Lawyers, activists assess human rights situation

Lawyers and activists have used this year’s International Human Rights Day to assess the human rights situation in Nigeria.

Marking the event last week in Abuja, the activists were of the view that the human rights situation has dropped since the return of democracy in 1999.

Speaking at the event organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and civil society groups, senior lawyers and rights defenders called on legal practitioners and citizens to defend liberty.

In his remark, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) said “until the legal profession begins to take objection to every violations of human rights, including self-violations, and begin to apply sanctions, the government will continue to violate human rights with such impunity and audacity of arrogance.”

Speaking on the topic ‘The State of Human Rights in Nigeria’, a civil society activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), criticised the Social Media Regulation Bill and Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly as a breach of the provisions of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which grants freedom of expression.

“When you get to a situation in a country where the leader says people should not talk, then they are afraid of something. It is either we are getting set for a third term agenda or getting set for a full blown civilian dictatorship,” he said.

Also commemorating the day, the Avocats Sans Francaise France (ASFF) otherwise known as Lawyers Without Borders, called on security agencies to adhere to the rule of law and due process in the discharge of their duties.

In a statement signed by its Country Director, Angela Uwandu, ASFF noted that its worried about “an upsurge in violations of human rights by security agencies in Nigeria with several cases of arrests, torture of detainees, prolonged detention of suspects without trial, extra-judicial killings, extortion and disregard of court orders.”

In its message, the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) said it observed the myriad of unconstitutional and politically-motivated moves resulting in the infringement of right to freedom of expression, right to dignity of human persons, right to liberty, etc. could lead to “complete state of lawlessness”.

In a statement signed by the coordinator, Chisom Ihekwaba, HRAN noted that, “the persistent efforts by the legislature to muzzle voices and constrict civic space has become a cause for concern.”


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