army before the Human Right Commission for rights abuse.

The threat follows the statement issued by Deputy Director Information and Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa, denying the Army’s involvement in the arsonist attack, rather blaming the attack on some unidentified hoodlum.

“Following the barbaric killing of a soldier of 707 Special Force Brigade Makurdi on Internal Security at Naka community in Gwer West Local Government Area of Benue State on the 18th of April, 2018, and the  subsequent arrest of some suspects, it was gathered that at about 1600 hours on Thursday the 19th April 2018, some unidentified hoodlums attacked and burnt some houses at the community”.

One of the victims, Mr Kwatse Innocent, alleged that the attackers were soldiers with marked Army number plates who stormed the town in five trucks and brandishing the gun at them.

Other victims led the team to inspect the extent of the damages, as the traditional ruler of Nagi, decry soldiers abuse of power.

Addressing the victims after a tour of the devastation, a member of the House of Rep. Mr Mark Gbila, tasked the Army authority to fish out one of the soldiers identified as Umaru Isah and his colleagues for the crime against humanity.

Senate Probes Resumption Of NHRC Boss Without Confirmation

The Senate is asking its Committee on Judiciary Human Rights and Legal Matters to immediately open investigation into the circumstances surrounding the alleged resumption of the Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission, {NHRC}, Mr Tony Ojukwu, without confirmation from the Senate.

This decision by the Senate follows a Point of Order from Senator Dino Melaye, who is drawing the attention of the Senate to how the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubarka Mallami allegedly ordered Mr Ojukwu to resume office which he says is in contravention of the Civil Service Rules and the Act establishing the commission.

Senator Melaye says the action by the AGF is an affront to the Senate.

He is, therefore, calling on the Senate to henceforth disqualify appointees who resume without confirmation from the Senate.

The Senate also warns against the practice of appointees of government resuming office without Senate confirmation and is asking the AGF to ensure that this practice does not reoccur.

NHRC, Army To Investigate Rights Abuses

A special board of inquiry set up by the Nigerian Army has asked the National Human Right Commission to partner with it in investigating allegations of human rights abuses, brought against army personnel.

The President of the special board of inquiry, Major General Abubakar Jubrin (rtd), said the move is to ensure that all allegations are thoroughly, impartially and objectively investigated.

According to him, this would enable relevant authorities to take appropriate actions. He therefore asked the commission to furnish the committee with any case of violation that has been reported to it.

Speaking on behalf of the National Human Rights Commission, the Director of the Monitoring Unit, Mr Tony Ojukwu, told the board that the two agencies are already in cooperation on many levels that have yielded results and that the commission would not fail to make any input it can to help the board carry out its assignments.

Shiites Demand Release Of Leaders

kano, police, ShiitesThe Islamic movement is asking the Federal Government to comply with the order of a Federal High Court which ordered the unconditional release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife.

In a petition presented to the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja, the group claims that Zakzaky is gradually going blind due to lack of access to quality medical care.

The group appeals to the NHRC to intervene and ensure that their leader, who has been in detention since December 2015, is released to enable him attend to his failing health.

Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

Also on January 18, the Shiites took to the NHCR headquarters in Abuja to protest what they called “a flaunt on the laws of the land with impunity” by the Federal Government.

The Federal High Court in Abuja had in a ruling on December 2, 2016, ordered the release of the Shiites’ leader and his wife in 45 days, a deadline which had expired.

The Federal Government, however, is yet to obey the order.

The Shiites maintained that the government must obey the court order and release their leader and his wife, Zeenah.