As the UN General Assembly meets this week in New York, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has called on President Umaru Yar’Adua to urgently  and publicly commit Nigeria to the ratification of the new UN Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

The Protocol, adopted by the UN General Assembly without a vote on December 10, 2008 is opened for signatures on September 24, 2009.

The Protocol would enable victims of violations of rights covered by the Covenant to file complaints to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a body charged with overseeing the implementation of the Covenant.

In an open letter by SERAP’s Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said that “the adoption of the Protocol reinforces the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and would contribute to the achievement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ promise of respect for all human rights.”

“However, the Nigerian Constitution presently does not guarantee effective exercise of economic and social rights of Nigerians, further exacerbating inequality, discrimination and marginalization of the most vulnerable sector of the population.

But ratifying the Protocol would help to address the situation, as there will be opportunity for Nigerians to hold their government accountable for its action or inaction relating to economic, social and cultural rights”, the group added.

It further said, “by immediately and publicly committing to the ratification of the Protocol, your government would also be making justiciable and legally enforceable before international mechanism the right of every family to a descent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; and the right to a good and quality education, among others.”

“Having ratified the Covenant in 1993, it is important for Nigeria to move swiftly to sign and ratify the Protocol to give meaning to and make effective the principle that human beings have a right to realize their basic needs.

Ratifying the Protocol will be entirely consistent with your government’s seven-point agenda, including power and energy; food security and agriculture; wealth creation and employment, land reforms; and qualitative and functional education; and your often-expressed commitment to address the country’s long-standing poverty and under-development”, the group added.

“The Protocol envisions creation of a voluntary trust fund, which would finance programs of building national capacities regarding technical expertise relevant for economic, social and cultural rights.

This would supplement Nigeria’s available resources to ensure the full enjoyment of these important human rights by millions of Nigerians who continue to face absolute poverty and deprivation,” SERAP added.

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