By Chimezie Godfrey
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has called for the adoption and implementation of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) which is an integrated and systematic national strategy to help realize the advancement of human rights in Nigeria.
The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, who made the call on Wednesday in Abuja, noted that NAP is an audit of the human rights situation in the country, that will help to identify areas in need of protection and improvement.
Rafsanjani pointed out that under the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework of the Guiding Principle on business and humanrights, states have a duty to protect human rights but businesses are also expected to respect the “entire” spectrum of internationally recognized human rights wherever they operate, to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and to address adverse human rights impacts.
He pointed out that Nigeria is blessed with abundance of mineral resources, but lamented that environmental degradation has led to illnesses, death and other hazards amongst residents of host communities.
According to him, despite complaints from community leaders and representatives of these communities to the various companies operating within these communities, the companies have done very little to provide redress and the communities are looking up to the government to hold these companies accountable.
He decried the fact that the communities which play host to oil and gas, and other mineral resources in the country have remained very backward in development and economic viability.
He therefore recommended that there should be adoption and implementation of the national action plan on business and humanrights for the advancement of human rights in the country.
He said,”The major recommendation we are making is the adoption and implementation of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) which is an integrated and systematic national strategy to help realize the advancement of human rights in Nigeria; it is an audit of the human rights situation in our country, identifying areas in need of protection and improvement.
“Establishment of a National Working Group on Business and Human Rights.As contained in the draft National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, this working group will coordinate activities of agencies that are involved in dealing with human rights and business related issues.
“Creation of a Directorate of Human Rights and Business by the National Human Rights CommissionIn line with the provisions of the draft NAP, this creation will be an actionable item by the Federal Government in performing its duty to protect the rights of citizens and address business related human rights issues.
“This Directorate is to be headed by a Director and will act as the secretariat of the National Working Group on Business and Human Right (NWGBHR).
“The Chairperson shall be the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission while the secretary of the NWGBHR shall be the director of business and human rights at the National Human Rights Commission.Human Rights Due Diligence.”
Rafsanjani stressed the need for businesses to conduct human rights due diligence from the onset to measure possible impact both negative and positive of their operations on a host community and also highlight how they intend to mitigate those impacts.
He said NAP should provide comprehensive details on what this human rights due diligence entails and mechanisms that should be put in place.
He revealed that in the light of this, CISLAC in partnership with various stakeholders has developed draft cohesive human rights due diligence document in that regard which could be incorporated into the draft National Action Plan.
He said this document has been handed over to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The Human Rights Activist further noted that Community development is a matter of right and should not be seen by companies as doing favours to the community.
“Development is a human right as recognized by the United Nations and other international and national organs therefore; government should ensure that they are targeted towards mitigating negative impact of business activities.
“Such developments by companies should not be a replacement or substitute for government obligation towards communities,” he said.
He urged that Nigerians should be aware that remedy mechanisms exists, adding that access to effective remedy to communities or persons who are victims of human rights violations in the course of business should be made available.
“In furtherance of this, CISLAC operates an Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) which receives complaints of corruption and human rights violations from victims or witnesses, forwards to relevant authorities and follows- up with them to ensure that redress is gotten and issues resolved. Free legal advice is also offered, all services are free.
“The centre has so far recorded a total number of 118 clients with 45 cases resolved.
“We hope that this publication will help to address on area of human rights that is costing Nigeria and many of its citizens a lot.
“We also intend for this publication to serve as a useful reference material for all stakeholders,” Rafsanjani said.