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Wednesday, 17 October 2012


  1. A Painful Gap:
In general, what strikes me is the painful gap between words and deeds, between policies and realities as regards the protection of Human Rights of Nigeria. Despite some obvious lacunae and even outright contradictions within the texts of our Constitution, the general spirit within our present deficient constitution declares and prescribes the basic norms for a proper protection of the Human Rights of Nigerians. The problem therefore is not really with regard to our Laws and our Constitution. Furthermore, our country is also a signatory to the major International Human Rights Declarations and Conventions. The problem we have is clearly that of implementation, matching deeds with words and ensuring that the realities on the ground coincide with the policies that we claim to hold.

All this is in my opinion due to bad or weak government. Often there is no political will to do the right thing and even where there is the political will, there are no clear and efficient structures on ground to ensure that the right thing actually gets done. A typical example is in the whole area of access to redress in the law courts. Access to justice at the law courts which should be a right of every citizen has now become the privilege of the few who are rich and powerful.

  2. The Tyranny of Poverty
Over and above, there is the tyranny of poverty, rampant and abject poverty which has rendered many people powerless and voiceless, incapable of resisting injustice, less still fighting for their rights. This practically makes whatever we may say about human rights in Nigeria a dead letter.

In particular, I have serious concerns on three points:

 3. The Right to Life:
First, there is the right to life which is clearly spelt out in our Constitution and in the Fundamental Human Rights to which we are signatories. Yet there is so much wanton killing going on and killings with impunity. Extra-judicial killing by security agents is a regular occurrence. Then there are the frequent outbursts of murderous sectarian violence. As I am writing this text, we are hearing of over 500 villagers slaughtered in the middle of the night by marauding armed groups that seem to have dissolved into thin air. Besides, people are left to die through criminal neglect. And poverty is the greatest of these killers. We might take the example of pensioners who are left to spend the last part of their lives in misery. Many have died hanging around offices waiting for their meager pensions to be paid. The low value which our society and by extension, our government gives to the life of a Nigerian is very shameful. Otherwise, how can we take so lightly the fact that so many of our country men and women are dying day in day out, either through riots or conflicts or outright poverty and sickness?
   4. Freedom of Religion
The second aspect of concern has to do with the freedom of religion, which comes next in importance to the right to life itself. Our constitution spells this out very clearly. It even goes further to insist that the government of the Federation and of the States shall never adopt any religion as State Religion. Most of us take this formulation to mean that every religion is free and equal before the law of the land. And freedom in this matter is not only in respect of the individual but also of groups. It includes the freedom and the right to proclaim, to practice, to propagate and even to change ones religion just as it gives freedom for any Nigerian to claim to have no religion at all. But his is what the law says. In practice however, in many instances, the reality is not so. As a Christian who has many contacts with fellow Christians in many parts of Northern Nigeria where Islam has practically been made into the official religion of the State, I see here a lamentable gulf between what the law says and what is on ground. It is well known that in many parts of Northern Nigeria, the State and the government refuses as a matter of policy to give approval for land for Christians to build churches while in the same State, Mosques spring out everywhere, everyday with no restriction. Similarly, public funds are spent training Islamic Religious Leaders and no provisions are made for the training of the religious leaders of Christianity. The frequent instances of attack on churches and religious symbols in the North are clearly connected with this basic injustice and disregards for the fundamental human religious rights of many of the citizens in the North. Until we sort this out, I am afraid; we shall continue to hear bad news in many of these Northern States.
   5. Fake “Human Rights”
Third and finally, I am very much concerned about the so called “new Human Rights” that we keep hearing about now especially from strong lobby groups that seem to have taken control of the United Nations and its agencies, largely with their bases in the Western Countries of Europe and America. Many of these so called Human Rights actually contradict the basic rights that we have all already agreed upon in the classical fundamental human rights of humanity.

The first and obvious example is where abortion is being presented as a right of the woman which the state must fund from public resources. The eyes are deliberately closed to the fact that every abortion entails the killing of an innocent human being. Every law that permits abortion simply means that your human life is sacred only when you can fight for yourself. For as long as the modern world tolerates abortion as a right, we are simply denying with one hand what we are proclaiming with the other.

Similarly, issues of sexuality for example, homosexuality and same sex marriage are all now being proposed as “rights”. This has never been so until recent years. The responsibility for this lies with a small but powerful lobby doing all it can to impose these things on the whole of humanity. The criminal aspect of this exercise is that some of the rich nations are pressurizing poor countries to adopt these inhuman positions as a condition for help and assistance. Nigeria has no business giving in to these pressures because we have enough resources to feed our people. But I am not sure that there is an adequate clear vision in these matters. I suspect that many of those who attend big International meetings on our behalf are often very much unaware of the agenda behind many programmes that appear on the surface very positive and good. The tendency to use ambiguous terminology is often a way to deceive people into accepting things that they would not have accepted when presented bluntly. Thus expressions like “family planning”, “reproductive rights”, “safe motherhood” which are valid and wonderful on their own, often hide the gruesome crime of abortion, which is nothing less than the killing of innocent but defenseless human beings.

I believe our country should be strong enough to stand up to be counted and refuse to be led along a path that is at the end of the day not even for the good of humanity.

These are some of my thoughts and I wish your association God’s blessing.

+John Onaiyekan CON

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