Human Rights Communities Need To Work Together – PRAWA

Dr Uju Agomoh , Executive Director and Founder of Prisoners' Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA)

The Executive Director and Founder of Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Dr Uju Agomoh has charged human rights activists in Nigeria to do more by working together to achieve their goals.

Agomoh said this while reflecting on the International Human Rights Day celebration with the theme: “Recover Better, Stand up for Human Rights”.

She said PRAWA identifies with human rights community and all the nations of the world as they celebrate.

“As we celebrate this special day, we are called to the consciousness of our collective humanity. Together we can build on all that bind us together”, she said

According to her, “this great day birthed a common standard for the actualisation of the dignity and respect of all human beings irrespective of race, color, status, sex, religious or cultural affiliations and so on”.

She noted that PRAWA finds the theme quite introspective, saying it clearly speaks to the fears, anxiety and concerns the existential threat of COVID 19 put the whole world through.

“This theme is made more apt by the fact that it comes with a message of hope in a time of global uncertainty and promotes a call for solidarity in facing this existential challenge. We at PRAWA, pledge our solidarity to the entire humanity on this.

PRAWA lauded the efforts of all the organizations working to protect and strengthen human rights across the world.

“We salute the courage of frontline health workers fighting to keep us safe from the rampaging covid-19 virus. We will continue to apply our experience and expertise in promoting human rights as we collectively strive to recover better and stand up for human rights as we battle this pandemic.”

“We should be reminded of our equality in respect and dignity; strengthened by our peculiar quality as rational beings and finally be inspired and committed to the call in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to treat one another in the spirit of brotherhood.”

“This brings to fore our responsibility to protect one another and need to forge a common front in the demand for a better life for all.”

“PRAWA therefore calls for collective efforts/engagement with the state to address all issues that limit state obligations to protect, promote and fulfill human rights.”

“Among other things, we must pause to interrogate all the issues that make for imbalance in the protection of the rights of everyone in Nigeria.

“We call on all of us to reflect on the urgent need to address the issues of social , economic and physical security for the people as we acknowledge that abuse of rights impact negatively more on those on the lower social strata of the society – the vulnerable poor and needy, women and children, indigent persons in conflict with the law etc.

“Agreeably, the pandemic has impacted on us all negatively, but the disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable population has been most glaring and damaging. This reminds us that we need to do more to promote and protect the rights of all persons regardless of age, creed, status, language, color and preferences.

Agomoh said the pandemic exposed the deep-rooted and widespread poverty and inequality that demeans and dehumanizes a larger percentage of people in Nigeria, noting that this reality calls for serious attention to all facets of governance and the need for engaging in law making and enforcement with human face.

“Expectedly, Nigeria joined other nations of the world in addressing the health challenges that came with the Pandemic utilizing the medium of the Justice System. This medium laid a foundation for the violation of a major principle of law- equality before the law as the lockdown regulations and protocols made by both the state and federal governments to stem the spread of the corona virus disproportionately affected the poor and vulnerable population who earn their living on the streets on daily basis.”

“For this class of people, it was a case of either death occasioned by the dreaded covid-19 pandemic or death as a result of hunger. So, many dared the devil and moved during the period and suffered the consequences. This regrettable situation calls for sincere and committed efforts to obligations of governance and emphasizes the need for government to provide equal opportunities for all persons to fulfill their aspirations and attain economic prosperity.”

“This is a time to reflect deeply around the operations of Nigerian Security and Justice Sector. It is a time to use research and documentation of data to address key social and developmental issues in the country. It is a time for the human rights community to come together in synergy to address a number of challenges in our criminal justice system.

She call on all stakeholders to join PRAWA in the campaign for the decriminalization and declassification of Petty Offences and in driving several initiatives targeted at effective implementation of non-Custodial measures as provided for in the Nigeria Correctional Service Act;

“We call for joint efforts in driving initiatives that would enable accountability and better human rights compliance by security sector institutions especially as it concerns arrest and detention and prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment as provided for in the anti-torture Act of 2017”.

“We also seek collaboration in strengthening mechanisms for the monitoring of human rights compliance and ensuring access to detention facilities”

PRAWA also calls on government to provide the enabling environment for the creation of employment opportunities and the sustainability of these as well as constructive engagement of youth towards improving their social, economic, psychological and physical wellbeing.

“We congratulate Nigeria on the several legislative successes recorded so far in the reform of the Justice System. The enactment of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 and its connection with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act has provided the desired platform to implement Community Corrections. This has provided all of us the platform to participate in Corrections of our brothers and sisters who have offended the criminal laws of the land and offer them a second chance to correct their offending behaviors.”

Agomoh said PRAWA worked very closely with the Nigerian Correctional Service to implement Part 2 of the Nigerian Correctional service Act,2019, which ensured that persons arrested for flouting the covid-19 regulations were not taken into the custodial centers. We also provided proper guidance to correctional officers by producing a Guidance Manual for Non- Custodial Officers for the supervision of violators of COVID-19 regulations and a Guidance Manual for the Operation of the Courts during the COVID 19 Lockdown period.

“We equally donated computers and communication gadgets to designated custodial centers in our virtual visitation pilot project. This initiative was targeted at bridging the gap occasioned by the lockdown and to keep those incarcerated in custodial centers connected to their families and legal representatives. Our organization also utilized the medium of advocacy, education, monitoring of courts to address the challenges of the criminal justice system and ultimately protect human rights at this period.”

“In all these, we enjoyed the full support and collaboration of all our partners in the government agencies; development partners; private sector; civil society Organizations including the media as well as our colleagues from other jurisdictions across the world with whom we shared lessons and good practices”, she said.

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