Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Professor Bem Angwe, has urged West African countries to address issues of violation of rights of their citizens.
Angwe disclosed this at the opening ceremony of a two-day Annual General Assembly of the Network of National Institutions in West Africa, NNIWA, held yesterday in Abuja, with the aim of presenting the state of human rights in their respective countries.
Angwe, who also doubles as President of NNIWA, said “Each country in West Africa is faced with different species of difficulties for implementation of standards. Some of the challenges are political or civil, while others are economic and social. Basic rights such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression and the press are routinely trampled upon. Press freedom remains under siege in many countries.
“The rights of women to equality and freedom from fear of discrimination are common. Religion and culture combine to undermine the realisation of equality in West Africa. Similarly, prison conditions are dire with overcrowding, poor feeding and absence of rehabilitation facilities as key issues,” he said.
The NHRC boss condemned a situation whereby some persons are kept in prison custody for 15 to 20 years without trial.
It was revealed that many West African countries’ human rights institutions cannot meet international standard.
“Of the 15 countries in West Africa, only six have international status; the rest have not even attempted to apply for such international recognition. With only four countries with status ‘A’, West Africa is low in human rights compliance on a global scale,” Prof. Angwe lamented, adding that Nigeria’s NHRC is ready to share its experience and best practices with members of NNIWA.
Similarly, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for West Africa, Mr. Andrea Ori, in his speech, acknowledged that “national human rights institutions are key strategic partners in UN’s endeavour to promote and protect human rights,” adding that the world body is prepared to help relevant public institutions move towards greater integrity, legitimacy and effectiveness.
Ori also added that the AGA should go beyond submitting reports and accepting the recommendations, but ensure that they are implemented.
Representatives of presidents of the ECOWAS Parliament, ECOWAS Court and civil society organisations attended the meeting.

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