By Henry Ojelu & Onozure Dania
As nations across the world mark this year’s Human Rights Day, lawyers have lamented the increasing cases of human rights abuse under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Human Rights Day is observed each year on December 10 since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, the first global document which outlined human rights.
The theme of Human Rights Day 2020 is to “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”. The theme is in sync with the Covid-19 pandemic. It focuses on creating equal opportunities for everyone and addressing the failures and disappointments we all were exposed to due to Covid -19.
Human Rights Violation now a culture in Nigeria ― NBA
Assessing Nigeria’s Human Rights record under President Buhari, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA said it appears that human rights violations in Nigeria have become a culture as successive governments seem to outdo the former.
NBA National Publicity Secretary, Dr Ralph Nduka, noted that human rights violations in Nigeria have been taken to a whole new level and government officials outdo themselves in explaining away the infractions.
He said, “It seems that successive governments seem to outdo the former in violating the human rights of ordinary citizens. Truth is that Human Rights violations in Nigeria have become a culture. The sad thing about actions becoming culture is that previous inhibitions are thrown away because there are no consequences, and over time impunity becomes normal. It’s no longer news that law enforcement agencies derogate the human rights of citizens. Unfortunately, this administration did not fare better.
“Human rights violations have been taken to a whole new level and government officials outdo themselves in explaining away these infractions. Mass slaughter and killings no longer make the news. In recent times, from the COVID-19 lockdown to the #EndSARS protest, it’s been tales of human rights violations. Unfortunately, regardless of the various agitations, it seems the foundation for Respect of Human Rights is still not put in place.
There is increasing manifestations of intolerance by govt ― Olu-Adegboruwa, SAN
Human Rights lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa in his assessment said the deliberate muzzling of the voices of dissent, manipulation of the electoral system to deny people of their right to the legitimate determination of who leads them, are all manifestations of intolerance bordering on dictatorship
According to him, “The human rights record of the present administration does not give cause for commendation because it has been more of abuses than respect for human rights.
“Citizens are being arrested and detained at will, the courts are being intimidated to issue remand orders to keep citizens in custody beyond the time permitted by law and there are many more people awaiting trial than those convicted.
“Citizens are not granted their right to protest, especially with the experience of the recent EndSARS protests. The orders of the court are not obeyed, especially in matters involving the government and its agencies.
“Notwithstanding that Nigeria has signed several international treaties for the promotion of human rights; the government has observed these treaties more in their breaches.
“The deliberate muzzling of the voices of dissent, manipulation of the electoral system to deny people of their right to the legitimate determination of who leads them, are all manifestations of intolerance bordering on dictatorship.
“No doubt this administration has not fared well in the area of human rights and that is not surprising at all.”
Nigerians groaning under yoke of rights abuse ― Edun
Delta-based lawyer Kunle Edun said Nigerians are still groaning under a heavy yoke of human rights abuse under President Buhari’s administration.
He said, “It has been a difficult journey for Nigerians so far in ensuring that their constitutionally guaranteed rights are not only respected but advanced in all spheres. We recently witnessed the #EndSARS protest which almost led to a revolution but for the intervention of government forces. Have we learnt anything? You guess is as good as mine. Nigerians are still groaning under a heavy yoke of human rights abuse.
“Money is still being collected for bail by security personnel on the roads and at their stations with impunity. Detainees are still being kept beyond the constitutionally guaranteed time limit. We still hear stories of torture of inmates just to extract a confession from them. And unfortunately, too it seems business as usual as the government is still paying lip service to these rights violations which are the foundations of any democracy.
“Once a government fails to guarantee human rights, the victims may lose confidence in the State and resort to any other option to protect and preserve his life and property. The government must, therefore, walk its talk by ensuring that security agents that trample on the rights of Nigerians are dealt with decisively. It was a former President of the NBA, Paul Usoro, SAN that said that if we take care of the rule of law, the rule of law will take care of us someday. The government must do everything within its powers to stop discontent and rights violations.”
Rights violations increased during COVID-19 lockdown, #EndSARS protests ― Ugwummadu
Human Rights Activist and Former President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR Malachy Ugwummadu noted that human rights violations increased during the Covid-19 lockdown and EndSARS protests across the country.
He added Nigeria’s human rights record under President Buhari is abysmal.
According to him, “The common denominator for the assessment of human rights across civilised societies is the Constitution, which elevates human rights to fundamental rights and renders them inalienable.
“Preeminent among these rights is the right to life. This right, unfortunately, has not fared well under the present administration considering the willful and reckless killings of innocent Nigerians in droves and on regular basis. The recent massacre of farmers in Borno State was both savagery and a sad reminder of how cheap life has become in our country. Rights such as rights to freedom of movement, the dignity of humanity and personal liberty came under vicious threat in recent times, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and the #EndSARS protests.
“The right to freedom of expression has not fared any better. The enactment of the Hate Speech Act has actively worked towards stifling the freedom of expression which was hitherto enjoyed by Nigerians.
“The human rights abuse is so enormous that even Nigerians are no longer guaranteed their right to privacy. The unfortunate incident of security personnel evading the residence of erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria should not be forgotten in a hurry.
“Against the foregoing backdrop, it is safe and accurate to posit that Nigeria’s human rights record under the present administration is an abysmal failure. These culminated in the blacklisting of the country by the United States and also placing a travel ban on certain politicians by other countries. Needless to say that we have been assessed as the 3rd most terrorised country in the world after Afghanistan and Iran. Regrettably, these same persons are celebrated by the present administration.
“Amidst this turbulent situation and the incessantly left for killings perpetrated by terrorists and other hoodlums, the President in its lethargy, and tacit disposition has comfortably elected to keep mute in the face of a burning need for the reshuffling of the security agencies and arrangements. The human rights record of this administration is deteriorating and failing.”
Human rights record under Buhari abysmal — Asia
Lagos-based lawyer, Elvis Asia said the recent #EndSARS protest and the unprovoked shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki tollgate by the army is a clear reflection of the abysmal human right record of the President Buhari’s administration.
He said, “Human rights record under the current administration is poor and in fact abysmal. We have seen gross violations of human rights across the country. The recent #EndSARS protest and the unprovoked shooting of peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate by the army tells a very bleak story about the protection of human rights in Nigeria. We have seen the targeted arrest of journalists, social media influencers and generally those who have raised their voices against maladministration in the country.”