Judiciary News

Law Professor Advocates Cultural Shift In Nigeria To Safeguard Human Rights

Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa has called  for the need for Nigeria to shift from a culture of violence to uphold the fundamental human rights of citizens as contained in the constitution.

Atsenuwa made the recommendation on Monday, stating that better support for the Nigerian Police Force and a focus on effective systems of law enforcement will yield more fruitful efforts instead of talks of salary as the solution to human rights abuse, including extrajudicial killings by law enforcement agents.

Delivering her keynote at the 75th International Human Rights Day Celebration held by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja Branch, the law professor gave an appraisal of Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) vis a vis, the operations of Law Enforcement Agencies in the country.

Atsenuwa said the Nigerian state and its agents are largely complicit in the breach of the fundamental human rights of its citizens.

She said, “Virtually every state agency has law enforcement powers which have implications for human rights. Their officers are usually empowered to use force… which have a clawback on rights.”

The law professor said the legal provision for the use of force by the police can prevent citizens from enjoying their rights to movement, peaceful assembly and lawful gathering.

Atsenuwa, a Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development Services) at the University of Lagos, said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the bedrock of the human rights laws in Nigeria and a reminder that every Nigerian is at risk if one individual abuse human rights and gets away with it.

She said, “Nigeria needs more compulsion to domesticate the UDHR due to the dualist legal system practised in the country.”

“To date – in Nigeria – economic, social and cultural rights are treated differently from the rest of the civil and political rights in Chapter 4 [of the 1999 constitution]. They are seen as more of an aspiration instead of rights,” Atsenuwa continued.

The law professor said there is a perception among law enforcement agencies that they are not a part of the criminal justice system and that it works against the execution of their duties.

She said that officers of the police force who feel that killing criminals is more effective only lack the capacity for effective law enforcement.

Atsenuwa said the Nigerian criminal justice system needs to begin planning for the prevention of crime instead of being reactive to prevent further abuse of human rights, including unlawful arrest and detention and forced confessions.

The Vice Chairman of the NBA Ikeja Branch and Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, U.C. Tracy Amadigwe-Dike, said the celebration of the International Human Rights Day was to shine a light on how unfortunate it is that the Nigerian government, through its agencies, are mainly involved in violating the rights of the citizens they are meant to secure.

The chairman of the NBA Ikeja Branch, Oluwaseun Olawumi, pointed to the value of human rights and said, “Human rights must be respected and implemented even if there is a cost – such as a slower and more expensive process.”

A highlight of the day was a panel of discussants of the theme, including Jiti Ogunye, Adaku Mama, Malachy Ugwummadu, Akeem Bello, Kuti Ezebiro and Babajide Otitoju.

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