Why human rights abuse is major challenge in West Africa

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ECOWAS Community Court of Justice

ECOWAS Community Court of JusticeBy Angela Atabo

Justice Micah Wilkins, a former Vice President, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice says human rights abuse remains a major challenge in West African countries.

Wilkins said this at the Human Rights Fiesta organised by the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) to mark the 2018 human rights day in Abuja.

According to him, the ECOWAS Court has many mandates but the human rights mandate is the most significant.

“Other aspects of the work that we are doing are not as much as the human rights mandate because 98 per cent of the cases we get involve violation of human rights across West African states.

“So human rights is important and it can never be too much, so we should all stand up for the rights of our people because today you may be privileged but the table can turn tomorrow we can become victims.

“So we have a duty to protect each other because violation to one is violation to all,” he said.

Wilkins lamented that in many countries, human rights activists are being seen as enemies of government rather than partners in progress.

He urged governments across West Africa to embrace the human rights community and work with it because of its checks and balance role.

He advised governments to learn to listen to criticisms and make correction so that lives of the citizens could be better.

Mr Frank Tietie, Executive Director, Citizen’s Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), said the event was organised to mark the 70th anniversary of the modern human rights since the signing of the universal declaration of human rights in 1948.

Tietie (middle) and members of his CASER group
Tietie (middle) and members of his CASER group

Tietie said his organisation had been promoting the rights of children and women as well as press freedom to promote journalists whose rights were always trampled upon in Nigeria.

He said CASER had been campaigning to ensure that in every case where a child is involved; the Child Rights Act is applied ‘’unfortunately that has not been the case.’’

He said this had led to increase in abuses against children.

“So our campaign is that, the Child Rights Act must be given effect at every time a child is affected with regards to any action of adult, rape or any matter.

“Nigeria enacted the Violence Against Persons Act, now effort must be made to ensure that the law is applicable and enforced,’’ he said.

Tietie said whereas Nigeria has some of the best regimes of human rights laws in the world, application had remained low because there had been ignorance on the part of the citizenry.

He said ignorance had bedeviled the human rights situation in Nigeria therefore making life very nasty.

“We need to increase the consciousness that the citizens will have the proper understanding of what it takes for them to have basic human rights,’’ he said.

Ms Dorothy Njemanze, an actress and human rights activists who just won the Amnesty International Ginetta Sagan Award said child justice is expensive in Nigeria.

Njemanze said this is because if a child is raped, it has to pay the police for opening a file which is about N2000 as well as pays for its medication.

She said the same child has to pay for the medication of the rapists, pay for the police investigation and also pay the police prosecutors for appearing in court.

“So the cost of justice for Nigerian children especially those who are sexually violated is very expensive and something needs to be done about it,’’ he said.

Njemanze stressed the need for Nigerians to know their rights so they could always engage the system because human rights is a non negotiable right of all.

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