The World Report 2022 published by the humanitarian organization, Human Rights Watch, contains a damning narration on the human rights record in Nigeria. A summary of the contents which cited observations of serial abuse on Nigerian social scene in the domains of citizen rights, constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, press freedom, regional and national security challenges, judicial administration, the rule of law, children’s rights and individual sexual rights, is totally unacceptable.
Worth mentioning is the gross abuse of the rights of children to education, which are observed in breach due to a combination of terrorism-induced forced school absences and continuing early marriage practices, and the unbridled power of a local religious police unit arresting and prosecuting men on suspicion of homosexuality under quasi-judicial processes based on medieval canons that have no place in a secular country.
Evidently, various elements of this composite report are already in the public domain and illustrate a depressing catalogue of widespread insecurity, wanton disregard of human rights including persistent use of arbitrary arrests, illegal abductions, torture and extrajudicial murders by the security forces. The report highlights a video where officers of the Lagos State Police Command were seen subjecting a dozen arrested protesters to a form of torture called ‘Tabay’ in which a traumatic separation of the rib cage is deliberately caused by tying the elbows together and increasing the pressure steadily. The clearly criminal conduct of the Police, in this instance and many others, have attracted no more serious sanction than a laconic promise to investigate followed by absolute silence thereafter.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) notes with utmost embarrassment the contents of this report. We are disturbed that Nigeria’s human rights record has retrogressed steadily under President Muhammadu Buhari. Respect for the fundamental and unalienable rights of citizens spelt out in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution, enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an essential ingredient of democracy; anything to the contrary is an aberration which Nigerians must vehemently reject.
To be clear, the nexus between observance of human rights and democracy cannot be glossed over. Placing value on basic rights of citizens is one of the parameters used to measure the progress of a democracy. President Buhari cannot claim to be running a democratic country and yet allow on his watch, the gross violations of the rights of Nigerians that we see around us. His administration’s inertia which, in many respects, has encouraged these abuses is undermining democracy.
We implore President Muhammadu Buhari to use the 16 months left in the life of his administration to correct these shortcomings around the protection of human rights of Nigerians. A good starting point is the adoption of the various reports of the Judicial Panels of inquiry on Police brutality and payment of compensation for victims, and the prosecution of indicted security personnel.
Similarly, President Buhari must go beyond mere rhetoric and tame the rampant insecurity stalking Nigerians across the country. His government should not spare any effort to bring to book all those that have taken up arms against the state and killed innocent Nigerians.
President Buhari must make it a point of duty to protect the rights of children in Nigeria. The staggering number of the 10.5 million out-of-school children should provoke him to rally state governments and take crucial action for the future of this country.
We urge Nigerians especially civil society groups to remain vigilant. We must continue as a people to insist on the respect of our alienable rights and employ all legitimate avenues to resist any form of chains hindering our fundamental rights.