By Gabriel Olawale

United Nations Independent Expert and African member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Professor Damilola Olawuyi, SAN has called for urgent emphasis on mandatory non-financial reporting on human rights performance of business enterprises, as an essential requirement for addressing adverse environmental, social and governance impacts of business operations on human rights across Africa.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria made this recommendation during a courtesy visit to the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria (NHRC) in Abuja, where he was warmly received by the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Anthony Ojukwu, SAN as well as key members of the Nigerian business and human rights community.

It will be recalled that Professor Olawuyi, SAN was recently appointed by the President of the UN Human Rights Council as Africa’s representative on the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, a position most recently occupied by Former Attorney General of Kenya, Mr. Githu Muigai.

The expert body has a mandate to promote the effective and comprehensive dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through country visits, capacity building and dialogue with Governments and all relevant actors, especially business enterprises.

While commending the NHRC for its innovative programs and efforts aimed at spearheading awareness and empowerment on business and human rights in Nigeria, Professor Olawuyi, SAN emphasised that the courtesy visit to the NHRC, his very first visit since appointed to the Working Group, was a clear statement on how much the global community expects from Nigeria in terms of pioneering legal innovations that will advance the business and human rights agenda.

The Independent Expert pledged to work collaboratively with the NHRC to advance the important work of deepening a culture of human rights in business activities and investments in Nigeria and across Africa.

He also emphasized that implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights will require more targeted efforts to monitor and track the level of compliance by business enterprises in key sectors.

“Global transparency requirement has moved beyond financial reporting alone. It now includes transparency in non-financial disclosures relating to the social, environmental and human rights aspects of corporate performance.

“We want to know how a company is addressing human rights risks across their entire business value chain, especially in advancing labor rights, child rights, gender equality and how they are integrating climate change into business planning through green procurements, green jobs, capacity development, and supporting clean technology innovation.” Professor Olawuyi, SAN said.

Professor Olawuyi also called on education institutions across Africa to take necessary steps to increase training, education and capacity development on business and human rights by introducing specialized courses that can help administrators, planners and policy makers to undertake the essential steps that will guide the country towards advancing the business and human rights agenda.

In response, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Anthony Ojukwu, SAN congratulated Professor Olawuyi, SAN on his well-deserved appointment and emphasized the Commission’s readiness and commitment to collaborate with the Working Group in accelerating the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Nigeria.

He noted that preparations are already in top gear to organize training and capacity development programs aimed at promoting greater awareness on the responsibilities of businesses in Nigeria to comply with national and international human rights standards and instruments.

The Executive Secretary assured the Independent Expert of the NHRC’s support in fulfilling his important mandate as Africa’s representative on the Working Group.

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