NHRC seeks power to award compensation for human rights violations

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought for enabling law for award of compensations to victims of human rights violations in the country.

It also sought for power to enforce surmmon on an alledged violator in the event of  compliant on human rights violations.

Mr Anthony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, NHRC made the call at a public hearing on the repeal and re-enactment of National Human Rights Commission Act.

The public hearing was organised by the National Assembly joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

Ojukwu said Section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution did not anticipate that it was only the court that should look at human rights violations.

According to him, there are other bodies that could look into human rights violations, saying that it was not the monopoly of the court to entertain issues of human rights violations.

“The commission will be rendered ineffective if it can not assist victims of human rights violations,if it can not decide on whether some one whose rights was violated is entitled to a compensation under the constitution.

“It is important that the commission should be able to assist the victims of human rights violations in an appropriate cases giving them compensations.”

On power to summon, Ojukwu said:

“There may be need to invite a compliant or an alledged violator to come and explain certain things.

“We deal with mediation, conciliation, authentic dispute resolution, you must summon people and afford them fair hearing,it is such a fundamental tool of our work under the constitution.

“If you summon when a compliant is made and there is no answer,the commission will just be without power.

“That is is why this power to invite people to come and answer on compliants of human rights violations should lie with day to day operations of the commission.”

Ojukwu also emphasised the need for provision of Human Rights Fund for effective operations of the commission.

“If government of Nigeria really wants us to be effective, the issue of this human rights fund should not even be issue of negotiations with us.

“If the commission is not supported in terms of such a fund by all the beneficiaries and is left working alone, it is not going to be easy for government alone to fund the maintenance of peace and order.

” That is why it is necessary that all benefactors that are enjoying from the peaceful cliimate of doing business should make some contribution to the human rights fund.”

He also said the commission had also proposed that its decisions could be registered as a decision of the court and made enforceable by the court.

This, he said would make decisions of the commission more effective and useful to Nigerians.

Chief of Army Staff , Lt Gen .Ibrahim Atttahiru in his presentation faulted the exclusion of the Army , Navy , Airforce , Police and DSS from the Governing Council of the NHRC.

Atttahiru,represented by the Director of Army Legal Services, Brig Gen.MU Wambai said :

” Any mention of stakeholders on human rights in Nigeria would be incomplete without the Armed Forces and the Police because often times , they receive the bout of litigations in courts over alleged human Rights violations.”

He, however,said the bill was timely given the myriad of allegations of human rights violations in the country.

He said there was an urgent need to contain issues of human rights violations in the interest of natural justice equity and good conscience.

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice,Abubakar Malami faulted Section 5 of the Act on powers of NHRC with that of Nigerian Law Reform Commission.

Malami,represented by an official of the ministry Mr Anthony Abba also faulted moves to seek for issuance of warrant of arrest for the commission.

This,he said constitutionally lies within jurisdiction of the court.

Chairman of the Committee, Sen.Micheal Bamidele ( APC- Ekiti) said there was need to increase the scope of funding for the NHRC for impartial and independent operations .

He, however, said the opinions of stakeholders on provisions of the bill , would be taken into consideration in the final report of the committee.(NAN)