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Human Rights As Rhetoric

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DECEMBER 10 has been World Human Rights Day since 1948. The pursuit of human rights was one of the tasks the United Nations gave itself when it was founded three years earlier, on a mission to save the world from wars and their brutalities.

The damage the world wars did and the human abuses that trailed them were front burner issues at the United Nations. How has the world fared since then? What do human rights mean today?

A world that accepts segregation, discrimination, denial of liberties and inequality of human beings is what has overwhelmed the rights struggle since 1948.  In 65 years, the world has become more tolerant of rights abuses. A memorable example is the support the apartheid regime in South Africa got from world powers, the supposed leaders in human rights.  For a piece of investment in the country’s mineral resources, they supported a country that elevated the superiority of one race over the others to official policy.

Other not so obvious acceptance of human rights abuses are the alliances world powers maintain with oppressive regimes for economic and political advantages.  In those instances, human rights are consigned to the back seat.

Human right abuses are flourishing in Nigeria, just as the Human Rights Commission, and other agencies that play to protecting human rights approximate their work to rhetoric. They make all the speeches, attend all the conferences, but fail woefully in dealing with institutionalised abuses.

Some examples of abuses that are common in Nigeria:

·   Discriminatory laws against women

·  Discriminatory standards for accessing opportunities

·   Detention of suspects for years without trial

·   Environmental abuses

·   Unrepentant abuse of children, the weak, the elderly

·   Torture of suspects in detention

·   Extra-judicial killings

·   Denial of constitutionally guaranteed liberties like association and free speech

·   Denial of participation in the affairs of government

·   High cost of accessing justice

·   Neglect of ?The security and welfare of the people? which according to Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution, ?shall be the primary purpose of government.?

A combination of abuses and crushing economic policies result in the excruciating poverty that is visited on Nigerians. Who would save them from rights abuses?

Government officials make the most flowery speeches about human rights. However, many abuses are rooted in their policies that place the majority of the people last. The deceit entailed in being responsible for people’s affliction and making a rigorous lamentation of their plight is another overlooked human right abuse.

The World Human Rights Day for Nigerians should serve more purposes than speeches and ceremonies. The authorities should implement policies that would enhance constitutional rights of Nigerians to better life, which capture the essence of human rights.


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