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Friday, July 19, 2024

UN calls on Nigeria to end death penalty and human rights violations

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The United Nations has urged the Nigerian government to abolish the death penalty.

Nigeria’s correctional facilities currently hold 3,413 death row inmates, Nigerian Correctional Services spokesman Abubakar Umar said last December.

Member States of the world body called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty pending its abolition from Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

The calls were made on Tuesday at Nigeria’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Nigerian delegation led by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, is currently in Geneva for the UPR, which is held every four to five years.

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council that requires each UN Member State to undergo a peer review of its human rights record every 4.5 years.

Presenting Nigeria’s report on its human rights efforts, Fagbemi mentioned a plethora of laws and policies enacted by the government to curb rights abuses.

“Nigeria has enacted several laws such as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015), the Child Rights Act and the Anti-Torture Act, among others, to safeguard the rights of Nigerians,” said the Minister of Justice, flanked by the Attorney General. General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Beatrice Jeddy-Agba.

A PREMIUM TIMES reporter was at the UN House in Abuja on Tuesday and monitored proceedings in Geneva on Nigeria’s submission of its human rights status to the UN Human Rights Council.

Nigeria Human Rights Report

The Attorney General said Nigeria’s quest for a better human rights record led to the strengthening of public institutions to ensure accountability in case of violations.

Fagbemi explained that the country had taken measures to “promote and protect the enjoyment of fundamental human rights by Nigerians.”

“Nigeria remains committed to promoting the rule of law and obedience to judicial decisions. Nigeria has designated the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as the independent National Preventive Mechanism against torture,” the AGF said.

He added that the Child Rights Act is already adopted in all 36 states of Nigeria, while the Prohibition of Violence Against Persons Act is already adopted in many states in the country.

Speaking further on other areas of rights enforcement, the minister noted that the government set up investigative panels following protests over police brutality in Nigeria in 2020, and that the results of the investigation led to the payment of compensation to victims of the violations.

In the Nigerian delegation are Wale Fapohunda, former attorney general of Ekiti state; Olumide Osoba, Member of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Committee on Justice; Abdulrahman Yukubu, director of the National Human Rights Commission; and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mrs. Jeddy-Agba.

They took turns presenting Nigeria’s report on its implementation of human rights mechanisms, which were previously recommended by the UN Human Rights Council.

Nigeria was last reviewed by the 193-member body in 2018, when it made far-reaching recommendations aimed at bolstering the country’s human rights status.

However, the Nigerian government’s claims about its achievements in “protecting and promoting the rights of Nigerians” are at odds with the practical issues of the country.

Angela Uzoma-Nwandu, national director of Lawyers Without Borders (ASF) in Nigeria, said “policies and legislation are only as good as their implementation.”

Uzoma-Nwandu added that the implementation of policies would ensure the realization of human rights in Nigeria.

He noted that it was time for Nigeria to repeal the death penalty because it violates the right to life.

The problems of arbitrary arrests and detention, freedom of the press, torture, the reduction of civic space and religious intolerance continue to affect Nigerians.

For example, Deborah Samuel, a university student, was gruesomely murdered in Sokoto State, northwestern Nigeria, in 2022. The government promised to bring the perpetrators of the dastardly act to justice, but failed to keep its promise.

Incidents of sexual and gender-based violence are rampant and many of its perpetrators go unpunished.

Last November, Amnesty International urged President Bola Tinubu to “make the protection of human rights his priority, ensuring that the rights of all Nigerians are protected and that perpetrators of rights violations do not go unpunished.”

He accused President Tinubu of failing in his responsibility to uphold the rights of Nigerians due to widespread violent crimes and poverty.

Ghana, Togo, United States and Canada urge Nigeria to protect rights

In their separate review of Nigeria’s human rights record, West African countries such as Ghana, Togo and Gabon urged the government to end the death penalty and address gender-based violence.

Other African countries, in their broad assessment of various rights issues, recommended the strengthening of public institutions to provide quality healthcare and education to Nigerians.

The United States and Canada expressed concern about human rights conditions in Nigeria and called for the full implementation of the EndSARS panels’ recommendations.

They said the Nigerian government must prioritize the prosecution and punishment of law enforcement officers accused of rights violations.

They also urged Nigeria to decriminalize same-sex marriage. The crime carries a prison sentence of 14 years.

But in his response to the LGBTQ issue, the justice minister said Nigeria’s laws are a reflection of the country’s cultural background.

Fagbemi added that Nigeria had begun commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment in accordance with the Correctional Services Act.

The last time Nigeria was executed with the death penalty was in 2016 in Edo State, south-south Nigeria.

Adwoa Kufuor, UN Senior Human Rights Adviser in Abuja, told PREMIUM TIMES that the global body would collaborate with the Nigerian government to fulfill its obligations in terms of protecting human rights.

Ms. Kufuor detailed key thematic rights issues on which Nigeria was reviewed, including: the death penalty, women’s empowerment, SGVB, quality education, universal health coverage and rights of older persons, among others.

The Belgian ambassador to Nigeria, Pieter Leenknegt, was at the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, from where he followed the Geneva debates on Nigeria.

Took note of the observations and recommendations of UN Member States to Nigeria on LGBTQS and social protection.

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