By Abdulwahab Abdulah
The need for citizens of the world to rise up in defence of their fundamental human rights, was the trust of this year’s commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR.
The United Nations General Assembly, 69 years ago adopted the UDHR as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France on December 10, 1948. Already, the United Nations has kicked off a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The world body has started a campaign with hash tag
#Stand Up 4HumanRights.
According to the United Nations, UN, the UDHR is a document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being-regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Already, the document has been translated into more than 500 languages across the world.
The document which was drafted by representatives of diverse legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all people and nations. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person.
The principles enshrined in the Declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948. The campaign by the world body is that everyone needs “to stand up for our own rights and those of others.”
The questions that still agitate citizens of the world, particularly Nigerians as he world mark the Day remains: “ Has the dignity of the people been uplifted and the foundation for a more just world been built?”
The struggle for a just society and anticipation for a better living has become one of the major issues bordering the minds of every reasonable Nigerians. Vanguard Law and Human Rights got reactions of Nigerians and some civil society groups on this issue. Let government implement socio-economic rights —NHRC Lagos zone
Mr. Lucas Koyejo, Zonal Coordinator, Lagos zone National Human Rights Commission, NHRC said the body held a sensitization programme with pupils and students with the theme: “Our Rights, Our Freedom Always.
“We should stand up for our rights all the time. Our focus is for the Federal Government to step up actions on the National Action Plan on Human Rights in ensuring that human rights of the citizenry are realised.
“The rights are specifically based on social economic rights of the people. There is need for more action by the government to ensure that Nigerians enjoy the benefit of democracy by ensuring that the provisions in Chapter 2 of the 1999 are realisable, that is that the economic and social rights of Nigerians are achievable.
“The message is that every person, especially, the youths should be made to know the provision of the UDHR.
“The commemoration of the UDHR, established on December 10, 1948, is an event worthy of celebration every year. My advise is that every Nigerian should be active in the protection of his or her fundamental rights by holding the government and political office holders accountable for upholding the human rights of the citizenry.”
Another rights group, Access to Justice, AJ in a statement by its Deputy Director, Dr. Adenike Aiyedun, said: “As the United Nations has said on several occasions, human rights are inalienable rights and every state is under an obligation to respect, promote, defend and protect the rule of law. The rule of law requires respect for the principles of supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, public participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency by all arms of government.
Some of these precepts have, however, not been duly observed by the government of the day.
“With the present state of affairs in the country, unfortunately, the significance of “human rights day” for Nigerians will be a pale one. Practical evidence shows that the Nigerian government regards the rule of law and human rights as expendable obligations and rights and will readily sacrifice these values for any cause of action it chooses to take, without due regard for the protection of the rights of its citizens.
“With the recent activities of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, he has managed to re-create an era of imperial Presidency, where no one is able to hold off the powers of the State and no court can compel the State to respect its decisions.
“The present administration has exhibited and continues to exhibit no regard for court orders, by willfully disobeying and flouting various court orders and rulings, thereby undermining the role of the judiciary.
“Furthermore, some State security officers have exhibited excessive forms of brutality and on some occasions leading to death. Under President Buhari’s government, thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives to State violence perpetrated by forces of the State.
“We hereby urges President Buhari to repair the huge damage done to the security and enjoyment of human rights of Nigerians, as well as, the rule of law in the country. In order to do this, we ask the President to lead by example and show more accountable leadership whenever there are human rights violations. We also implore him to respect the authority of courts, urgently reform the institutions of law enforcement and security, and bring to justice all those who have gravely violated the rights of others.”
Also, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP in a statement by its Executive Programmes Director, Adaobi Egboka, on the state of human rights in the country at present, said “LEDAP observes that Nigeria is at a critical stage where the questions of human rights and its priority in our national existence must be seriously regarded by the Nigerian Government.
“LEDAP is greatly concerned over the frequent coercive interaction of law enforcement agencies, the military and other security agencies with civilians which brings to the fore the need for more to be done by the current President Buhari led administration in the area of human rights protection.
“The recent end SARS campaign, the move by the federal legislators to regulate the NGOs, the widely reported cases of inhuman treatment of civilians by the soldiers in different forms of “dances” are but a few human rights questions in our recent past.
“It is worrisome that despite Nigeria’s adoption of major International human rights instruments and the incorporation of human rights in the constitution, human rights protection in Nigeria remains appalling.
“LEDAP recommends that proper training of law enforcement agencies on the imperative duty to respect human rights is necessary to reduce the unlawful infraction of human rights.
“We also recommends legislative action and strongly advocates for the decriminalization of “petty offences” under Nigerian penal statutes as their criminalization has not served the end of justice or rehabilitation but have rather being a tool for wrongful arrests, increased criminality, illegal detention without proper trial, bribery and Human rights violations.
“LEDAP therefore, calls on the government to uphold international legal obligations and incorporate constitutional and institutional reforms at all levels with the overall objective of advancing the cause of human rights.”
Similarly, Human Rights Monitoring Agenda, HURMA’s Convener/Executive Director, Mr Buna Isiak, on the need for Nigerians to be mindful of their rights, attributed the frustration in the country to the breaches in the fundamental rights of many Nigerians.
At a seminar to mark the day, he said “Today is an opportunity for us to know where we are in term of human rights. We see people leaving the country everyday, this is as a result of breaches in fundamental human rights. That is why HURMA is enlightening people about what constitutes their rights and we are encouraging them to fight for these rights.”
A Lagos-based lawyer, Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN, attributed human rights breaches in the country, to the ignorance of Nigerians to their rights, which he said contributed to the suffering of many in the country.
The lawyer urged Nigerians “To go and learn more about their rights because there is too much ignorance about their rights, that is why the suffering in the land will continue.”
A Lagos State House of Assembly member representing Shomolu Constituency 1, Emmanuel Olowo, called on Nigerians to be active in the electoral processes in the country, as it was their right, if they desire to be free from the burden of those who governing them.
He said: “Nigerians should be active in choosing their leaders. They should choose leaders that will make them to achieve their purpose in life, choose the leaders that will make them achieve their hearty desires, choose leaders that will protect their welfare and provide security for them. All these can only be achieved by the power of their vote and if they know their rights.”