The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says Nigerians are still suffering from rights violations despite the country’s progress in democratic practice.

The Executive Secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu, said there was the need to entrench the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms to curtail the current challenges bedeviling the country.

Mr Ojukwu, who also noted that there was a general lack of political will to hold perpetrators accountable, spoke on the occasion of Nigeria’s June 12 Democracy Day in Abuja.

“Despite the progress made in the nation’s democracy, the country continues to suffer human rights violations resulting from security challenges, youth unemployment,” the commission’s spokesperson, Fatimah Mohammed, quoted Mr Ojukwu as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

The NHRC boss said the worst rights violations in the country included, “Recurring mass atrocities and crimes, kidnappings, incessant extra-judicial killings and torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination, injustice and gross inequalities, rape, sexual and gender based violence, and above all, impunity, weak institutions and lack of political will to hold perpetrators accountable for several types of human rights violations.”

Mr Ojukwu observed that these challenges could be curtailed “if we speak the universal language of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are the foundations of any democracy.”

Democracy, human rights interdependent

He added that democracy and respect for human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing “the principle of non-discrimination, justice and equality before the law are key in building an inclusive and egalitarian society which leaves no one behind.”

He further called on Nigerians to take advantage of the ongoing constitution amendment exercise to make meaningful contributions in pushing for a peaceful and egalitarian society free from discrimination, injustice, inequality and rancor, where everyone will be happy and fulfilled as a citizen.

“It is imperative to preserve rights to life and avoid wanton extra- judicial killings in our democracy,” asserting that “all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights,” he added.

He, therefore, called on the government at all levels to redouble efforts to protect the lives of citizens by, among other things, securing the country’s borders, and “eliminating the arms and weapons of destruction that are being ferried into Nigeria.”

Crisis in South-east

Speaking on the killing, maiming and destruction of government properties in the South-east, Mr Ojukwu called for an end to such “violence and criminal conduct.”

He called for dialogue and other democratic ways of settling contentious issues in nation building.

“There are better and more civilized ways of expressing grivances” he said.

NHRC makes case for Nigeria’s 14 million older persons

Meanwhile, the NHRC on Monday called for the respect of the rights of about 14 million old persons in Nigeria.

Mr Ojukwu made the call during an advocacy visit to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, in Abuja.

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There is a need to put in place a Convention on the rights of older persons, he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the commission on Monday.

He said the rights of older persons deserved utmost attention in Nigeria, noting that older persons all over the world had common and peculiar challenges.

He highlighted the issues to include economic, health and social protection with the attendant human rights implications.

Ms Farouq said “older persons constitute about 14 million of Nigeria’s population and over one billion in the world which understandably cannot be ignored”.

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