THE International Human Rights Day is commemorated on 10th December every year across the world. It is a day set aside by the United Nations (UN) to celebrate the observance of human rights as enshrined in different Articles and Charters of the UN.
The day beams the global searchlight on countries that are signatories to the UN Charters but disregard the basic tenets of human rights. The theme of this year’s event is: “Stand Up For Someone’s Rights Today”. In Nigeria, lawyers, activists and other critical stakeholders marked the day with rallies and speeches.
The concept of human rights is rooted in the adherence to the rule of law and obedience of court orders. The time-honoured doctrine of the rule of law is the fulcrum of any constitutional democracy; anything to the contrary is a recipe for anarchy.
This year’s event also provides a platform to assess how the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has fared in upholding human rights.
There are instances that point to a low score card for the regime. The case of former National Security Adviser (NSA) to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Sambo Dasuki (retd), who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is an example. Dasuki is facing trial over the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars arms funds under Jonathan’s government.
The courts have granted him bail several times, but the regime has held onto him in disregard of these orders. The Federal Government also refused to release pro-Biafra campaigner, Nnamdi Kanu, despite court orders admitting him to bail. It also ignored an Abuja High Court order to release the leader of the Shiite Islamic group, Ibrahim El Zakzaky. All three have been in government custody for at least one year.
The Nigerian global ranking in the human rights index belongs to the “Partially Free” category, as opposed to developed countries with functional law and order which are ranked as “Free”. Most dictatorships fall into the “Not Free” bracket.
Our constitutional and legal systems recognise the aspiration of our country to the “Free” category, which is why an accused person is assumed to be innocent until found guilty through diligent prosecution and conviction in competent courts of law. Our constitution positions Nigeria as an aspirant to a free society where the law (and not the “strong man” syndrome) is supreme.
We call on the Buhari regime to rededicate itself to the highest respect for the human rights of Nigerians, but without compromising the need to maintain law and order and fight corruption.