Abuja, Feb. 11, 2021 (NAN) The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on Friday commended Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi for establising the State Office of the Public Defender and Citizens’ Rights Commission, (PDCRC), aimed to promote, protect and enforce human rights in the state.
The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Mr Anthony Ojukwu Esq, gave the commendation when the Director General of Kogi PDCRC, Barr. Abdullahi Zakari, led a team of lawyers from the commission on an advocacy visit to him, at NHRC headquarters in Abuja.
Ojukwu commended the governor on what Kogi State Government had done with respect to the reform on the administration of criminal justice, and urged him to continue in that direction and do more.
According to him, we are very much delighted today to have you in our midst and we are very encouraged by the establishment of PDCRC by His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello.
”We are very happy when we have body like PDCRC at the state level that enables us to relate together to promote, protect and enforce human rights in Kogi and in Nigeria at large.
”As soon as possible the NHRC will plan to visit Kogi State to commend and encourage the governor on the good job he is doing on human rights.
”We also hope the governor would continue to be an ambassador of human rights and promotion, because the commission will also need people like him”, he said.
Represented by Barr. Abdulrahman Yakubu, the Dirwctor, Civil and Political Rights Department, NHRC, Ojukwu, further eulogised the governor for ensuring that PDCRC enjoyed independence in terms of administrative autonomy.
He thanked the DG and his team for considering it necessary to embark on the visit, aimed at intimating NHRC of what they had done within the short period they came on board, and to also look at areas of partnership with the commission.
The ES assured Kogi Government of NHRC’s total support to enhance citizens access to justice especially the less privilege who could not afford to pay for the service of legal practitioners.
”The areas you seek partnership such as training of lawyers, capacity building of law enforcement agencies among others, are very critical areas that will enable you to perform better and to realise your mandate.
He added: ”Human right is all about maintenance of peace, law and order, and also guarantees security of lives and property. I am sure our partnership will bring lots of benefits to PDCRC and Kogi State at large”.
Earlier, the DG of Kogi PDCRC, Barr. Abdullahi Zakari, said that the visit was to introduce Kogi PDCRC and its activities to NHRC, and to seek partnership in addressing issues bordering on access to justice and the all-important, promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria.
Zakari explained that the Governor signed into law, the bill establishing Kogi State PDCRC Law, 2018, on 3rd June, 2019, given meaning to access to justice as a key instrument in the enforcement of human rights in Nigeria.
”According to him, the PDCRC responsibility is to provide free legal aid and representations in civil and criminal matters in all Courts, and other related services to the indigent, less privileged and vulnerable residents of Kogi State, who could not afford the service of legal practitioners.
He added that the commission would also handle matters pertaining to the protection of human rights guaranteed under Chapter Four (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and other related International Instruments.
‘According to him, the commission effectively commenced operations in October, 2019, with appointment of the DG, Office allocation and posting of Twelve (12) Law Officers and other staff to the commission.
”Importantly, the Kogi State Appropriation Law, 2021 has provisions for the funding of the commission. The Governing Council of the Commission has been constituted in accordance with the provisions of section 6 (1) (2) (a) – (d) (3) and (4) of the Law”, he said.
Zakari noted that the commission had in the short span of its existence inspite the overwhelming challenges, made some modest achievements, such as massive awareness campaigns through visit to critical stakeholders in the administration of justice sector.
He added that the commission had also visited five (5) Correctional Centers in the State and interacted with inmates as well as the facilities at the Centres.
”Legal Representation in High Courts and other Courts in the State (over 15 cases are ongoing in High Courts with four concluded, we have also concluded over six cases in magistrates courts while others are ongoing).
”Kogi State was about the first State in Nigeria to establish Human Rights Special Intervention group (HRSIG) to receive and rapidly respond to complaints of brutality by law enforcement officers in the wake of the then nationwide EndSars Protest; (over 12 petitions have been received with not too serious ones resolved, while pending others are ongoing).
”Several Petitions/complaints relating to domestic violence, child abuse, tenancy, employment etc; were received and resolved.
”The Commission collaborated with AGA-Africa to train Lawyers, law enforcement officers, magistrates and other critical stakeholders in the Justice Sector on the “impact of Covid 19, on the Administration of Criminal Justice and Access to Justice”; Zakari said.
He added that the commission was already partnering and working with ActionAid Nigeria, saying, ”a seminar is slated to hold 17th and 18th Feruary, 2021 with collaboration with ActionAid.
He added that the seminar was targeting 60 participants comprised of Lawyers, selected from PDCRC, Legal Aid Council, MoJ, NBA, Magistrates; and Police, Civil Defence, officials of Correctional Centre, among other participants.
He further emphasized that a Critical Reforms in the Justice Sector had taken place in the State, under the leadership of Ibrahim Sanni Muhammed SAN, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice which had witnessed some impactful reforms made possible through the new direction policy of Alh. Yahaya Bello, the Governor of Kogi State.
He stressed that the reforms came in the form of enactment of laws, setting up of institutions and general support to justice sector agencies.
The DG, therefore, requested the commission’s collaboration, partnership and interventions, to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with PDCRC, training and building the capacity of the Law Officers and other staff of PDCRC in the area of Law and technology.
He also urged NHRC to partner with PDCRC to build the capacity of Law enforcement Agencies in the State, particularly as it relates to the human rights content of their statutory duties, training the members of the State Vigilante Group on their operations, and the need ensure the protection of human rights.
Zakari further called for collaboration with PDCRC to work towards the promotion and protection of people with disabilities and the vulnerable in the State, and supporting PDCRC, in exploring and attracting interventions from Local and International Donor Agencies in areas of sustainable funding for cases, provision of facilities and other development plans of PDCR.
”We are full of huge expectations in our desire and determination to work with you towards ensuring that the human rights of Nigerians are guaranteed in accordance with the Constitution and international best practices”, Zakari said.
In his vote of thanks, Musa Saliu, Director, Economic Social.and Cultural Rights Department, NHRC, commended the PDCRC’s team for coming, and assured them of the commitment of the Executive Secretary, to partnering with Kogi State Government.
Saluliu added: ”We are very much ready to work with you and support you as far as the issue of human rights is concerned”.