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ICJ asks Jonathan to enhance access to justice in Nigeria

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
A global network of Judges under the aegis of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ, has tasked President Goodluck Jonathan to pay closer attention to the justice delivery sector, even as it warned the Federal Government to take the mounting cases of human rights abuse by both local corporations and multinational oil companies operating in the country more serious.

The organisation which has its headquarters in Switzerland, made this call in Abuja yesterday, during a two-day workshop on “Access to Justice and Human Rights Abuses by Corporations in the West African Sub-region,” organised by the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO.

It equally charged the Federal Ministry of Labour to often conduct spontaneous inspection of selected work places, especially in the Niger Delta region, adding that most of the multinational companies often use technical rules to frustrate their workers from seeking legal remedy for their violated rights.

“The Nigerian government should amend or reposition her policy framework in the justice sector to ensure that the accessibility of these mechanisms are redefined and made predictable, remedies must be effective, the cost should be minimal while procedural bottlenecks should be removed.

“While several countries have embraced the whirlwind of change of attitude in terms of information dissemination, Nigeria is still basking under the cloak of state secrets, thereby making her political class to frustrate the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill which has been pending before the Nigerian National Assembly since 1999.

“The country tends to play down on the human rights of the citizens where multinational companies like Shell, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and Texaco etc, bring in petrol dollars during oil exploration and exportation.

“Workers welfare become secondary and the rights of the people to life, health and good environment do not appear to matter much. The implication is that oil pollution and gas flaring for money without responsibility is neglected while any activity that tends to disrupt the oil production is stoutly resisted as was exemplified in the Federal Government task force offensive against the Niger Delta militants in June 2009, where communities were levelled while most inhabitants were brutally murdered.”

“The reformers of the rules of court must consider public interest, cumbersome administrative protocols and procedure in the courts need urgent reforms to enhance the prospect of victims’ access to court and subsequent remedies resulting from the actions of companies” read a report issued by the ICJ yesterday.

In his remarks, the acting president of CLO, Mr. Igho Akeregha, reiterated the commitment of his group towards stimulating official interest in bringing about greater access to justice in the country.

Participants at the workshop included staffs of the National Human Rights Commission, Public Compliant Commission, Judges, Magistrates, members of the Nigerian Bar Association, among others.


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