UN accuses Nigerian govt of corruption, human right abuse

Saturday, July 6, 2019

/ by Joe Adams
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General 
The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has accused Nigerian government of not doing enough to stem the high level of corruption in governance and human rights violations by various agencies of government.

This was brought to the fore on Thursday at the conclusion of its review of the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Nigeria.

In a statement obtained by Global Sentinel on Friday, the Human Rights Committee queried the Federal delegation led by the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Amb. Audu Ayinla Kadiri, on the killings of members of the Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) popularly acknowledged and known as Shiites.

The Committee Experts , Chaired by Ahmed Amin Fathalla, while commending the delegation for their presence and stressed that the purpose was to find common ground so that the Committee may formulate recommendations aiming to help the Government to move forward.

They pointed out that “corruption remained rampant and that implementation of the legislation was weak”.

Fathalla also asked the delegation to “comment on recent events, notably the killing of people in Biafra region and the killing of 350 people in Zaria, in Kaduna province.

Experts asked if there was a law that prohibited discrimination that would cover direct and intersected forms of discrimination. Was the Government considering repealing article 214 of the criminal code which criminalized sexual acts between persons of the same sex? What measures were in place to address the discriminatory effects of legislation on polygamy and repudiation?”

To this end, the Committee asked the delegation to provide information on corruption-related prosecutions, convictions and sentences in the past five years: What was the state of adoption of the bill protecting whistle blowers; and despite legislation and policy initiatives, the maternal mortality rate was still high.

On the state of emergency, and while acknowledging the seriousness of the situation faced by the State party, the experts stressed the importance of assessing compliance with article 4 of the Covenant, which set out a set of norms for which no derogation was possible, even in a state of emergency.

They noted that cutting of access to GSM mobile phone networks aiming to disrupt Boko Haram communications had resulted in hardships for civilian populations.

Regarding the terrorism prevention act, which seemed to give broad powers to the State and included very harsh sentences, Experts expressed concerns about overreach and potential extreme applications of the counter-terrorism framework.

On internally displaced persons, Experts requested information on arrests conducted in camps and the investigation related to the tragic airplane bombing that killed civilians in a camp in 2017.

Turning to discrimination, Experts asked if there was legislation prohibiting discrimination: did it cover direct and intersected forms of discrimination; what was the judicial remedy that addressed instances of discrimination; and was the Government considering repealing article 214 of the criminal code which criminalized sexual acts between persons of the same sex?

Experts noted that most of the girls from Chibok had been rescued, but information was missing about the oil workers that had been kidnapped, asking if the delegation have any information on their fate?
The Committee Chairperson also said that military forces had reportedly committed human rights violations, such as death in detention, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances, in connection with the fight against Boko Haram; and asked of the delegation could inform them of steps taken to investigate and address allegations of human rights violations by the Nigerian security forces.

Experts also asked what was being done to improve the land rights of women in Nigeria and address the negative impacts of Sharia law on women’s inheritance rights. What measures were in place to address the discriminatory effects of legislation on polygamy and repudiation? On intercommunal and ethnic-based violence, what steps were being taken to protect civilians and respond speedily to early warnings? What measures were in place to provide women and girls with safe shelters?

In his response, Kadiri said the composition of the Nigerian delegation was a testimony to its commitment to the implementation of the CovenantHe said it was strange that the Committee was putting more emphasis on the negative aspects, noting that the moratorium on the death penalty was voluntary; nothing had compelled the Government to put it in place.

To this end, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva said the Committee could improve its working methods by clustering questions, which would make it easier to respond to and manage time. He thanked the members of the Committee that had talked of finding “common ground” and expressed appreciation for this approach.

On the use of force and the proportionality of the responses of security forces, the delegation pointed out that the Nigerian Constitution allowed that the police use reasonable force when necessary, in accordance with the law.

Regarding Al-Zazaky, the leader of the Shia group, he had been granted bail in Abuja and had subsequently faced criminal accusations in a different state where he was now on trial. On the issue in Biafra, there had been a clash between demonstrators and the army and the Government had always made it clear that when allegations of abuse arose, an entity would be tasked to examine the matter.

He aasured that the Government was serious about human rights issues, and that “regarding the Al-Zazaky case, there were two jurisdictions and two trials: one at the federal level, the other at the state level. Bail was not possible for the latter trial”.

Kadiri said Boko Haram was an existential threat and “there were no absolute liberties, not anywhere, as one person’s liberty ended where another person’s liberty started”.

Turning to the state of emergency and terrorism, he said that Boko Haram was a well-organized body. It was not a question of civilians providing them with resources, it was about the political economy of terrorism. Even more developed countries, he stressed, were struggling to address terrorism; no country had a rule book or a manual.

The delegation said that those who were willing to repent were being rehabilitated, and those that said that they were not ready to change had to undergo the judicial process. Kadiri noted that there were over one million internally displaced persons in camps due to Boko Haram’s actions, and those responsible had to be tried. The Nigerian Government had established the North-East Development Commission to address comprehensively issues related to internal displacement, by, for instance, helping people resettle and regain their livelihood.

On sexual violence against internally displaced persons, Kadiri pointed out that this issue had been reported on two years ago, and the Government had welcomed the constructive remarks and launched an inquiry. As a developing country, Nigeria also had developing institutions, and therefore needed the support of international institutions, including this Committee. Turning to discrimination, he asked the Committee for details on the allegations. Even when the military was in power, it had not been able to control the press, which was vibrant and very free. Issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people constituted a “red line”. Same-sex marriage was discussed in Parliament, which rejected it. Opinion polls confirmed that Nigerians were against it. “It’s alien to us,” he said. Why do those that were economically or militarily more powerful think that they could impose their views on Nigerians, he asked?

The delegation explained that the Government continued to address corruption, adding that anew policy required that everything that belonged to the Government be paid into a single account, and cross-jurisdictional cooperation measures were put in place.

“Issues of illicit financial flows were attended to. Qualitatively and quantitatively, a lot had been going on and Nigeria stood ready to learn from other jurisdictions, but one of the areas of weakness of the Government’s policies and efforts on anti-corruption was international cooperation,” Kadiri stated.

He however, noted that corruption was difficult to fight and Nigeria was doing its best because it undermined human rights.

Responding further to various rights violations, the Nigerian delegation denied arrest and detention of journalists.

The delegation said that “no journalists had been detained” and that “the harassment of journalists only existed in the realm of imagination. There was a free press in Nigeria. Certainly, the Government had electronic media outlets, but there were also several media outlets that were privately owned. In the capital, there was even a private radio focusing on human rights called Human Rights Radio & TV”.

On the issue of freedom of religion, the delegation stated that the law mentioned by the Committee was about open preaching by Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State.

Nigerian delegation said the law “did not target Christians, but rather everyone who sought to preach outside of places of worship. The law regulated the use of public space, and sought to prevent the propagation of ideas conducive to radicalization. On surveillance, in Nigeria, there was no targeting of people apart from the normal activities by law enforcement agencies to detect and prevent criminal activities. Human rights activists were treated like ordinary Nigerians who were all subject to the law of the land”.

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