By Olalekan Awojodu
A Register for missing persons in Nigeria has been launched by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Abuja.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu stated this on Monday at a Public Lecture organised by the NHRC and CLEEN Foundation in commemoration of the 2021 International Day of the missing.
The project according to Ojukwu is to raise awareness on the missing in Nigeria, their plights, that of their families and to ensure that authorities acknowledge the missing and the rights of their families.
The new initiative is in line with the Commission’s mandate of protecting the rights of citizens and foreigners living in the country without any form of discrimination.
The inauguration of the pilot project of the register exercise is billed to commence in Borno state.
The State is perceived as the epicentre of insurgency, with attendant human rights and humanitarian issues, including enforced disappearance and kidnapping among other challenges.
“This day gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the number of persons who go missing on account of armed conflict or related violence, natural disasters, migration, abduction or kidnapping, trafficking, accidents, detention, crimes or any other situation”, Ojukwu was quoted as saying at the event.
Ojukwu said maintaining a Register of missing persons in Nigeria is in line with the mandate of the Commission of protecting the rights of every citizen and other nationals resident in the country, pointing out that the same is provided for in Section 245 (j) of the Police Act.
He stated further that the Commission had embarked on widespread advocacy in the state to sensitise relevant agencies and bodies on the project, saying that affected persons, families and communities are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to address their anxieties, hoping for a favourable result.
“Effective today, jingles on the project will be aired in Hausa and Kanuri, in local radio stations in the state and members of our staff in Borno state office are ready for the work”, the Executive Secretary added.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen expressed the commitment of the federal government towards protecting the rights of the disappeared and their families.
In her speech, she observed that such cases have always come with serious trauma and that protecting the rights of victims and their families will bring closure to all affected families and communities.
According to the Minister, the trauma experienced by the disappeared and their family members cannot be explained and to address the issue, all hands must be on deck to clarify the situation of the disappeared and give hope to their families.
The 2021 theme; Taking Stock and Charting New Directions in the Search for the Missing”, according to her reminded every one of the joint responsibility of working towards bringing closure to the lingering traumatic experience of having ones loved ones declared missing for a long while.
On his part, the Minister of foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema commended the United Nations for setting aside 30th of August to commemorate the Day of the Disappeared just as he lauded the thoughtfulness of the Executive Secretary of NHRC and CLEEN Foundation for organizing the Lecture to raise the more awareness concerning the plights and condition of the missing and their loved ones.
The Minister who was represented at the occasion disclosed that some expatriates and foreigners were also victims of kidnappings and that the idea of keeping a register for the missing is a welcome development that will help government and other stakeholders to resolve the issue of the disappeared.
The outgoing Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, Dr. Benson Olugbuo who expressed concern about the 22,000 reported cases of missing persons in Nigeria, added that it was the highest in Africa, urging Nigeria and the entire African continent to rise up to the occasion.