Nigeria: Army Chief, Malami, Fault National Human Rights Commission Bill

13 April 2021

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Ibrahim Atttahiru; Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and other stakeholders in the country have criticised some of the provisions of the proposed National Human Rights Commission Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2020.

The stakeholders expressed their divergent opinions on the proposed bill at the one-day public hearing organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

In his presentation, the Chief of Army Staff, represented by the Army Director of Legal Services, Brigadier General MU Wambai, said it was wrong for drafters of the bill to have excluded the Army, Navy, Air force, Police and DSS from the governing council of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

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) to (iii), ex-official 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 the exclusion from the commission's governing council, representatives of the army chief also kicked against section 5 ( j) of the bill, which seeks to empower the commission to make appropriate determination on complaints brought before it as may deemed necessary in each circumstance.

On his part, the AGF, Malami, who was represented by Anthony Abah, said section 5 paragraph k of the bill should be expunged for giving the commission powers that clash with those of Law Reform Commission.

Malami also said it was wrong to seek power for issuance of warrant of arrest for the commission, which, according to him, is constitutionally entrusted with courts of competent jurisdiction.

He also faulted section 15(2b) of the bill empowering the commission to get funds from multinational agencies, saying the multinationals are already over taxed and the commission should have no link with them.

But the Executive Secretary of the commission, Anthony Ojukwu, in his presentation, hailed 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 the scope of funding for the commission in making it not to solely relying on the government that may even be petitioned against by any aggrieved Nigerian.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele, explained that there was need to widen the scope of funding for the commission for impartial and independent operations.

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

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