Army, others differ at Human Rights Commission bill public hearing
Stakeholders on Monday differed at a public hearing of the proposed National Human Rights Commission Repeal and Re-enactment bill, 2020.
The Nigerian Army which has always been at the crossfire of human rights abuse and other security agencies picked holes from some of the provisions of the proposed bill.
This was as the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mr Anthony Ojukwu, a Professor of law, Ademola Popoola and others, sought Judicial Power for the Commission.
Monday’s public hearing lacked convergence of ideas from the entire stakeholders who participated in the discussion.
The ‘Joint Public Hearing reports that there was a proposal to establish a National Human Rights Fund which would compel non-governmental organisations and multi-national oil companies to make remittances.
The proposed clause(s) states as follows:
“In the same vein, specific provisions were made in the Bill to provide for the establishment of the National Human Rights Fund in the National Budget and as well provide effective means of sustaining contribution to the fund.
“Non-governmental organisations and multi-national corporations are expected to make remittances, accordingly.
“The initiative for providing for the fund is in line with global best practices, as it relates to human rights institutions worldwide.”
The Fund, no doubt, would facilitate unhindered and seamless discharge of the statutory functions of the Commission in line with the Paris Principles.
However, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt, General Ibrahim Atttahiru represented by the Director of Legal Services, Brigadier General MU Wambai, while opposing some of the provisions of the bill, said it was wrong for drafters of the bill to exclude the Army, Navy, Airforce, Police and DSS from the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission.
According to him: “Section 2(2)(b) of the bill listed the composition of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission and at paragraph (b) (i) – (iii) ex-officio members were listed with the exclusion of the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police Force, DSS and other security agencies.
“Any mention of stakeholders on human rights in Nigeria would be incomplete without the Armed Forces and the Police because oftentimes, they receive the bout of litigations in courts over alleged human rights violations”.
Representatives of the security agencies also kicked against section 5 ( j) of the bill which seeks to empower the commission to make an appropriate determination on complaints brought before it as may be deemed necessary in each circumstance.
“This raised jurisprudential question as to whether the Commission is seized of judicial powers since it could investigate and determine complaints.
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“It would also amount to travesty of justice if the investigating body determines the complaints and makes same enforceable as it is a principle of justice that no man shall be a judge in his own case.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami who was represented by Mr. Anthony Abah urged lawmakers to expunged some provisions that clashed with the powers of the Nigerian Law Reform Commission.
He faulted the powers for issuance of a warrant of arrest for the Commission which according to him, lies with courts of competent jurisdiction.
He also faulted section 15(2b) of the bill empowering the Commission to get funds from multinational agencies.
“The multinational companies are already overtaxed and the commission should have no link with them”, he said.
But the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Anthony Ojukwu in his presentation, applauded the provisions of the bill seeking to empower it with judicial powers of giving declarative awards like the High Courts.
He also supported the provisions seeking for the widening of the scope of funding for the Commission in making it not to solely rely on a government that may even be petitioned against by any aggrieved Nigerian.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele also explained that there was a need to widen the scope of funding for the Commission for impartial and independent operations.