Army , others pick holes in National Human Rights Commission Bill

….As Executive Secretary, lawmakers, Others seek Judicial Power for Commission

By Ignatius Okorocha

The Nigerian Army along with other leading  security outfits picked holes Monday from some of the provisions of the proposed National Human Rights Commission Repeal and Re – enactment Bill 2020 .

This was as the Executive Secretary of the Commission , Mr Anthony  Ojukwu , Professor of law,  Ademola Popoola, lawmakers and others, sought for Judicial Power for the Commission.

Divergence of opinions on the proposed bill by the various stakeholders , came to the fore during presentations at the one day public hearing held by the joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Judiciary , Human Rights and Legal Matters .

Kicking against some of the provisions of the bill, such as compensation for victims of Human Rights abuse were the Chief of Army Staff , Lt , General Ibrahim Atttahiru represented by the Director of Legal Services, Brigadier General MU Wambai said it was wrong for drafters of the bill to have excluded the Army , Navy , Airforce , Police and DSS from the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission .

He said : 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 often times , they receive the bout of litigations in courts over alleged human Rights violations “.

Aside exclusion from the Commission’s Governing Council, Representatives of the security agencies also kicked against section 5 ( j) of the bill which seeks to empower the commission make appropriate determination on complaints brought before it as may deemed necessary in each circumstance .

” This raises jurisprudential question as to whether the Commission is seised of judicial powers since it could investigate and determine complaints .

” It would also amount to travesty of justice if the investigating body determines the complaints and make same enforceable as it is a principle of justice that no man shall be a judge in his own case .

” It is also against the letters and spirit of section 36(1) and ( 4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees right to fair hearing before an impartial tribunal or body ” , he said .

Also kicking against some of the provisions of the bill, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice , Abubakar Malami represented by Anthony Abah, said  section 5 paragraph k should be expunged for giving the Commission powers that Clash with those of Law Reform Commission.

The Attorney General also declared that it was wrong to seek power for issuance of warrant of arrest for the Commission which according to him, constitutionally entrust with courts of competent jurisdiction.

He also faulted section 15(2b) of the bill empowering the  Commission to get funds from multinational agencies.

” The multinationals according to him,  are already over taxed 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 widening of scope of funding for the Commission , in making it not to solely rely on government that may even be petitioned against by any aggrieved Nigerian.

Meanwhile some members of the panel, Senators Siraki Dickson( Former governor of Bayelsa), Chukwuka Utazi( Enugu North) and some members of the House of Representatives) canvassed for judicial powers to be extended to the commission in their contributions.

The Chairman of the Committee , Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele ( APC Ekiti Central) also explained that there was need to widen the scope of funding for the Commission for impartial and independent operations .

He however declared that preponderance of opinions of the various stakeholders on provisions of the bill , will be taken into consideration in the final report of the committee.

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