Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has written a letter to Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr Ahmed Lawan to reject President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees to the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) as they failed the Federal Character text as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
According to Falana, the President did not comply with Section 14(3) of the constitution, and section 4 of the Federal Character Commission Act.
The human rights lawyer said that abuse and infringement of the human rights of the Nigerian people has been “on ascendancy” since November 2015 when Buhari dissolved the governing council of the commission.
President Buhari recently sent 16 names to the Senate for confirmation in accordance with with the provisions of section 2(2) of the National Human Rights Commission Amendment Act, 2010. They are Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba, Ambassador Umar Zainab Salisu, Mrs Dafe T. Adesida, Joseph Onyemaechi Mmamel, Ahmad Abubakar Fingilla, Kemi Asiwaju-Okeyonda, and Abubakar Mohammed.
Others are Femi Okeowo, Mr Sunny Daniel, Agbaidu Chukwuemeka Jideani, Mrs Nella Andem-Rabana SAN, Azubuike Nwakwenta, Jamila Isah, Mrs Idayat Omolara Hassan, and Prof Anthony Ojukwu.
“Having studied the list we have found, to our utter dismay, that 3 out of the 4 nominees representing the North West Zone are from Kebbi State including the chairperson of the Governing Council, Mrs. Salamotu Hussaini Suleiman. Sometime last year, the Senate had confirmed the appointment of the members of the Board of the Legal Aid Council including the Director-General, Mr. Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar who also hails from Kebbi State”, Falana said.
He then added: “The South East and South South Zones have 4 representatives each while the South West and North Central Zones have 2 representatives each. Curiously, the North East Zone has no representative on the list. Yet, the rate of human rights abuses in the North East Region is higher than any other region in the country because of the ongoing counter insurgency operations;
You will agree with us that the aforementioned nominations are not in consonance with Section 14 (3) of the Constitution which stipulates that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”;
Furthermore, the Guiding Principles and Formulae for the Distribution of Posts made pursuant to Section 4 (1) (a) of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment etc) Act Cap F7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 provide as follows:
“1. Each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory shall be equitably represented in all national institutions and in public enterprises and organizations;
- The best and most competent persons shall be recruited from each State of the Federation to fill position reserved for the indigenes of that State or the Federal Capital Territory;
- Once a candidate has attained the necessary minimum requirement for appointment to a position, he shall qualify to fill a relevant vacancy reserved for indigenes of his State or the Federal Capital Territory;
- Where the number of positions available cannot go round the States of the Federation or the Federal Capital Territory, the distribution shall be on zonal basis but in the case where two positions are available, the positions shall be shared between the northern and the southern zones.”;
Having confirmed that lopsided appointments have recently fuelled agitations for secession in some parts of the country by disenchanted youths and sociocultural bodies we are compelled to call on the Senate to ensure that all appointments that require Senate confirmation are in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution and other relevant laws in the interest of the corporate existence of the country;
The “Principles relating to the status of national institutions”(adopted in the UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1992/54, known as “the Paris Principles”) requires governments including the Nigerian authorities to ensure the independence and effectiveness of national human rights institutions;
In particular, the Paris Principles require governments to ensure that the appointment process is fair and transparent, so as to afford all necessary guarantees of independence. Broad representation is also important, and steps should be taken to guarantee this;
Furthermore, the appointment process should involve representatives of civil society, especially human rights defenders representing the interests of particularly vulnerable sections of society, and may also include NGOs, opposition leaders, trade unionists, social workers, journalists;
If not immediately withdrawn, the nominations and appointment process would undermine public trust and confidence in the integrity and independence of the commission. This would ultimately weaken the effectiveness of the commission that is supposed to be a beacon of hope for victims of human rights violations and abuses;
In the light of the obvious fact that lopsided appointments have recently fuelled agitations for secession in some parts of the country by disenchanted youths and socio-cultural bodies, we are compelled to call on the Senate to ensure that all appointments that require Senate confirmation are in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution and other relevant laws in the interest of the corporate existence of the country;
We call on the Senate to advise the President to withdraw the nomination of the members of the National Human Rights Commission and ensure that the proposed appointments comply with the provisions of 14 (3) of the Constitution and section 4 of Federal Character Commission (Establishment etc) Act;
While awaiting the Senate’s positive response to our request, please accept the assurances of our highest professional regards”.