Globally, cases of human rights abuses have become a major concern to world leaders, policymakers, civil society groups and human rights activists. Every now and then, the rights of people are frequently abused and violated with impunity. Ironically, these abuses are meted out by those saddled with the constitutional responsibility of protecting these inalienable rights.
Perhaps, this was why the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed every December 10 as ‘International Human Rights Day’ in 1950 to bring it to the consciousness of people the world over. The day also celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that “each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights; that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.”
The fundamental human rights Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution Section 35(3) stipulates that “any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed in writing within 24 hours (and in a language that he understands) of the facts and grounds for his arrest or detention.” Section 39 (1) says that “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
Unfortunately, most Nigerian citizens do not even know their rights, not to talk of when their rights are being abused and how to fight for their rights.
Despite the place of human rights in the constitution, cases of human rights violations and abuses have assumed a disturbing dimension, especially in developing countries.
In Africa, especially in Nigeria, people have lost their sense of belonging and decency, seeing their rights being abused with little or no effort to ameliorate the situation. Cases of human rights abuse such as rape, kidnapping, torture, child trafficking and marriage, sexual molestation, inter alia are almost becoming a societal norm.
For instance, the abysmal condition in our prisons and detention centres today are not only appalling, but also degrading and dehumanizing. A good number of prisoners are unnecessarily kept longer than the stipulated 24 hours. In most cases, they are even subjected to inhuman conditions that debase human hood.
It is indeed a sad commentary that our prison yards have become centres where extrajudicial killings, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, as well as inadequate medical treatment are common occurrences.
Ideally, prisons and detention facilities are supposed to be reformatory centres where people serving their various jail terms are rehabilitated to fit into society.
It is, however, not surprising that Nigeria has been ranked as the world’s 10th worst human rights offender by a Global Rights Watch. Similarly, in its 2014 Human Rights Risk Atlas, Maplacroft revealed that in the past six years, the number of countries with an extreme risk of human rights offences has risen dramatically. The 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, IIAG shows that Nigeria ranks 37th out of 52 African countries. This appears an improvement from the 2013 ranking where the country took 41st position.
Lo and behold, the corrupt tendencies of some government officials have made it near impossible for the respect and protection of human rights. Some human rights activists have argued that human rights protection cannot be guaranteed in a system where corrupt officials hold sway.
Ironically, the police, which are saddled with the constitutional responsibility of protecting these human rights, are the ones violating and abusing them. Drivers and other road users are forced to part with certain amount of money on the road. Instances abound where some drivers were shot and killed simply because they refused tip policemen at checkpoints.
Therefore, as Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to celebrate the ‘International Human Rights Day,’ whose theme is: ‘Human Rights 365’, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Nigeria Police and the Human Rights Education should synergise and build institutional bridges for the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights, not only in Nigeria, but also in the sub-region. There should be conscious efforts by government at all levels to ensure respect for, protection and fulfillment of human rights. The NHRC should be repositioned to effectively discharge its mandate. The commission should take introspect, share best practices and develop common platform for addressing such abuses.
Furthermore, such human rights violations should be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators brought to book to serve as deterrent to others.

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