The Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, on Friday called for the establishment of a database for missing persons in Nigeria.
Ojukwu made the call on the commemoration of the UN International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances observed on Aug. 30 every year.
He said enforced disappearance is a crime and should not be used as a tool to deal with situations of conflict.
“The database will ultimately among other things; help to establish and update the list of missing persons, taking into cognizance the fact that institutions like the Nigeria Police have similar existing data.
“Our aim today is to remind government at all levels of the responsibility to address the issue of missing persons, and acknowledge the rights of families to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives”.
“The Commission has observed with great concern the high number of missing persons in recent times resulting from insurgency, kidnapping, abductions, flooding, religious and communal conflicts, internal violence and disturbances,” he said.
He added that there are also cases of enforced disappearance, with countless numbers of citizens who are alleged to be in the custody of law enforcement agencies or the military.
Ojukwu called on relevant government agencies including individuals living in Nigeria to show support and assistance to both the victims and families of a missing person who have suffered pains resulting from the unfortunate incident.
He stated that the obligation to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons implies respect for the families’ right to know the fate of relatives reported missing.
The executive secretary stated that relatives and families of missing persons should know the whereabouts or the circumstances of their death if they are dead.
This right according to Ojukwu should be explicitly recognised for family members.
He lamented that the Commission has been inundated with a lot of complaints about the cases of missing persons and therefore wishes to use this medium to urge the appropriate authorities to take adequate measures to treat cases of disappearance.
He stressed the need for relevant authorities to continuously update families about the progress achieved through such procedures until some measure of closure is achieved.
According to Ojukwu, the Commission has facilitated the constitution of a National Technical Committee on the Establishment and Management of a Database of Missing Persons in Nigeria (NTC) and serves as the Secretariat to the Committee.
“ We will continue to do all that is within our power to ensure that the goals of the NTC are met and the database of missing persons in Nigeria is established and running effectively` `he said.
Reports have it that the International Day of the Disappeared was created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives or legal representatives.