By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Human rights day, Prof Femi Odekunle has said that there is an undisputable relationship between human rights violations and police pattern of recruitment and training.
He stated this on Thursday at a one day Human Rights Summit organised by the Nigerian Bar Association Abuja branch with the theme: “The State of Human Rights, is it still fundamental as constitutionally provided in Nigeria?”
Prof Femi Odekunle who took the crime and security perspective of the human rights violations, said there is indisputable relationship between human rights violations in Nigeria and police pattern of recruitment, training, employment, salary and welfare.
According to him, while lawyers are trained for five years to understand the law, the people to enforce the law (Police) are trained for just one year. Apart from just one year training, when they are going to be deployed, they deploy them to be maid-guard to the so-called VIPs some of whom are criminals and at the same time they do not post them to Nyanya or Agege where they will safeguard the people. So you can see the relationship- the training they receive manifest when they see you in the streets.
Prof Okekunle who further informed that there is a relationship between Socio-economic fortunes of a country and it’s recurring or emerging problem, added that there have been fundamental human rights violation in successive governments. He noted that one of the recurring problem we have in Nigeria is non-observance of violation of fundamental human rights and has ramained essentially unchanged.
“The poor, more than the rich do not enjoy fundamental human rights and one of the reasons is because of lack of Socio-political means or status to redress if and when they are violated, he added.
In her remarks, Prof Joy Ezeilo who presented the legal and gender perspective to fundamental human rights violation said despite that we run a constitutional democracy, the problem we have is the realisation of the numerous rights enshrined in the constitution. For example, she pointed out that health and education in section two of the constitution are not justiciable because another section of the constitution said so.
“So if you link it to chapter 4, you could enforce done aspects of it. If anyone discriminates against you in education, you could enforce that right in education based on Principles of section 42.” She added that the problem is lack of effective Implementation of those fundamental human rights as provided under the constitution.
The purpose of the one day summit was to critically evaluate how the judiciary has fared in the expression of fundamental rights as encapsulated in the Nigerian Constitution.
At the end of the summit, there was a consensus that:
1. The legal profession, both the Bar and Bench have failed to do justice to the concept of fundamental rights.
2. The constant disregard to the rule of law governing right to food like non-observance of constitutional division of labor and the side lining of critical laws to avoid food as a human right pervades the economy.
3. Hunger and malnutrition persists for lack of a rights-based policy environment that empowers the people to ask questions and hold government accountable.
4. There is an indisputable relationship between violation of human rights and police recruitment/ training.
5. The pandemic has shown our limitations as a society in handling the threats of human rights.
6. Inherent in Nigerian laws are discriminatory provisions.
7. Women do not have access to justice as violence against women and poverty are still the reality of women in the society.
8. A lot of judicial officers do not appreciate the gravity of fundamental rights and do not understand the rule of law.
9. Lawyers are poorly paid and this may be the reason lawyers have a low will to participate in human rights cases.
10. Senior lawyers do not actively participate or demand for veritable persons to be in the judiciary or even occupy positions in the Association.
11. Nigeria lacks cultural diplomacy which informs the institutional failure that is evident.
12. The desecration in the profession has discouraged litigants from fighting for their human right.
The summit therefore made the following recommendations:
1. It must be embedded in our work that Human rights encompasses women’s rights, marginalized people’s rights and vulnerable people’s rights; human rights is for all and must be upheld.
2. Constitutional review is necessary in order to demand for inclusion of a gender sensitive language, and revisiting the indigenity clause.
3. The independence and character of persons must be of highest priority when appointing them to be judges.
4. Lawyers should be innovative enough in fashioning out techniques in being the voice for the voiceless and fighting injustice.
5. Lawyers should envisage ways of sharing the limitations of the judges to the judges at their conferences.
6. The National Assembly should be engaged in order to make Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution justiciable.
7. There should be a synergy between the Bar and the Bench in order to fight human rights violations.
The event was held in observance of the International Human Rights Day 2020 with the theme: “Recover Better”.
The summit which had both physical and virtual platforms were witnessed by participants cuttimg across different sectors, including but not limited to the legal sector, educational sector, judicial sector, civil society organizations, media and government ministries, etc.
The veritable speakers for the summit were Professor Gbolagade Ayoola, a professor of Agricultural Economics; Professor Joy Ezeilo, a professor of Law and Professor Femi Odekunle, a professor of Criminology and Social Science.
The was chaired and moderated by J.S Okutepa SAN.
The highlights of the ocassion was the the award given to the keynote speakers by the President of the Nigeria Bar Association Abuja branch.