The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Sunday stressed the need for more respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms to curtail the current challenges bedeviling the country.
The call was made by Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, NHRC in commemoration to the 2021 Democracy Day.
Ojukwu observed that the challenges in the nation could be curtailed if we speak the universal language of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are the foundations of any democracy
“In spite of 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.
”Also, kidnappings, incessant extra-judicial killings and torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination, injustice and gross inequalities.
”Others are 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 stated.
According to him, 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.
”Nigerians should 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.
“Free from injustice, inequality and rancor, where everyone will be happy and fulfilled as a citizen” Ojukwu added.
He further said that, it was imperative to preserve rights to life and avoid wanton extra- judicial 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 among other things protecting our borders.
Ojukwu added the elimination of the arms and weapons of destruction that are flocking into the country and have littered the land.
”Reports have shown that the proliferation of small arms and light 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.
”A nation, 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.
”A nation, where our youths are gainfully employed and shun crime and violence, and businesses will flourish in an enabling environment.
”Killing, maiming and destruction of government properties at this critical time of nationhood must stop.
”Such violent and criminal conduct must be discouraged while dialogue and other democratic ways of settling contentious issues in nation-building must be encouraged.
“There are better and more civilized ways of expressing grievances” he said.
He commiserated with families of law enforcement personnel who lost their lives in these barbaric attacks.
Ojukwu also condoled with the families of innocent citizens who may have lost their lives in the crossfire following response to these attacks on police and INEC infrastructure across the country.
He commended the Federal Government for recognising June 12, as Democracy Day in Nigeria.
”While it is important to recognise the political actors during the June 12 elections, the people who conducted the election should also be remembered, because that election of unequalled credibility in Nigeria was conducted by Prof Humphrey Nwosu.
”Also, 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 honored, this is not beyond the government” he added.
He said this could become a model for National rebirth and call for patriotism and nationalism amongst Nigerians.
He pledged the commitment of the NHRC to continue to educate Nigerians about their rights and responsibilities to inculcate the culture of respect for human rights in them.
”Law enforcement and human rights are mutually reinforcing rather than being anti each other as perceived by most law enforcement personnel.
”There should be more cooperation and understanding between law enforcement agencies and the Commission as we celebrate our democracy.
”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” Ojukwu said.