NHRC, UNHCR, sensitizes security against classifying petty offences as crime

By Melvin Uche, Maiduguri

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has advised security agencies against criminalising and classifying petty offences as crime.

Mr Tony Ojukwu, the Executive Secretary, NHRC, said the commission organised the workshop for the security personnels, as avenue for the sensitisation on classification of crimes.

Ojukwu who was represented by Harry Ode, Director Women, Children and Vulnerable Groups Department, disclosed this at the training workshop in Maiduguri.

Ojukwu said that the sensitisation was aimed at facilitating decriminalisation of petty offences in Borno , as well as appropriate method to decongest detention facilities in the state.

Ojukwu said that one of the key advocacy component of the project was the Protection of Persons of Concern through Human Rights Monitoring in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in selected LGAs of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

He explained that another key component of the project was regular visits to detention facilities, camps, and host communities.

Ojukwu said that other objectives included, monitoring the human rights and humanitarian situations in the project states ,with the aim of gaining a comprehensive insight into the issues concerning the Population of Concerns (PoCs), in order to advocate for timely response to their needs and thus reducing human rights violations.

“The Commission, through the Human Rights Monitors (HRMs) conduct regular visits to prisons, police and military detention facilities, as well as other detention facilities to critically assess detention conditions.

”This is with a view to identifying challenges faced by the PoCs while in detention and ensure that the PoCs in detention are kept in line with internationally acceptable minimum standards,” he said.

Ojukwu said that reports from the visit showed that some POCs were being held in some detention facilities over petty offences such as hawking, loitering, failure to pay debt and disobedient to parents.

He said other issue highlighted was absence of documentation, adding that many Displaced Population lose or are deprived of their legal documentation, which puts them at risk of harassment, arrests and even exploitation and infringement of their fundamental rights.

Continuing, Ojukwu said:” “The Commission will engage with state legislators in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States in order to decriminalise petty offences ,such as hawking, loitering, failure to pay debt, prostitution, disobedient to parent among others.

“The Commission is not unaware of the risk protection actors are exposed to. Some have paid the ultimate price, while protecting the PoCs. However, the risk the PoCs themselves are exposed to due to their vulnerability, are equally enormous.

“The Commission acknowledges that the task ahead is enormous and that no one MDA can respond to the numerous needs brought to fore by its human rights monitoring activities in the project states.

“It is therefore imperative for the Commission to sensitise the stakeholders in Criminal Justice sector to enable them respond effectively and efficiently to the plight of the population of concern.

”The Commission appreciates UNHCR for their continued support since 2015 on this project.

“The Commission equally looks forward to the cooperation between it and agencies here represented in furtherance of our common goal of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights and humanitarian assistance in the project states and in Nigeria generally.”

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