Immediate past Attorney-General of Ekiti State, Mr Olawale Fapohunda, has called on the Federal Government to strengthen the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
He made the call at the end of public hearing by the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement in Abuja on Wednesday.
Fapohunda, who is a member of the panel and former two-term National Commissioner of the NHRC, said the commission currently lacked the capacity to discharge its mandate.
Cue in: Fapohunda audio
“Through our sittings, one issue that has struck me, and I think is important to stress, is the challenge of capacity of Nigeria’s human rights institutions.
“The National Human Rights Commission and local human rights NGOs are struggling to achieve their mandates. This must necessarily be of concern to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“In the case of the NHRC, it is simply unacceptable that an institution set up to protect the rights of Nigerians is itself struggling to achieve its mandate.
“The nature of this struggle was obvious during all of our sittings. No international human right institution can protect and promote the human right concerns of Nigerians than the commission.
“This issue must be addressed urgently. The Federal Government of Nigeria should urgently consider whether its endowments of the commission and in support of local human rights groups are adequate to enable them meet their obligations to Nigerians.’’
He said the call became necessary because the commission and local human rights groups would advance key human rights concerns after the panel concludes its assignment.
The Director of Monitoring in the commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, thanked Fapohunda for raising this issue.
“I want to thank the member of the panel who has urged the Federal Government to look at the capacity of civil society organisations and the National Human Rights Commission to protect and promote the rights of Nigerians.
“In this regard, I would want to say that one of the key issues highlighted in the NHRC Act is the establishment of a human rights fund that will help to galvanise human rights activities in the country.
“That fund is supposed to be accessed by civil society organisations as well as the commission to make sure that human rights complaints and activities in the country are well pursued and maintained.’’
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the commission’s lack of a Governing Council has limited its powers to determine cases and complaints before it.
According to Rule 81 of the Standing Orders and Rules of Procedure of the NHRC, only the Governing Council can decide on all cases and complaints brought to the commission. (NAN)