By Emmanuel Edukugho
The 18th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition held recently at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, provided a platform for the Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa and Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola to seek the promotion and protection of human rights as primary purpose of governance.
â€œIt has long been recognised that Africaâ€™s present problems of war, violence, poverty corruption and poor infrastructure are largely caused by the negation of the key principles of respect for the rule of law, the rights of the citizens and due process in the governance of our various countries,â€ Aondoakaa said.
He called for the encouragement of young people to aspire to the ideals of a new Africa where the promotion and protection of human rights will be regarded by every government as the primary purpose of governance.
â€œIf we are able to achieve this in every country and equally take steps to strengthen our human rights institutions, then we can safely say that the future of all Africans is substantially guaranteed in a progressive, secure and prosperous continent.â€
The Attorney-general and Minister of Justice assured that the Nigerian government under President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua remains absolutely committed to its domestic and international human rights obligations.
â€œOur commitment to the provisions of Chapter 4 of our 1999 Constitution on Fundamental Human Rights as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights respectively will never be compromised or aborted.â€
He stated that this administration came into office with an undertaking to make the rule of law and respect for human rights the cornerstone of all government policies.
Aondoakaa reiterated that â€œall cases of human rights violations or acts of impunity wherever they are alleged in any part of the country, will be properly investigated and offenders made to face the consequences of the law.â€
In his own address at the opening ceremony, Governor Babatunde Fashsola, represented by Solicitor-General, Lawal Pedro acknowledged University of Lagos as having one of the best faculties of law in Nigeria and also the first to establish the teaching of human rights and civil liberties in a Nigerian university.
â€œHuman rights are one of the fundamental issues that drive and sustain society. Human rights are inalienable. And societies, whether of a civilised or primitive nature, can only live on the fringe of human existence without respect for them.â€
He said that the development of any society therefore will be measured to a large extent by the degree of respect or violation it places on human rights.
He asked that on the scale of evidence and hard facts, how many African countries can pass this test? What are the obstacles on the way? And what are the law students, academics, judges and teachers on human rights doing to deepen this foremost requirement for human progress?
â€œWell, this international Moot Court competition provides answers to the third question. And I am sure that from it, the answers to the other two may emerge.â€
Fashola pointed our that as an annual competition which brings all in the legal field together, the Moot Court provides the adequate environment for lawyers to interact and discuss burning issues on human rights in the continent.
â€œThus it is educative. It also develops and sharpens the intellect and assists critical thinking. This way, the practice of the legal practitioners and academics is enhanced. It also serves as a forum for formulating and presenting legal arguments on human rights issues.â€
He asserts that human rights education is a continuous process and a lifelong commitment to the prevention of the desecration of human dignity and the violation of human rights. It must form the basis of every civil societyâ€™s growth and development, and govern the decisions that our leaders make and the policies they implement to better our societies.
According to Fashola, the Lagos State government identifies with the event, because, â€œas a government that places a high premium on the rule of law and due process in the planning of policies and execution of our programmes, we take due cognizance of the correct interpretation and application of the law and their impact on human dignity.â€
Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Professor Oyewole Oyewo, said that the Moot competition was established in 1992, and has reached its zenith in participation in this yearâ€™s hosting in Lagos with 75 universities attending.
â€œThe Moot Competition has been cited as a leading progamme in its field by UNESCO and awarded its prestigious prize in human rights education to the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, the organisers of the Moot, on 10th December, 2006.â€