A Remark By Olumide Akpata, NBA President, Represented By Clement Chukwuemeka Ugo (Bwari Branch Chairman of NBA- Abuja) On the Celebration of the 2020 Human Rights Day
A REMARK BY OLUMIDE AKPATA, NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT, REPRESENTED BY CLEMENT CHUKWUEMEKA UGO (BWARI BRANCH CHAIRMAN OF NBA- ABUJA) ON THE CELEBRATION OF THE 2020 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY AT TREASURE SUITS & CONFERENCES, ABUJA –FCT.
Today commemorates International Human Rights Day and for this purpose we are all gathered as stakeholders, crusaders and promoters of the Rule of Law and human rights in Nigeria, looking back yesterday, seeing it today and hoping for the future, as we RECOVER BETTER AND STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS being the theme of this year celebration.
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Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) recognises the crucial roles of National Human Rights Commission towards the promotion, and protection of human rights in Nigeria since inception. The role of NHRC is commendable in advocating and protecting the human rights in Nigeria particularly during the challenging period in the history of our nation.
The National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have expressed strong commitment to assisting any person with complaints of Human Rights violation against the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other tactical units of Nigeria Police Force (NPF) at the sittings of the Independent Investigative Panels (IIP) on allegations of Human Rights violation against the Squad. This led to the signing of Memorandum of Partnership (MOP) between the Executive Secretary of NHRC Tony OjukwuEsq. and the President of NBA OlumideAkpataEsq. to affirm their determination towards assisting victims of Human Rights violation by personnel of the NPF and readiness to act as Amicus Curiae in the various investigation panels nationwide.We all know the activities of the defunct SARS have impacted negatively on the enjoyment of Human Rights on our citizens from the testimonies coming out from various states panels.
It is relevant at this point that this role cannot be down played and the NBA as a body is ever ready to partner with this noble institution to see that our laws are respected and the rights of the citizens protected. To this end, NBA in this administration has set up various committees such as Public Interests Litigation Committee, Human Rights Committee and some special ad hoc bodies to deal with various issues of human rights violation, NBA as an organisation and in keeping to tabs with protection of human rights and advocacy have a standing committee recognised by the NBA constitution, established and headed by every elected Vice Chairman of the branch of NBA across the nation, it will interest you to note that under the present leadership of NBA in whom I am standing in today Mr. OLUMIDE AKPATA instructed all branches of NBA across the nation under the human rights committees to recognise today towards creating the needed awareness against human rights violation towards recovering better..
NBA demonstrating readiness to confront this monster recently did call emergency NEC meeting in the post Lekki crisis to address the issue of the national emergency. We have not only lent our voice to the outright rape and violation of rights of citizens to freedom of expression but we condemned in strong terms the violence assault on the persons and rights of the #Endsars protesters. Our branches across the nation were promptly instructed to assess the situation and intervene by providing Pro-bono legal services to the victims of #Endsars attacks who were arrested and detained in the various facilities across the country.
I pause at this moment to look at the various themes for today’s conference. The Covid-19 experience sadly exposed the depth of rots in our health sector. The crisis posed by the pandemic completely brought down our struggling health facilities completely that the devastating result was unprecedented in the annals of the national history. It must be admitted that we were all casualties, the rich, the poor, the rulers and the ruled, the old and young.
NBA agrees with the sub theme of financing our health, and education. People access to affordable, accessible, cost efficient health services is sine qua non and non – negotiable. The right to heath is the right to life and dignity of man.
There is a saying that before you ask for a clothes from someone, you must first and foremost look at the one he or she is wearing , we are aware of the state of healthcare at the villa despite huge budget.
Therefore, it is the primary duty of the government to protect the life of people through heavy investment in the health of the people through affordable and accessible health care services. Nevertheless, our progress as a nation cannot be swifter than our progress in education. Human minds are our fundamental resources. Quoting from a US president. Also in the case of GaniFawehinmi v. Abacha the court has made education as a right for Nigerians.
We cannot as promoters of the Rule of law and human rights shy away from protecting the rights of Nigerians to education. It is the duty of the government to invest in education within the UNESCO standard and see that resources both in human and materials are deployed towards the set goal, NBA as an organisation shall support humane stringent policies and rights based approaches from government to achieving the set goals of compulsory access to education without intermittent strikes. On a lighter note; how will you feel to realize that the head of high institution in Nigeria do not have any of his children in Nigerian University? Your guess is as good as mine.
Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy, every four years leaders are elected, on the day of swearing in and/ or oath taking; pledges are chorused to the admiration of all, holding a holy Bible or a holy Quran and besides their wives in some cases:
Oaths of Allegiance:
I ……….… Do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
So help me God.
Oath of Office of President.
I, ……………. do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; that I will not directly or indirectly communication or reveal to any person any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as President; and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria.
So help me God.
We must appreciate God almighty for being a merciful, forgiven and humane God, The chapter IV especially Section 39 and 40 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended shades tears and feels bitterafter every swearing in of our leaders.
However, constitutional democracy is often described as the only form of government which can guarantee the protection, promotion and Meaningful enjoyment of human rights, but what do we see? Ordinary dissenting opinions of citizens are regarded as enemies of the state thereby clogging the wheel of civil liberties despite promising God almighty to obey and respect the constitution to the best of their ability.
Unarguably, we can attest that the human rights record under the various democratic governments in Nigeria is fairly better-of when compared with military dictatorship. However, it would be misleading to argue that democratic governance necessarily restores and guarantees civil liberties and freedoms. On the contrary, heinous crimes and cases of human rights violations exist under the various civilian dispensations. Do we have hope? I will say YES; in an unjust society, silence is a crime against humanity as Senator Dino Melaye will always say. Even Delay in speaking out is dangerous to human rights crusade as our current Vice President Prof.YemiOsibanjo(SAN) CFR once said and I quote;
“I understand the law of sowing and reaping, it is a spiritual law that has tremendous physical implication. Any time we delay or frustrate what we can do today, leaving it till tomorrow, we held back the future, and we too must reap what we have sown by experiencing delay in achieving our set objective”
We must speak out and demand for our rights. Nelson Mandela once said; “For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom and wellbeing of others’’
Going forward, we must advocate for People cantered governance, if we get it right in our electoral system and right based approaches to policy formulation, it will be like the biblical injunction that stipulates seek you the kingdom of God and other things shall be added unto you.
We are in an era where crimes, domestic and gender based violence that has penalties rooted in our laws are “executively” settled on a television screen without remorse to the society. But I know, WE SHALL OVERCOME SOME DAY.
National Human Rights Commission is 25 years, going by survival indices in Nigeria, 82% or more of 25 years old Nigerians are still being fed and accommodated by their parents. This is where we must commend the efforts of the leadership of NHRCproficiently led by the Executive Secretary TONY OJUKWU, ESQ for living independently, reporting violation of rights as it should be and speaking truth to power despite being under the age of dependency in Nigeria and underfunded.
NBA is very happy to partner with the commission and we look forward to more collaboration that will someday bring total observance and obedience to Human rights in Nigeria, I am optimistic, I don’t know of us herein, but with speaking out and creating the necessary awareness like todays Program, it is possible.
Thank you all for listening.
Clement Chukwuemeka Esq.
For; Olumide Akpata Esq.